Windows alternatives gain ground

When it comes to desktop and network systems, small businesses have little choice but to go with the status-quo offerings of Microsoft, right?

Wrong, says Richard Giroux, IT manager at Whitelaw Twining, a boutique law firm in Vancouver. Last winter, when it was time to upgrade its Windows 98 and 2000 operating systems, the firm instead chose Novell's SUSE, a version of Linux.

It was a bold step; Linux is dogged by the perception that it's not ready to play nice with non-geeks.

Yet a Linux-based operating system would cost less than going back to Microsoft and licensing such applications as Office and server-related programs. Also, the costs of security, anti-virus protection and maintenance would be lower.