Windows to Linux Migration Checklist for IT Administrators

Windows to Linux Migration Checklist for IT Administrators

August 21

Now that Microsoft has officially taken Windows XP off life support, some users and companies are still trying to figure out where to go next. Of course Microsoft recommends Windows 7 or 8, but truthfully, you have options that exist beyond the realm of Windows. Supporters will tell you that there are plenty of reasons to switch to Linux, citing advantages such as better security, superior flexibility, and cost efficiency since most versions are totally free to download and use.

If you’re looking for a viable alternative to Windows, Linux is certainly one to consider. Having said that, making the switch isn’t necessarily a hassle-free process, especially on the system management side. Following is a checklist of IT administration aspects that must be addressed in order to ensure a smooth transition from Windows to Linux.

Distro Business 

The Linux name represents a huge family of operating systems. Individually known as distributions or distros, each one brings a little something different to the table. For example, Debian is known as a multi-purpose platform while Edubuntu was designed with educational use in mind. There are well 100 Linux distributions on the market. The right distro is a careful balance of something that meets company needs, and something IT administrators can thrive with. Zegeniestudio is a cool resource a lot of newbies use to decide which version they should try first.

IT Administration Skills

Linux has a reputation for being incredibly complex. There is some truth to this, but then it again, distribution and experience play a huge role in ease of use. If you are completely new to the Linux environment, you would probably do best with a distribution that caters to novice users. Linux Mint, Linux Lite, and the wildly popular Ubuntu are all solid candidates for newbies. Mint, in particular, is recommended for its Windows-inspired interface that allows you to easily navigate to all your applications and settings from a familiar desktop screen.

Hardware Compatibility

Linux supporters love to tout how it is capable of running so fluidly on legacy machines. Those hardware capabilities aren’t limited to desktops and servers either, as it also runs on mobile phones, portable media players, and various other devices. Whether it’s computers, printers, or other peripherals, you need to know how well your new system plays with existing hardware. LinuxJournal has an entire page dedicated to hardware support. From here you can check compatibility by distribution, and also view sources that match up support for laptops and mobile devices.

Software Compatibility

Linux presents IT administrators with all new challenges on the app compatibility front. The good thing is that it runs several open source equivalents. is an excellent resource with a list of open source alternatives to popular software. You can search by categories ranging from business and communications to databases and web development. Then there’s WINE, a useful tool for administrators in companies that can’t afford to give up certain Windows apps. WINE allows you to run Windows programs in the Linux environment and makes a nice alternative to virtualization.

Mobile Support

Mobile devices are helping organizations be more productive by providing on the go access to company resources. If your company demands this type of access, then mobile support is an important consideration for Linux. Some companies offload this responsibility on third-party vendors that offer cross-platform mobile device management solutions. LinuxPlanet has compiled a list of Android apps Linux administrators can use to assemble their own MDM toolkits. The diversity of your mobile device fleet will usually determine the best way to handle mobile support.

Community Support

Companies who purchase commercial distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE benefit from the same level of premium support Microsoft gives to paying Windows customers. However, if you choose to run a free distribution, then you’ll be solely reliant on your internal IT resources and the open source community. Most versions of Linux have their own active online communities you can turn to for help. There are no guarantees in terms of response time, so it might be a good idea to browse some of the forums to get a feel for just how helpful a given community may be.

Taking a Test Drive with Linux

Jumping from Windows to Linux is a huge move. In many cases, an IT administrator is asked to give up their comfort zone for the perplexing land of unfamiliarity. To be on the safe side, companies in transition should consider running Linux from a Live CD or Live USB. You can boot up a live session from either medium all without affecting the data in your existing Windows environment. This little test drive is a simple way to check hardware compatibility, access ease of use, and ultimately determine if a Linux migration is the right move.

Photo Credit: Ian Burt via Flickr