Migrating from Windows to Ubuntu: An Update

Updated: October 30, 2010

It took a total of two hours to make the switch. An hour to research what I was going to do, about 40 minutes to download the install package from Ubuntu.com and put it on a 4 gig USB thumb drive. It took only 20 minutes to boot from the thumb drive and install Ubuntu, then download the updates since the image was made. I had a working system with very little business downtime.

Of course moving off of Windows is much more difficult for most businesses. Office productivity tools (Word, Xcel, PowerPoint) from Microsoft are the defacto standard and unless you are moving to Apple OSX you have to choose replacements. OpenOffice from Oracle (previously Sun Microsystems) provides all that most organizations will need. Don't worry you can save in popular Microsoft formats so you can still send your documents to anyone.

But the biggest issue for most people will be email. While there are plenty of great email clients, like Mozilla Thunderbird, I advocate moving email to the cloud. You can have hosted email from Yahoo!, Gmail, and commercial vendors like ProofPoint, Critical Path (which is merging with Mirrapoint this week) St Bernard Software, Webroot Software, Symantec and dozens of others. To preserve your domain name there is usually some cost involved.

One important function that seems missing from most cloud based email solutions is that it is very hard to move your email from one service to another. I am waiting for third party email transition services to pop up. In the meantime you may still want to download all of your email to serve as back up.

What about the dreaded driver issue with switching off of Windows? Yes that is a problem. While Ubuntu and other forms of Linux have a great variety of drivers already available sometimes finding them is difficult. So printers, scanners, cameras, headsets, and hard drives may be difficult to address. My Buffalo encrypted hard drive does not work with Ubuntu for instance.

The only other issue that seems insurmountable at this time is that Netflix streaming of videos does not work with Linux. This is not a Netflix issue so much as a fear on the part of content owners that Linux users are hackers determined to steal their movies! There are no problems with free streaming services like Hulu or Youtube.

But the big advantage is the enhanced speed and usability of your computer. Boot times are fast. There is no wait for AV and Anti-spyware programs to load and scan. That might be a short term advantage of course because it will only be a short time before these types of protections are required for non-Windows platforms. Ubuntu also encrypts the hard drive so there is some enhanced peace of mind especially if you travel a lot.

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