Mixed Windows/Linux environment
At Linux Support Sydney, we see a lot of different computer environments, and we've grouped them into three basic categories.
There's the trendy businesses running Apple's OS X on their desktops/laptops. Linux is still useful in these environments for firewalls, file/web servers, and phones. Then there are the Linux only businesses, these tend to be very small businesses where the business owner has an interest in Linux computer systems. Finally, there are the Windows on the desktop, Linux on the server businesses, and these are the most common and can be small to large businesses.
The third option being the most common, is our bread and butter, and we have some great strategies to manage these environments.
So imagine you have a mixed Windows environment, you might have five year old desktops running Windows XP, and some newer desktops running Windows 7, or Windows 8. What we can do is virtualise your desktops, so underneath you run Linux (Ubuntu LTS being our prefered choice for businesses, with a five year support lifecycle from Ubuntu), and your choice of Windows running on top. This Linux/Windows hybrid environment offers many advantages.
1. Zero training required for staff. If they know windows, that's what they get. The Linux/Windows desktop environment is seamlessly integrated so they can just use windows as they did before. However, they can also use Linux applications alongside their Windows applications. For example, they could use Thunderbird email client on Linux. Using Linux to read email has the advantage of being immune to Windows email viruses and malware that are common on today's internet. We can set users up just as they were set up before, with Windows, and gradually introduce Linux applications to them one at a time. It might not be necessary or even possible to completely eliminate Windows, for example MYOB doesn't run on Linux.
2. We can manage all desktops very cheaply and efficiently using infrastructure management software, my preferred choice is called Salt Stack. We can keep all Linux desktops up to date and in sync with one command, it doesn't matter if you have two desktop computers or 200. We can push out changes and updates with one command.
3. I've left the biggest advantage for last. Windows snapshots and clones. Every morning when a user turns their computer on, a snapshot is silently and automatically taken. If the user picks up some malware on Windows during the course of their day, we can rollback their Windows environment to the last known clean state. Instant malware removal. We can also monitor Windows from Linux for signature malware traffic, so we can detect malware before a user might notice any issues. Snapshots and clones can be backed up during the day while Windows is in use without the user noticing or needing to kick off the process.
4. Multiple virtual machines for different purposes on the one desktop. You might have a VM that you only use for banking and MYOB, one for email and web browsing. If you pick up some malware in your web browsing VM, it won't affect your banking VM, they are isolated.
With off-site backups, if your business burns down, we can restore access to your data in a new location on new hardware.