9 Aug 2012

A Few Thoughts on Why Businesses Resist Migration to Linux

With the upcoming release of Windows 8 in October, the computer world appears to be divided in its opinion of Microsoft’s new operating system. Following the release preview of Windows 8 a few months ago, some are excited about the new interface, while others feel it was built only to be more convenient for tablet or touchscreen users. If Windows 8 turns out to be another Vista, Linux is expected to eat another inch more of Microsoft’s market share.

Despite being an open source system, Linux received less support from users as it is known to be harder to navigate than Windows. It gained popularity only with developers and computer geeks because they had the freedom to tweak the code to suit their preference. But Linux has made great strides over the years. Where Linux was previously limited only to servers and supercomputers, now more users are daring to use the system in their laptops and desktops. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in the business environment. Why are businesses resisting the change?

Compatibility Issues

Most businesses have used Windows and Microsoft Office for decades. Switching to Linux and other open source software brings up compatibility issues on old files, as well as problems with document transfers or exchanges between vendors and clients. Even if the IT personnel has convinced everyone about how much more elegant, economical, and secure Linux is, the company is less likely to be compelled to make such a major change if there are costly compatibility issues. Some laser printers are not able to cope with Linux, which would be a problem if the company has already invested in this hardware and was unwilling to upgrade at this time. However, there are manufacturers that produce Linux-compatible printers. For example, Dell printers are usually compatible with Linux, as are some HP printers. So, the problem with printer compatibility might not be so difficult after all.

Inconvenience and Cost of Training

Switching to a new operating system and other software translates to additional training for employees. Though the company will save money from software licensing, there would be training expenses to consider, as well as man-hours consumed by personnel - not only for training, but as well as additional hours that it would take to become familiar with the new system. We can argue that this would only entail additional expenses during the initial shift. Then again, it would also mean training for almost any new hire since it is likely that they are more familiar with Windows.

User Resistance to Change

It's normal for people to resist change in any type of scenario - especially where it would take extra effort to learn and become familiar again with new tools that would be used every day at work. Imagine the grumbling and complaints that would be thrown all over the workplace when everyone is required to learn a new operating system. This might even be more complicated for older people in the workforce, who, as they are not digital natives', might struggle to learn and absorb a new technology that is different from what they likely use at home. What about top management? These busy executives might not want to go out of their way to learn a new system.

Linux is a fantastic operating system for any computer. But until it receives support from software vendors, it is not likely to make its way into the business workplace. And without the same budget that Microsoft has for development and advertising, it will remain at home with tech-savvy coders, programmers, and computer users.

Joanna Stevenson studied mechanical engineering in London, and currently works for an energy research and consulting firm. She enjoys writing tech and business articles in her free time. She aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast with the exploratory spirit and witty prose of her favourite author of Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island for the tech world.


  1. There are huge costs involved for a lot of companies to change over. LINUX IT staff cost more than Windows equivalents because Windows engineers are easier to find.

    Migration of key applications such as finance systems, risk management tools etc would be very costly.

    Lots of bigger companies work off adhoc spreadsheets and bizarre little systems (that really shouldn't be there but every company has people that think they should have been programmers in another life). To translate all that naff VBA code would take ages and would not be cost effective

    I think really if users don't like Windows 8 they will stick on Windows 7 or even Vista or XP.

    At the end of the day it comes down to time and cost versus potential gains. Is there enough of a gain switching to LINUX. For corporations they would need to see a massive productivity gain to make it worthwhile.

    1. On the other hand, a decent Linux admin can handle at least double (even quadruple) as many Linux systems as a Windows admin can handle Windows systems.


  2. Personally, I'm glad that Linux isn't going to replace Windows or the Mac. It's a big world out there with plenty of room for all of us.
    I like Linux. It's not for everyone. The business world has it's own issues, but for me, a tech-savvy user, it's the only way to go. No viruses or malware. I don't mean to sound like an elitist but the nasties like MS code and are quit use to it. That's a good thing, they won't mess up our little world of Linux...

  3. Hmm, since February 2012, my company has moved to all Linux desktops. No one has complained about the desktops so far.

    I think this is because the desktop as a thing in and of itself, has really passed by.

    The new platform is the web. We do everything on the web now and intend to continue doing so in the future.

    I think Linux has already won. People who focus on the desktop, are missing the boat.

  4. While I'd partially agree with the idea of having to "re-train" staff going from Windows to Linux, I'm sure we've all experienced the headache of going from Office 2003 to Office 2007. Perhaps, instead of going to Windows 8 (which has been noted as being fine for tablets, but desktops, not so much) it means an opportunity to change to something more similar (and therefore less costly to train), along with a change to OpenOffice or LibreOffice, which brings them back to a familiar interface. I work primarily with folks in their 40's to 50's, and they all HATE the ribbon, and would gladly go back if they could.

  5. So many people who work with Windows (and to a lesser extent, OS/X) are rabidly against using Linux at work. Why? If you take a modern Linux desktop like Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora or openSuSE, it is pretty easy to use. My am typing this on my Lenovo S205 (running Ubuntu 12.04 -64 bit) in Firefox - although I can understand why not everybody likes Unity and might prefer Mint. Why is (say) moving from Windows 7 to Ubuntu 12.04 (running Unity) much harder than moving to Windows 8. The answer (of course) is that it isn't and people are just scared of anything new (+ Microsoft FUD over Linux). Many people who use Android phones don't realize that it is Linux either.