The Financial Times recently reported that Google, the Internet search company has started phasing out Microsoft’s Windows operating system due to security concerns. Employees at Google who were interviewed said most of the internal computers used by the company were being migrated to Linux or Mac operating systems . You’ve probably heard about Apple’s Mac OS, but what about Linux? What is it?

Linux is a free and open source operating system that runs ninety one percent of the world’s fastest supercomputers. You may not realize it, but when you log onto Google’s GMail or Yahoo! Mail, it is likely that the server you are using runs Linux.

Linux has been making waves lately not only because of its increased adoption on personal computers, but also because it has become the number one software platform choice for smart phone makers. Google’s Android and Nokia’s MeeGo mobile operating systems are all Linux derivatives. This means that your next mobile phone could very well be powered by Linux.

But you might be asking your self why all this matters to you, after all you are already running Microsoft’s Windows operating system that everyone or business you know uses for personal computing.

It matters a whole lot. Using Linux will provide you with a safe and secure computing environment while saving you time and money. Unlike Windows, Linux has long been a secure, reliable, and low cost operating system. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider using Linux:

1)Its Free. You may not know this; but every copy of windows costs money. Linux on the other hand has no licensing fee regimes associated with it. It comes free of charge. You really can’t beat this fact considering the tough economic times we live in. Any reduction in the cost of computing is a welcome relief. To get Linux, all you have to do is download it from the Internet. Take a look at some of the download sites below.

2)Its Virus Free. That’s right – say goodbye to those pesky viruses and spy-ware programs when you switch to Linux. There’s no need to run that favourite anti-virus tool anymore because the Linux operating system is built with your protection in mind. For businesses that experience down time and costly expenditures as a result of viruses and worm infections, switching to Linux can lead to a significant increase in cost savings and productivity.

3)Its Secure. Many times, I am called upon by a relative, friend, or business to fix a Windows PC. Not surprisingly, these troubled PCs tend to suffer from the same problems you see on your computer: You name it; slow speeds, unresponsive applications, viruses, ad-ware and spy-ware. These annoyances stem from the lack of constant maintenance and updates, which the Windows operating system requires. You’ve probably heard your IT administrator tell you that you need to frequently download and install updates to keep your system safe. In fact most of the security exploits out there take advantage of un-patched machines. But how often do you get the time or even the Internet access to do that? I will tell you what I tell my clients: You no longer have to put up with this! Linux is the way to go.

4)Its stable. Linux is renowned for its stability. Linux systems have been known to run for years without crashing or being rebooted! Did you know for example that NASA (You know, the guys that send folks into space?) run Linux for their mission critical applications? Its no wonder that most of the world’s Internet and web hosting servers run Linux. See the numbers for yourself at Netcraft

5)Its fully packaged. Forget what you might have heard, Linux has all the applications you need to do your work. Some of the programs packaged with Linux are far superior compared to their Windows counterparts. For example, there are several free Office suites such as OpenOffice.org; Email clients such as evolution; Internet browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, and financial management packages such as GnuCash. If you are a fun of Skype, there’s a Linux version. If you’re a social networking blogger, there is a client package called Gwibber with support for facebook, twitter, identi.ca, Flickr, digg etc. I could go on and on. The point here is that if you use a standard software application, then chances are that a Linux version is available.

6)Its supported. Several support services exist for Linux users. For businesses, several successful companies such as Red Hat, Canonical, and Novell exist. These vendors provide long term support services to companies worldwide who need Linux support. For an individual user, in addition to the extensive manuals and off-line help materials packaged with Linux, the Internet provides many support forums and resources aimed at helping Linux users. If you have a problem, some one else in the world has probably asked about it, and the solution is readily available. Just Google it!

7)Its the future. Due to its stability and flexibility, the Linux operating system is fast becoming the operating system of choice in most embedded devices. From all those fancy smart phones, TV set-top boxes, microwaves to car gadgets, Linux is running the show. There is a reason why the world’s developers, and manufacturers are saying no to windows in favor of Linux.

When a company with more than 20,000 employees such as Google decides to ditch Windows, the message is clear: using windows is no longer safe! Join others who have chosen to enjoy computing the way it was meant to be, with less risks. By the way, its not only Google that is phasing out Windows, other major institutions such as the London and New York Stock Exchanges have made the switch. Governments and companies from Brazil to New Zealand have decided to adopt Linux and free software.

To start using Linux today, you should download the installation disk image(s), burn the image(s) to CDs or DVD, insert it into the drive and then follow the easy step by step installation process.
Linux comes in several “flavors” (commonly referred to as distributions). For starters, go with a distribution like Ubuntu. If you are a power user, other variants of Linux exist. I recommend Fedora, the free and community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. You can also try OpenSUSE. All these three are suitable for home and office use. Also, if you want to just try Linux without installing it on your computer hard drive, you can burn a Live CD or USB flash disk distribution such as Puppy Linux.

You can download Linux at the following sites:

Ubuntu

Fedora

OpenSUSE

Puppy Linux