What Your Business Can Learn from Russia

Dependence on Windows and all the lock-in it entails has led Moscow to turn to Linux. Shouldn’t you consider a similar move?

"Freedom" may not be a concept that's historically associated with Russia, but as for technology, the federation will soon be far freer than many businesses can even imagine--free from Windows, that is, and its legacy of high costs, malware, and perpetual hardware upgrades.

Following in the footsteps of numerous other governments around the world, Moscow has reportedly set aside 150 million rubles to develop a national software system that's based instead on Linux. Its goals? To reduce Russia's dependence on Microsoft and to increase security, according to reports.

"We will become independent of Windows," Russian deputy Ilia Ponomarev told AFP Wednesday. The details of the new operating system will reportedly be decided at a meeting in December.

Now, this isn't the first time we've heard reports of Russia's tech-independence plans. Back in 2007, meanwhile, Moscow decreed that all schools in the state must switch to Linux-based software by next year, according to the Moscow Times.

Developing a brand-new Linux distribution is probably also not the way most organizations will want to go, given how many excellent ones are already out there. Nevertheless, Russia is providing yet another example of an organization calling it quits on the Windows treadmill.

Why are countless large organizations doing the same--and why should you consider a like move for your business? Here are just a few of the many reasons.

1. Freedom

As the Russians have found, vendor lock-in is not a fun situation for an organization of any size. When that happens, you are at the mercy of the vendor's vision--such as it may be--along with its requirements, dictates, prices, priorities, and timetable. With Linux, on the other hand, you are in control, and you have a worldwide community of developers and users at your disposal for development and support.

2. Flexibility

Frantically recurring hardware upgrades to keep pace with software requirements become a thing of the past when you switch to Linux. In fact, Linux can run well on almost any hardware your business may have--and it will keep running well over time.

3. Security

The occasional vulnerability is bound to crop up in any operating system, but nothing matches the rate at which bugs target Windows, as Russia has evidently noticed. That's due in large part to the way privileges are assigned, and to the fact that Windows is now such a monoculture, creating a compellingly huge target for malware and an easy way to make it spread. With Windows, too, you're at Microsoft's mercy to find and fix bugs--and that can take a long time. With Linux, flaws are found and fixed more quickly.

4. Reliability

Stability and reliability are both hallmarks of Linux, both on the server and on the desktop. Whereas unplanned downtime is a fact of life with Windows -- and a frequent one, at that -- your business could be virtually downtime-free if you made the switch to Linux.

5. Costs

Not much to say on this one. Free vs. expensive per-seat licensing? No need to keep upgrading your hardware? Better reliability and less downtime? All told, the savings can amount to some $400 to $500 per desktop.

No operating system is perfect, of course--not even Linux. But as government after government and business after business are demonstrating every week, the benefits can be well worth making the switch.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

This story, "What Your Business Can Learn from Russia" was originally published by PCWorld.

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