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Knowing If Linux Is Right For You

For cash-strapped schools, as well as businesses with tight pursestrings, open source technology may offer an appealing choice over costly proprietary software.

As the current economic slump pinches state funding, a small but growing number of schools are experimenting with open source software developed and distributed for free by international organizations comprising thousands of programmers.

In contrast to commercial software, open source software plays a very small role in school districts' technology plans. Market research firm IDC says Linux, the popular open source operating system sold by several small vendors, accounts for only one-half of one percent of total operating system revenue each year. Put in perspective, this amounts to about two days worth of Microsoft's revenue from Windows.

Flexibility is among the reasons school IT professionals like Linux. It runs on many types of hardware platforms, even older 486 and Pentium computers that are still used in education. For the most part, schools are using Linux computers to provide certain types of network services, such as printer and Internet access, as well as e-mail and file storage.