ALCG Journal by Andrew Lehman 

Entries in Business Notebook (1)


Are There Really Viable Alternatives to Windows for Business Users?

Businesses are increasingly aware that their electronic infrastructures are probably not as secure as they would like. At the same time, the IT organizations responsible for maintaining and securing those infrastructures are struggling to become more nimble. IT is striving to be perceived as a business partner. One that is providing competitive advantage--working to get away from the old image of IT as a ponderous, inflexible and expensive bureaucracy. All too frequently though, these efforts have also lead to inconsistently applied security policies, the seemingly unquenchable thirst for BYOD and the quite ascendance of a don't ask don't tell acceptance of "shadow IT" services seeping in to the organization. These developments are heightening the challenge of maintaining a secure IT environment.   
As smart phones and tablets are becoming part of the business computing landscape, and end-users are becoming more accustomed to  remote computing, cloud-based services and on-line interfaces, users are increasingly open to the idea that real work can be done on platforms other than a PC or laptop running Microsoft Windows. As this door is opening, IT is starting to wonder if these developments might be turned to their advantage. Perhaps alternative platforms might have advantages from a cost, stability and security perspective. 
Our customers have asked us to look in to two alternative platforms which are at opposite ends of the spectrum from a technical complexity perspective. The first is the prospect of using Chromebooks--are they really a viable alternative, and if so, for which types of workers? Second, we have been asked about creating a lean Linux-based platform end-user platform running a VM or VMs hosting Microsoft Windows allowing a developer or analyst to run multiple instances or versions of windows. Most IT professionals will expect the performance of both alternatives to be less than acceptable from a reliability, usability and performance perspective. But is that really the case? 

Viable business PC platform alternatives: Chromebooks and Linux-Windows

We have been testing both platforms with some interesting results. In brief, regarding Chromebooks, we found the biggest challenge was posed not by running on the Chromebook network-centric platform, but by the underpowered hardware that characterizes most Chromebooks. A Chromebook running on hardware comparable to a mainstream business-class notebook, like the Chromebook Pixel, pictured above,  became a viable alternative to a Windows-based notebook for many use-cases. Once you then consider the inherent security and low maintenance costs associated with Chromebooks, the platform starts to look like it could be a bright alternative to the Windows notebook . Likewise, and on a comparable hardware platform, though with more local storage and memory, we found that a Linux-based layered platform was also surprisingly nimble, stable, and usable and could also be crafted into a secure, business-class solution.