I was hesitant at first to make this post as I have seen many times on here that when someone says anything negative about Ubuntu they eventually get flamed and someone tells them to go back to M$. I posted this thread under “Testimonials and Experiences” and hope that everyone who reads it understands that I am merely sharing my own personal experience migrating to Ubuntu. Both the good and the bad.
I am a small business owner with a network of 2 servers and 15 workstations. I have been able to maintain and manage my own machines and network since win 3.1. I am not totally computer illiterate.
Four months after our last hardware and OS upgrade, early 2007, major issues developed with one of the new servers running Win server 2003. A friend suggested I look into Ubuntu. I downloaded Ubuntu, installed it and was impressed. Ubuntu installed and configured very easily. It also appeared to serve files to our XP workstations faster than Win server 2003 ever did. Plus, as an added bonus, it was Free.
Since Ubuntu had been running on the servers flawlessly since 2007 (one server ran 24/7 for 266 days without a reboot or any maintenance), I decided to look into migrating our workstations away from M$ to Ubuntu early 2008. Not exactly the same experience. In fact it was difficult, frustrating and very costly.
Though Ubuntu is free of charge, I would have gladly paid for a license that came with technical support. I did visit Cononical's site and their rates seemed a bit high. I got the impression that they are focusing on selling support contracts to very large businesses, not the little guy.
I knew at the beginning that I would need to devote some time for learning. However, I never expected that I would need to spend countless hours, days and even months searching the forums and Google for suggestions on how to fix or configure things and then have to spend even more time experimenting with the suggestions until I found one that actually worked. And to be honest, I found more correct and useful information on other sites not related to Ubuntu. Every time I got frustrated, I reminded myself how extremely well Ubuntu had been running on the servers and that it will be worth it in the end.
Besides better on-screen help, warning and/or error messages could have greatly reduced my frustrations and improved my ability to learn and move forward faster. For instance, after a new install, I used the Add/Remove feature to install Samba. No warning of any issues or missing components during the Add process was indicated and all though a launcher for Samba appeared in the menu, it would not launch until after I did 200 updates. I found this out by accident.
As Ubuntu is based on Debian, I recently decided to download and install Debian out of curiosity to compare the two. For me, Debian took longer to load, required much more initial setup time and I noticed it was conservatively a few releases behind the current available version of many of the packages. However, it did not require any updates after the initial install and it had a very nice help feature that provided mouse-over pop-up messages in many of the GUI configuration interfaces, CUPS for instance. Why the Ubuntu developers decided to not include the mouse-rollover pop-up help messages baffles me.
When I first began to look for solutions to migrate my workstations from M$ to Ubuntu, I contacted the folks at Codeweavers, the makers of Crossover and a major contributor to the WINE Project. I purchased their “Kick the Tires” service for $2,500.00 to attempt to get a few windows applications my business relies on to run in Crossover/Wine. At first they had some preliminary success so I cut them a second and even larger check to take the project further and hopefully succeed. In the end however, they were unable to get the applications to run in a usable condition. The charges for their services were non refundable and I knew this up front. I just spent several thousands dollars and wasn't one step closer to my goal.
After spending every free moment I had for several months, I realized that in order to find all the solutions my business required and to make the migration to Ubuntu within a reasonable time frame, it was time to seek out Linux professionals of which I hired on a per case basis. Yes, more financial investment in my quest to migrate to Ubuntu.
It took a better part of a year but I finally made the migration. All of my server's and workstation's are running faster and more reliably with Ubuntu being in control of the hardware then they ever did when M$ XP was the host OS.
In order to provide all the needs of the business, I ended up utilizing a combination of Linux software from the Ubuntu repository, two specialized windows based email programs running in Wine/Crossover and a few windows based business applications, such as Quick Books, Lotus Approach Database and UPS Worldship that are running in a virtual copy of M$ XP in Vmware. It's amazing, XP actually appears to run faster being a guest under Ubuntu then when it was the host and in control of everything.
Though Ubuntu's meat and potatoes seems as solid as a rock, I am disappointed with some of the annoying quarks the desktop presents on occasion. Workstations occasionally are missing some launchers from their panel after bootup, progress dialog boxes don't always paint in the progress bar, shortcuts sometimes become non-responsive, some of the “Help” buttons do nothing, and the clipboard's Copy/Paste function is very inconsistent. I understand that there are bugs and that they will eventually be addressed and fixed. I lost a little confidence in bugs being fixed in a timely manner as I have found posts reporting the Copy/Paste problem as far back as 2007.
We had very few problems with hardware. Ubuntu was able to address all of our peripherals except for one flatbed scanner and one OKI Data color laser printer. All the workstations and servers are less than two years old, all have multi core processors, SATA drives and a few are running a RAID1.
Now that I finally have most things configured and running, my only concern is that one day an update may break something and I may not have the knowledge to fix it FAST. I've already been through one kernel security update that caused Vmware to stop working. It was easy to fix, however it did provide for a brief moment of panic as our order entry system only runs in XP.
I am currently running 8.04LTS, 32-bit on the workstations and 64-bit on the servers. I have decided to leave the security and recommended updates on for now. If I ever add anymore workstations they would initially install all available updates so I may as well keep the existing machines up to date and address an update issue if and when it would occur.
I realize than any good OS is a work in progress and that change is inevitable. However, I am counting on the current LTS version to continue to provide stable and reliable performance until the next LTS version s released.
Ubuntu boots fasts, runs fast, is very flexible and customizable, rarely does anything crash, there are no M$ viruses to worry about, there are no more interruptions waiting for virus definitions to download and install, security is good, there is minimal maintenance and it actually shuts down when you tell it to.
Though it was more challenging than I had anticipated, I do not regret the amount of time and effort or the thousands of dollars I've spent on migrating all the machines at my pace of business to Ubuntu. I am very pleased with the end result and feel it was a very good investment for my business.