Back in the June 2000 issue of Inc. magazine, writer Dan Orzech contemplated the advantages and disadvantages of Linux for small businesses in "Bidding for Linux." His final note: though the free open-source operating system is touted to be cheaper and very reliable, small businesses shouldn't be too quick to jump on the Linux bandwagon. Four years later, there's still much debate about Linux becoming a competitive alternative to Windows-run machines.

Many issues remain when considering Linux to help run a business. For one, as writer Brian Clark notes in his March 2004 Inc. article, "The Best Bang for Your Tech Buck," it's not really "free." Licensing fees, though less than Microsoft's, do exist, and "every company selling it has their own idea of what the desktop should be -- there's no standardization." Beyond that, trying to get Office products to work within a Linux environment was difficult when Clark attempted it. And it doesn't seem it will get to much easier, as Microsoft won't be developing any MS Office Products for Linux anytime soon.

Also, there's been some argument that Linux is a more secure operating system than Windows. But as writer Michael S. Mimoso and Jyrki Tulokas, corporate business manager of F-Secure discuss in a March 11, 2004, article, Mainstream Means More Malicious Code, it's only a matter of time before more viruses affect Linux. Today, notes Tulokas, most viruses are written for Windows because that's what people are using, and spammers can get maximum effect using the system of choice. But as more companies install Linux to run, say, CRM and Web applications, it's only a matter of time before viruses and malicious code is written to take down a business's e-commerce capability.

Obviously, the debate is far from over. Linux has a strong following, as the proliferation of Linux dedicated websites illustrates, but will it ever replace Windows as the operating system of choice? And do you use Linux in your business? What kind of luck have you had?