Why Linux and Free Software?

Why Linux and Free Software?

December 9, 2004

Why should you seriously consider Linux and Free Software for your small business? The most obvious (but not the only) reason is cost. Linux, and most Free Software, is available for free or just the cost of packaging and distribution. More importantly, the software can legally be installed on all your computers.

There are two often-used names for this kind of software. Open Source and Free Software mean slightly different things. In particular,

"Free" has much to do with freedom, and little to do with cost.

Please see David Wheeler's excellent summary . I'll lump them all together (with apologies to RMS, ESR and everyone else) as Free Software on this site.

Linux itself and most Free Software is covered by the Gnu GPL - General Public License, which has the effect of guaranteeing your continued access to the source code and therefore, your data. You can copy Free Software as much as you like on as many computers as you like, as long as you abide by the license. You never have to worry about a software audit. A typical Linux distribution includes not just the operating system, but also hundreds of applications, including word processors, spreadsheets, e-mail clients, web browsers, imaging tools, and the best networking and development utilities. Your staff can keep your business running instead of doing paperwork to track software licenses.

Free Software can be more stable than proprietary software, owing to the availability of source code, and the clear line of demarcation between applications and the operating system. Rebooting to recover from a crashed application or after installing a new program is a thing of the past. Free Software also has a large community of developers and savvy users around the world who find and fix bugs. It's so much easier when you have the source!

Because of that line of demarcation, Free Software is dramatically more resistant to viruses, and as such doesn't require add-on virus scanning software with its added cost and frequent maintenance requirements.