As well as Linux software vendors, there are a growing number of hardware companies specializing in Linux. Penguin Computing Inc. of San Francisco, for example, offers a range of Linux servers based on Intel or AMD Opteron processors. They come with the software already installed, and they also provide compatible peripheral and storage options too.
Between Novell, Red Hat, Penguin and others, Linux has been made more accessible to small business. Further, the vendor community is more behind Linux than ever. Companies such as IBM, CA, HP, Dell and even Sun have rolled out a succession of Linux products. Many of these are aimed at the low end--basic servers and applications that small businesses can use. As a result, support is more readily available for Linux than ever before. Thus the operating system is finding its way into many more small businesses.
"With the right support, Linux and other open source solutions can give you excellent value for the price," says Antonopoulos. "However, there is a lack of widely available skilled Linux administrators compared to Windows."
To get around this issue, Nickolett suggests that small businesses focus on better-known brands of Linux in order to make life easier. "There is Linux expertise available locally in most areas, so one key to finding good support is to use well known products," he says. "Red Hat Linux is one of the more popular platforms, so it will be easier to find knowledgeable and reliable support."
Philip Pokorny, director of field engineering at Penguin Computing, however, suggests that any small business thinking of deploying Linux should secure an IT administrator who is comfortable with either UNIX or Linux. He feels that if the system administrator has only ever used Windows, that business is not a good candidate for an immediate migration to Linux.
"Organizations that are not currently good candidates should get started by investing in training for their IT personnel on Linux," says Pokorny. "Both Novell and Red Hat offer excellent training courses to help bring administrators up to speed."