Windows or Linux – The UK Government takes suggestions

Still on my article tour this week, a new one that I came across touches a topic I discussed earlier this week. Linux! Officials within the UK Government are going to the people seeking suggestion about ideas that could help reduce cost.

To be sure, they are just two among the 60,000 ideas proffered by those who work in the public sector, but just 31 of those were listed on the website for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The two ideas:

8. In terms of spending less – what about migrating the whole of government (the NHS, Education etc) from Microsoft products to Linux and open source software like Openoffice.

28. Annul the government’s agreement with Microsoft to provide software and operating systems (OS) to government departments and switch to open source software and Linux based operating systems. This would reduce costs by: Reducing the need to update hardware in line with new Microsoft OS releases. Linux OS and open source software has a lower whole life cost and is less susceptible to viruses. Support a more diverse spectrum of the IT industry, instead of one corporation; generating additional UK tax revenue.

Read the rest here

There would be no lowering in the total cost of ownership. Moving thousands of desktops from Windows to Linux would be complete chaos. First of all, this is one persons opinion, and it does not represent all persons who are using Windows. One or two persons pet peeve with Windows shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Think about changing a users philosophy of what they probably have known for so many years. The investments you are gonna have to make to train so many users is gonna push the budget way past its limit, Help Desktop support calls will skyrocket (not to mention, you are gonna have to retrain the entire help desk staff or who are experts on Windows and Microsoft technologies). Lets not forget about the custom applications in addition to commercial applications that only work on Windows.

Using open source alternatives does not necessarily guarantee a fulfilling experience, since most Open Source apps are mediocre to their commercial counterparts. A migration would take many years, more money spent and only turn out to be more of a burden to support. Windows is a secure operating system, I have been running Windows for years and have never encountered any malicious code on my systems. Linux has its own security demons, just that its not pointed out in the mainstream press as much as Windows, but it does exist. Windows has a lot of built in proven defenses such as a Standard Administrator, Windows Firewall, ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) which moves around core code on boot up to prevent malicious code from easily attacking the system, kernel patch protection to prevent third party developers from easily patching or injecting code into the Windows kernel, Device Driver Signing to ensure the integrity of your drivers, User Account Control to protect the system from malicious code attacking essential parts of the system, IE includes Protected Mode which sand boxes the web browser from the system, Anti-Phishing Filter, Privacy Mode for handling secure transactions over the web. Windows 7 includes additional features that protect against buffer over flows such as Heap Stack, along with BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your hard disk if its stolen, you can also protect portable storage devices using BitLocker to Go. When you top this with a free Antivirus utility such as Microsoft Security Essentials, with additional IT implemented protocols and tools such as a hardware based Firewall, I don’t know how you could seriously say Windows is susceptible viruses.

As for the shelf life, I am running Windows 7 Professional on a desktop I purchased in March of 2004, originally came with Windows XP Professional, upgraded to Windows Vista Business. I didn’t have to dump anything, except for probably an upgrade of the RAM which had a factory installed 512 MBs.

If you want, you can even lower the attack surface by customizing your Windows Installation and removing rarely used features, you can even use Group Policy to automatically enforce rules. When combined with technologies in Windows Server such as Direct Access, App Locker, you get an even higher level of security, and this is all transparent to the end user. So again, Windows is secure, its easy to use, people know it. Don’t think because you have Linux you are not gonna have to pay for support either. You are gonna need somebody to implement it properly, set it up, maintain it and support it and that is where commercial distributions such as Ubuntu, Redhat and Suse make their money, which means, you are paying for what you claim you wanted to avoid in the first place, but only you are paying for the support plus the training to get users to use something they are not accustomed to. Don’t bother with no, no name distro either, because thats just more of an ants nest that will surely be a career wrecker. Ultimately, I suspect this will lead either to a failed migration like we have seen in many Government attempts around world, with a ultimate reverse migration back to Windows.

The idea for Linux to Win, Windows has to lose

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