10 Benefits of Linux You Need to Know
Operating systems, such as Linux, provide an interface between the application software and the underlying hardware. The best operating systems remain invisible to the user, which is where the benefits of Linux first come into play. However, an operating system has to go further in ensuring that the user’s data remains secure and that applications play together nicely, which is another advantage of Linux. This guide examines the advantages of Linux and why you might consider using it as your operating system.
Linux has a long history, but it’s essentially the work of Linus Torvalds who started writing the Linux kernel in 1991. Richard Stallman actually started the ball rolling with the GNU (GNU’s Not Unix) project in 1983 with the goal of creating a free version of the Unix operating system. Unix, created by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie for AT&T Labs in 1969, was never free because it was proprietary, as were all other operating systems at the time. It’s important to view Linux with an eye toward its past as you work through what Linux is good for today and why it’s important.
Linux appears almost everywhere. You can find it on the desktop, server, cloud, mobile devices, supercomputers, and as part of the Internet of Things (IoT), among other platforms. Linux is important because it is customizable, you don’t have to jump through someone else’s hoop to create an application, it’s fast, and it works on older hardware. The Linux learning curve can cause woe initially, but the experience gained in working with Linux translates to all of the platforms it supports, which are many. Linux is actually the basis for other operating systems, like Android, because it does provide so much flexibility.
The most critical reason to use Linux is that it provides a means of increasing return on investment (ROI) in every environment because you don’t necessarily need to pay anything for the operating system and it’s potentially possible to use hardware that you already have. Linux is important because it can make the difference between your organization seeing a profit or experiencing a loss.
Linux is also one of the most successful examples of an open source project. Its code is publicly accessible, anyone can modify and distribute its code, and it’s developed collaboratively with the Linux community. These facets directly contribute to its key benefits, like strong security.
There’s a strong case to make for using Linux in your business, research project, web application, specialized environment, or to address some other practical need. The sections below outline ten benefits of using Linux in your organization.
Linux is more secure than most other operating systems today because:
- Linux has numerous distributions and more appear every day. Some well-known distributions include Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS. All of them are updated regularly, so creating a virus that targets Linux as a whole is nearly impossible because it’s a moving target.
- Linux assumes that everyone only has privileges to their own applications and data. When an application is installed and configured by the administrator, the user can’t do anything with it other than use it.
- Linux also isn’t the most popular operating system out there when you consider its use in a standalone venue. Virus writers tend to go for the lower hanging fruit: Operating systems that affect a lot of people.
One of the pros of Linux is that the Linux kernel is free and it comes under the open source GNU GPL (General Public License) so you can add whatever you want to it to create a custom configuration. It’s possible to download just about every Linux distribution. For example you can download a form of the Linux kernel with a few add-ons, that is fully functional, out of the box, without cost. Add-ons such as the paid services for Ubuntu, and Red Hat Enterprise, may cost you.
You don’t need to install special software to contact the backend servers for your project using add-on software with Linux. All you need is the Secure Shell (SSH) utility to access the server securely. In addition, you have access to editors like Emacs, Nano, and Vim that allow you to update config files or hosted Python scripts on the fly. These advantages of using Linux mean that developers spend more time writing and testing code than figuring out some arcane process to complete tasks.
Linux comes with the drivers you need right out of the box so you won’t waste time searching for the driver disk to use with your device. One of the pros of Linux is that the device support doesn’t end with today’s devices. It’s quite possible to revitalize an older machine to use as a firewall, router, or backup server.
The ability to scale is essential for any practical software need. Linux provides scalability in several ways:
- It runs on so many different platforms that it is hard to find a device that you can’t use Linux on. It scales to the device you need to use, including the ubiquitous robots and industrial computers.
- It has a minimal footprint so you can use it on devices of nearly any capability.
- It doesn’t bog down under load.
- It only uses resources when the application isn’t using them.
Source code for the Linux kernel is readily available, so it’s possible to view whenever needed. This availability has a number of advantages over other operating systems:
- There are many people looking for potential flaws in Linux and many coming up with solutions.
- It’s possible to track flaws down or modify Linux to meet specific needs.
- It’s possible to discover how the operating system works by observing the source code in a debugger.
Because of the way the operating system is designed and the fact that the kernel is open source, software developers have better knowledge of how to create compatible, reliable, applications. There are also fewer layers to deal with when working with Linux.
Most developers view Linux as a server operating system and are careful to create applications that run in such an environment. This means that Linux applications often provide robust security and reliability, and still offer an application that runs quickly. Many professionals are attracted to Linux because they don’t have time to keep fixing the operating system and want it to be as invisible as possible. Consequently, you often find Linux used as a workstation operating system for professionals of all stripes.
When working with most operating systems, the user only has access to one user interface (UI). If the user doesn’t like how that UI works, that’s too bad. With Linux, it’s possible to install any of a number of user interfaces and customize those interfaces as needed. This means extra work at the outset and a higher learning curve, but the user eventually ends up with the right UI to meet specific needs. In short, the UI becomes invisible.
There is usually no perfect solution to any given problem because the number of variables available to solve the problem are usually significant, and some are unknown. Operating systems are complex pieces of software that solve many problems in interfacing application software to the underlying hardware. Consequently, Linux has some potential drawbacks. Here is a short list to consider:
- Distributions: Many people create their own version of Linux as a must have distribution. Staying with the mainstream distributions, such as Ubuntu and Debian, is the best way to get started using Linux.
- Gaming and Other Consumer Applications: Linux works best for practical needs in a wide range of venues, but not as a gaming platform. Yes, you can use it for gaming and other consumer needs, but installing and using the software usually requires extra steps.
- Market Share: Even though it seems mercenary, market share determines how organizations devote resources to a product. Linux is near the bottom of the list when looking at operating system market share.
- Legal Requirements: Some industries must meet specific legal requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It’s often less complex to meet these requirements using other operating systems.
There are several good reasons to use Linux as your operating system, especially if you want an operating system that is open source and secure. If you are a small business you can also save on costs by using Linux since you can install it for free on a desktop computer. Similarly, using Linux to host a web application gives you lots of community support with online tutorials, community forums, and communication platforms, like Discord.
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