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The ultimate Linux starter kit for small business

Katherine Noyes and Dietrich Schmitz | March 14, 2013
Linux machines can save your business cold, hard cash. Here's how to pick the best OS and apps for yourself, your workers, and your IT pros.

Microsoft did its best to usher in a new era od desktop computing with the launch of Windows 8, but many businesses and individuals are opting out. Linux-based operating systems, meanwhile, present a more and more compelling alternative. Benefits include tougher security and superior customization--not to mention that Linux is usually free.

If you're ready to make the leap to desktop Linux, this guide will show you where to begin and how to choose the right OS and software for your small business. With advice on everything from choosing your Linux distribution and desktop software to easing the transition, we'll help you get started on the right foot.

How to choose Linux for your desktop

Flickr: tshik2style
The Linux experience is far away from dry. Here's one Gentoo Linux desktop. 

There are numerous flavors or "distributions" of Linux, each offering a distinct experience for a particular taste or purpose. All are based on the Linux kernel, which is its core OS code. On top of that, distributions may add different desktop environments, applications, and features.

Ubuntu and Linux Mint are two of the more popular contenders. But a quick glance at DistroWatch, which keeps tabs on most distributions, shows just how vast the pool of choices is. Most distros, as they're called, are easily customizable, whether with industry-specific apps and modules or varied graphical interfaces. That said, the more your base Linux package delivers what you want, the less time you'll spend tweaking it.

How do you pick the right distro? An online chooser such as this one is a good place to start. For a more complete consideration, break down the decision in terms of what you have and what you need. On the "what you have" side, there are three primary considerations for business users: the niche you're in, the hardware you're using, and the Linux skills your staff has.


Mint is a popular flavor of Linux witha friendly-looking desktop.

Your niche: Some Linux distributions focus very narrowly on particular industries. Scientific Linux is produced by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Another niche example is EduBuntu, a variation of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux tailored for classrooms and schools.

Your hardware: As touchscreen features are being incorporated within OSs, such as Windows 8 and Ubuntu Linux, your hardware can make a big difference. Linux has always been an excellent choice for less-than-cutting-edge hardware. If your PCs are resource-limited, then consider a lightweight distro such as Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Bodhi, or Damn Small Linux.

 

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