The Big OS Questions: Windows, Linux or Mac?

After a few years in which the flame under the operating system fire had turned down to a simmer, IT managers are once again finding it necessary to contemplate the choice of a "right" OS for the enterprise.

For a number of years, IT managers could avoid the OS wars. Use the latest version of Windows on the desktop, give the designers and graphic artists Macs they demanded, and install Windows Server to run the whole shootin' match. Unless, that is, your developers or IT staff quietly installed Linux servers, and you couldn't find a reason to tell them not to do so.

Nowadays, the default choice isn't quite so clear. Windows Vista is a major upgrade, and—like any OS migration—it isn't a project to start lightly. If, that is, you need to do so at all. (We'll help you decide, and to plan the migration project.) In addition, Linux has become a serious contender for mission-critical enterprise computing; our resources will help you choose the appropriate distribution for your business. And Macs are no longer "toys" for which the artsy employees whine; they're now part of the business landscape.

To help you understand the current state of affairs with enterprise operating systems, we've compiled several resources to assist in making the best decision possible.

The Windows Upgrade

Getting Ready for Windows Vista Deployment: A Road Map for Project Planning

Windows Vista represents a monumental change. You have to plan PC purchase cycles and custom application upgrades carefully. Managers have to make sure the team is prepared for the migration on every level, from testing and implementation to help desk and training. And when all is said and done, as your company weathers the inevitable storm of early implementation, you have to justify the business value of the change and its associated costs. Want a little help?

When is the Right Time to Move to Vista?

The previous article assumes that a Vista migration is a no-brainer. To the contrary, you do need to decide when (and if) the OS should be on the business's to-do list. For most organizations, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

For some, Microsoft is simply the sensible choice. CIO.com's newest blogger, Duncan McAlynn, explains Why Microsoft is Microsoft, and why the company's integration and interdependency means that you don't really need to look at all those "alternatives."

More Vista:

The Linux Alternative

Choosing a Linux Distribution for Enterprise Work

You know you need Linux. Gone is the day when it was just a curiosity that the engineers had to keep in the back room. When deciding on which distro is right for your enterprise, keep these four essential considerations in mind.

Dell has offered Linux on corporate models before, but the decision to try it on consumer boxes now (it tried once before without big success) should make you sit up and notice. In Dell's New Bet on Linux: Five Reasons to Take Note, Laurianne McLaughlin explains why.

More on Linux in the enterprise:

Mac: Enterprise-Ready

Not too long ago, ad agencies, design firms and other creative companies were about the only businesses that widely deployed Macintosh computers to their employees. But as explained in Computerworld's Why Apple's 'consumer' Macs are enterprise-worthy, for a number of reasons, word of the benefits of Apple hardware—and software—on enterprise desktops is now spreading.

You'll find agreement from Scot Finnie on this point. As he says in Should Microsoft Fear Apple Macintosh? "For the first time in its 23-year history, the Mac is finally able to move fluidly into and out of the world of Microsoft Windows and its applications—both in the workplace and at home. Microsoft's own Office suite plays a big role in that. Microsoft's commitment to Office 2008 for the Mac lends additional support."

We're not talking about those frilly "creative" types. The Mac, say some IT professionals, is a serious enterprise tool. To Chad McDonald, the Mac is ultimate platform for CISOs. To be successful as a CISO, you must communicate effectively with the front office, the top floor and the system administrators. While the Mac doesn't magically make everyone understand you, he says, it does provide a digital platform that allows you to communicate with all parts of the business.

More on Macintosh in the Enterprise:

Making a Choice

Windows vs. Linux vs. OS X

A celebrity CIO reviews the desktop operating system contenders in search of the next-generation office computer.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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