Security and Linux

Last week a quietly released report by the Communications-Electronics Security Group (GCHQ’s information security arm) announcing that that Ubuntu 12.04 was the most secure operating system tested (this included Google’s Android, Apple’s Mac OS X and Microsoft’s Windows 7, 8 and RT). Obviously this is great news for us as Ubuntu 12.04 is our chosen operating system and the backbone of our business.

So why is Ubuntu more secure than Windows? It all boils down to the way Linux (the family of Operating Systems, Ubuntu belongs to) works and is structured. There are several critical differences between the two systems.

Firstly its all about privileges, in a the typical small business set-up the machine user has administrator rights which in Windows means that user can modify or delete any file on the system, consequently so can any virus! Whereas in Linux even as an administrator you cannot compromise the system files, consequently if you did suffer a viral attack it would only effect your files rather than the system files, making the difference between a major disaster and slight annoyance and restoring your backed up data.

On the subject of viruses, these are most commonly spread though email attachments which when opened cause chaos. Whereas for this to happen in a Ubuntu machine the user would have to save the attachment, change its permissions to executable and then try and run the file, which is pretty unlikely to happen.

But people being people, there are viruses for Linux machines, these are much rarer than Windows ones, but nonetheless they do exist, that said these can be protected against with relative ease, and as I said earlier there are any reported viruses which can effect your system files.

Of course open source software being what it is there is a free anti-virus package for Linux called ClamAV which we include within our bundle of software, as well as a graphical front-end for it. In addition to which we also provide a graphical frontend for preinstalled Ubuntu firewall, between these two tools you are already reducing the risks to your security.

Finally and probably the most importantly keep up-to-date with the software updates, Ubuntu will helpfully let you know when updates are needed you just need to keep on top of them. Unlike some of the Windows updates these are generally fairly small files and wont build up on your system slowing it down. If you do want to keep system tidy and clean use the Ubuntu Tweak Janitor tool (which we include) to tidy up your system files and remove any unnecessary files.

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Open Source and Accountants

One of the questions we are often asked about is accounts, whether we love them or hate them accountants and accounts are vital part of business life, and of course most people are familiar with accounts packages that run on Windows, can these run in Linux?

To start with many small businesses run well in the early days using spreadsheets, which can easily be done in the free equivalent of MS Office, LibreOffice. LibreOffice’s spreadsheet “Calc” is extremely similar to Excel, and you can use it to open, edit and save all your Excel spreadsheets.

However, if you are looking for full on accounts package, then most small businesses seem to favour QuickBooks, which of course is now encouraging its customers to use QuickBooks Online which will run through your browser. By doing this QuickBooks have eliminated the need for different versions for different operating systems, an online browser package, will run on Linux, Macs, Chrome, and even Windows!

However, if you are looking for a Free and Open Source solution to your accounting needs then we recommend (and use) GnuCash Finance Manager, this is a powerful and free package which allows you to manage your accounts, raise invoices, record payments and so forth. It also comes preloaded with numerous reports such as profit and loss statements and cash flows.

So with these options, there seems to be little reason to stick with Windows just for your accounts package! And of course don’t forget that even if you do want a Windows machine for your accounts, it can still talk to the rest of the Linux machines in your office, yes we can do that!