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Linux and Windows Server Critique

In: Computers and Technology

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Linux versus Windows
The purpose of this document is to explore the benefits or disadvantages of using UNIX® or Linux® versus Windows Server® for company business operations at Kudler Fine Foods.

Three grocery stores in southern California comprise Kudler Fine Foods. Employing approximately 150 people, Kudler caters to people who enjoy gourmet-class foods, first-rate service, and a friendly atmosphere helps make a pleasant shopping experience. Current company information technology (IT) assets include local 10BaseT Ethernet networks at the three locations, Windows Server at the La Jolla headquarters, and 56kb modem links between the facilities enabling sharing of company information. At each store a point of service (POS) cash register application links the 20 total terminals to a proprietary purchasing application for inventory price lookup and monetary exchanges. The company also uses the Windows Server platform to run an e-commerce website for sales of select inventory over the Internet. Security
The Kudler Fine Foods e-commerce stores security of the server is the number one priority of team B. Which server is the most secure, Linux or Windows? Many information technicians have their favorite but the bottom line is, which operating system has the target on their back as far a security breaches. According to Noyes (2010) there are five key factors that make Linux superior to Windows.
• Privileges
• Social Engineering
• The Monoculture Effect
• Audience Size
• How Many Eyeballs
Windows users are assigned administrator privileges that gives those individuals full access to the entire system and all files. All it would take for a catastrophic system meltdown would be one disgruntled employee with access to load malicious code that could destroy the entire network. Conversely, Linux users are assigned lower-level accounts. This method greatly reduces the likelihood of a user loading malicious work that could infect the entire network. An attack is possible on the Linux server but the ability to spread it across the network with only a lower level account is virtually impossible.
Social engineering is the ability to spread viruses and worms across a network with ease. All it takes is for one employee to open an infected e-mail and within seconds the company’s network could be compromised. Windows systems allow the user to make this detrimental mistake. On the other hand, in order for a malicious attack to happen on the Linux server, “a Linux user would have to read the e-mail, save the attachment, give it executable permissions and then run the executable” (Noyes, 2010, p. 1).
The monoculture effect is that the Microsoft Windows system is a dominating force in the information technology field. Numerous corporations rely on this platform to conduct their daily business. This gives hackers the ability to hone in on these operating systems to find holes to infiltrate the networks. Linux, in contrast, is a different breed. Linux has numerous distributors of its platform which makes hacking more difficult. The audience size plays hand-in-hand with the monoculture effect. Because there are more Windows-based operating systems in use, the likelihood of attacks to Linux-based systems naturally declines.
“How many eyeballs” refers to how many people are looking for holes in the code of the operating system. Microsoft has a team of technologists that scour the code for flaws. Operating system code corrections are made, and a patch is sent to the users to update their systems. This leaves the operating system vulnerable until a patch is installed. Support for Linux is the opposite of this method. All users can view the code and once an error is found, it is corrected immediately. This is a security feature that sets Linux above Windows.

The Administration of the Kudler Finer Foods Information system will not undergo many changes. However, migrating from a Windows-based OS to a Unix-based operating system will pose some challenges to the people working in some of the departments that will require accessing system tools and features. These are the basic features that the administrator will have to take into account after the migration from windows to Unix-based OS.
Managing the Data
The system admin will need to wear several hats when running the Unix OS at Kudler. The daily operations of the store will require that the data be accessible at all times 24/7. There may be business hours operations and after hours administration duties for the website and other duties performed by the corporate staff that help the logistical and administrative operations of the stores. Administrators will need to focus on some areas to make sure that the network will run smoothly. Kudler’s network structures include three locations with a Point of Sale service at each one. All of these locations will be tied into a central server to gather the sales transactions, daily operations data and the current inventory levels.
Troubleshooting Hardware and Software Issues
Most of the hardware at these stores will be the cash registers that will record the sales transactions, process credit card purchases and transmit the data back to the central database that records and files all this data. The UNIX kernel should be able to serve these separate locations and make sure that the system resources are not usurped or served lopsidedly to one location while neglecting the others. The network OS should be able to handle request transactions from several users and locations. UNIX is designed to handle multiple simultaneous users and distributes the available processing power efficiently. When a new location is added to the network or current system hardware is updated, the system administrator will be at the forefront to make sure the installations or modifications go smoothly.
The UNIX administrator will have the responsibility to make sure that the network is secured by different means. First, the POS systems will need passwords issued to its users apart from key card access to ensure non-unauthorized use from outside threats. Next, the general work population needs to be educated in the dangers of social engineering as well as cyber-attacks because of web surfing habits. In addition, it will be a prudent practice to make sure that passwords are changed on a regular basis. Finally, developing tiered access to the UNIX system to make sure that access to sensitive system folders and database networks are tightly controlled is paramount to properly securing the network.
File access
The Admin will be directly responsible for creating groups and granting file access as all the files and folders will be “owned” by a particular user on the network. In the case of Kudler, this could pose an issue with inventory data as more than one individual may require access to the current state of inventory or inventory changes.
Networking (Internet Protocol)
Both Windows Server and Linux Server can easily handle Kudler’s meager IT requirements. As currently configured, the company-wide network can communicate in a moderately secure fashion, sharing information as required for inventory, accounting, and payroll processing and distribution.
Modern computer networks rely on the TCP/IP protocol suite for communications between servers and clients as well as with outside networks including the Internet. Networks running a Linux Operating System (OS) function exceptionally well using TCP/IP. In fact, the original protocols that eventually became the latest version of the TCP/IP suite were created for a UNIX-based Berkley Software Distribution (Love, et. al, 2006), back in the 1970s. Capability such as DHCP for distribution of local network addresses, HTTP and IP for Internet access, SMTP and POP for e-mail operation, and IPSec for network security, all perform equally as well on a Linux network as they do on a Windows setup. In fact, from strictly a performance perspective, the Linux OS completes tasks such as I/O processing, boot up and shut down more quickly than does Windows. According to Paul Murphy from ZDnet, “There are a pair of two way comparisons in which both sides use the same database and the same Xeon hardware to produce a pure OS to OS comparison… Linux wins - usually by a wide margin.” (Murphy, p. 1)
Linux can utilize the network hardware currently in place at Kudlers. The network infrastructure including: hubs, routers, cat5 cabling, network interface cards, connectivity to the Internet through a service provider, etc., requires simply the loading of readily available drivers to retain full function of all hardware as currently implemented. One thing that bears mentioning is, the several client machines at Kudler that currently run Windows 98 are severely outdated and would benefit from an operating system upgrade to enhance performance and security. A modern Linux OS would provide a more stable, faster, and more secure network connection.

Market Share
The market share of UNIX-based platforms has grown significantly since introduction in the 1960s. This could be the result of a growing server market, but there are reasons to believe that the UNIX operating system (OS) may be showing signs of a slowdown. Studies performed in 2011 hint to the above mentioned. According to the Maxcer article from ITPro (2011), “The only area of the market that remained weak is the UNIX segment, Gartner reported, showing revenue decline 18.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. UNIX vendors are squeezed between new investments in x86 platforms and the entrenched but strong installed base of System Z.” (Can Oracle or HP Take Some UNIX Blame?, para. 2). This shows that in today’s growing server market that the UNIX OS is falling behind.
IBM controls over 40% of the UNIX market share. This information can be controversial though, as IBM delivered more servers than any other company when this information was published. This information can be used to base server decisions for Kudler. IBM is the leading distributor of servers, and should be chosen as the vendor to supply the new UNIX server for Kudler. This ensures that the company will be around long enough to service the equipment and stand behind warranted items. Further, they continue to develop UNIX systems, ensuring that the server installed today will continue to work long into the future. In contrast, Microsoft (Leading OS market) products are not supported after a period of time following their release.

Chart 1 Source:

In Chart 1, it is clear that the Windows OS is dominating the market by a large margin, but this should not be a deterring factor. The UNIX OS has numerous benefits as outlined in the security and administration sections of this paper.

Additional Elements
Typical Microsoft installations include software in addition to Windows which is critical to the successful integration of company business operations. Microsoft Office software includes a spreadsheet application, a database application, an e-mail application, and a word processing application, among others. A large number of businesses have used these applications for years, and daily operations depend on them.
To fill this void for a typical Linux system, the open source community developed the OpenOffice software suite. It is no coincidence that the major applications in OpenOffice closely mirror the applications of Microsoft Office. In fact, OpenOffice strives to meet programming challenges that Microsoft has not addressed. The OpenOffice suite, "also includes features which some expensive rivals do not - for example, the ability to create .pdf files when you want to guarantee what the recipient sees on their computer." (, 2011, p. 1) Again, the OpenOffice suite is open source, and it is distributed free of charge. In comparison to Microsoft Office software which costs hundreds of dollars per license, it seems like quite a bargain, especially for a business with a limited budget.
It is worth mentioning that not all enterprise-level applications are available for Linux. Although business solutions can be created for Linux systems, the development environment is not as easily traversed as is a solution for a Windows environment. One thing that Microsoft does very well is supporting its software developers. Online forums, the Microsoft knowledgebase, and development helper programs makes code creation for a Windows-based system more user-friendly than its likely Linux-based counterpart. One final consideration: The point of service (POS) system in place at Kudler for cash register/monetary exchange and inventory system integration would need to be identified and screened for compatibility with a Linux system. Several boxed POS applications are available to fill this slot, should the current application prove incompatible. One such solution is available from IBM Corporation. Their SurePOS 100, 300, and 500 series software packages are tailor made for retail environments running Linux operating systems.

The long-running debate regarding whether Windows or Linux is the better operating system is not likely to end anytime soon. A business should carefully consider such things as stability, cost, performance, scalability, and application use and compatibility to determine which OS is most appropriate for its operation before deciding on a solution. In addition, the use of Linux necessitates the addition of a layer of expertise in the IT group to deal with what is a more specialized set of administrative tasks. As frequently seems to be the case in IT systems selection and implementation, the better performing solution is not the more popular or the more expensive. A Linux/OpenOffice system, which is open source and distributed free of charge, can integrate a business as effectively as a Windows/Office setup with the stifling cost and licensing requirements imposed by Microsoft. However, much of corporate America seems to be addicted to the Microsoft business solution, and any movement away from the tried-and-true architecture meets with resistance from the rank-and-file.
Indications are that the future will look much like the present for business system software in that there seems to be room for Windows and Linux to both thrive in business circles. In which circle a particular business chooses to reside is largely a matter of well considered choice. References

Noyes, K. Why Linux Is More Secure Than Windows. (2010) PC World. _secure_than_windows.html. Retrieved June 11, 2011.

Maxcer, C. Server Market Rockets up 16 Percent, UNIX Action Mixed. Power ITPro. (2011). Retrieved from
Cheung, M., & Dayley, A. (2011). Market Share Analysis: Operating System Software, Worldwide, 2010. Gartner Inc., ( ), Retrieved from:
Love, P., Merlino, J., Reed, J., Zimmerman, C., Weinstein, P. (2005). Beginning Unix . Indiannapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing.
Murphy, P. The performance debate: Linux vs Windows. (2006). As retrieved from: (2011). Why OpenOffice. Retrieved from…...

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