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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.

Backup: Amanda and Bacula are good open source backup options, but Amanda tends to be viewed as more mature. Amanda Enterprise offers extra business-focused features.

Remote desktop access: To access a user's PC from afar, rdesktop, RealVNC and FreeNX are popular options.

Training options

Today's Linux distributions are a far cry from what they once were in terms of mainstream usability. The more popular ones, such as Ubuntu and Mint, are at least on par with their Microsoft or Apple competitors. However, a little training can go a long way, particularly for users intimidated by something new. 

If you've already signed on for a commercial Linux distribution with paid support from the likes of Red Hat or Canonical, you're probably already covered--or at least have professional training available to you as an extra. Even if not, though, there are legions of Linux consultants out there, as well as national and global firms such as New Horizons and the Linux Foundation itself. Online training options abound as well.

Ease the transition

You've chosen your Linux distro, customized the desktop, downloaded apps, and gotten the training you and your staff need. You're ready to pull the Windows plug, right? Before you do that, take these few key steps ahead of time.

First, will your switch to Linux mean using different software than what employees have been used to--Firefox, say, instead of Internet Explorer? If so, get them started on that application while they're still on Windows. Once they start using the new Linux setup, that piece will already seem more familiar.

It's also a good idea to have a dedicated desktop PC available in the office with your new Linux setup running ahead of time. Let staff play around with it before they have to get real work done using the new tools. Finally, there's no shame in coming up with a cheat sheet to help people remember key steps they need to get their work done.

Get support

Given how user-friendly Linux has become today, there's a good chance you won't need any support for a long time, particularly if you've got some books to guide you. If and when the moment comes that you really need some outside help, however, there are a few different options.

Free: First and foremost, every major distro has an online community with excellent forums. It's safe to say there's someone out there with experience on any common issue you may encounter. Beyond just the distro-specific forums, however, are a range of sub-communities., for instance, offers discussions catered toward Linux newcomers, Linux in the enterprise, and more. Regional Linux User Groups (LUGs) offer another way to connect. Then, of course, a Google search can pull up answers.


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