The ultimate Linux starter kit for small business
Today's Linux distributions are a far cry from what they once were in terms of mainstream usability. The more popular ones, such as Ubuntu and Mint, are at least on a par with their Microsoft and Apple OS competitors. A little training can go a long way, however, particularly for users intimidated by something new.
If you've already signed on for a commercial Linux distribution with paid support from the likes of Red Hat or Canonical, you're probably already covered—or at least you likely have professional training available to you as an extra. Even if not, though, legions of Linux consultants are out there, as well as national and global firms such as New Horizons and the Linux Foundation itself. Online training options abound as well.
Ease the transition
You've chosen your Linux distro, customized the desktop, downloaded apps, and gotten the training you and your staff need. You're ready to pull the plug on Windows, right? Not quite yet. Before you do that, take these few key steps.
First, if your switch to Linux means using different software than what your employees have been used to—Firefox, say, instead of Internet Explorer, get them started on that application while they're still on Windows. Once they start using the new Linux setup, that piece will be more familiar.
It's also a good idea to have a dedicated desktop PC available in the office with your new Linux setup running ahead of time. Let staff play around with it before they have to get real work done using the new tools. Finally, there's no shame in coming up with a cheat sheet to help people remember key steps they need to get their work done.
Given how easy to use Linux has become, there's a good chance you won't need any support for a long time, particularly if you have some books to guide you. If and when the moment comes that you really need some outside help, however, you have several options.
Free: First and foremost, every major distro has an online community with excellent forums. It's safe to say there's someone out there with experience on any common issue you may encounter. Beyond just the distro-specific forums, however, are a range of sub-communities. LinuxQuestions.org, for instance, offers discussions catered toward Linux newcomers, Linux in the enterprise, and more. Regional Linux User Groups (LUGs) offer another way to connect. Then, of course, a Web search can pull up answers.
For a price: If you must have someone to speak to when problems arise, paid support is offered by most of the big distros, including Red Hat and Ubuntu, either included or as an extra. Pay-as-you-go support plans are increasingly common as well. Then, too, there are legions of consultants. Start by searching for "Linux support" in your area. Finally, if you're already paying a systems integrator or consultant for services in another aspect of computing, don't be afraid to ask them the occasional Linux question.
Next page: Running the company? Here's what you need for the server side...