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Unix Vs Windows

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UNIX vs. Windows Networking

Networking has become an integral part of business operations in the world today. Businesses rely on networking for access to the marketplace through the Internet, while needing their internal networks for email, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, and accessing business data. Since the 1980's, two operating systems (OS's) have risen to the top in the world of networking - UNIX and Microsoft's Windows (Windows). UNIX played a key role in the creation and maintenance of the earliest networks and continues to provide essential services on today's Internet. UNIX enjoys a long usage history and a well-deserved reputation for stability and cost effectiveness. Windows has emerged as the de facto system of choice for many businesses as a result of user-friendliness and Microsoft's commitment to vigilance in system security. These two juggernauts of the computer industry have tremendous strengths, but also their share of weaknesses. Learning Team C explores these strengths and weaknesses in terms of cost, market share, hardware requirements, file processing, programming capabilities, and availability of application software.

Cost of the Operating Systems

At first glance, Windows appears to have an extreme cost disadvantage when compared to UNIX. Many variations of UNIX and Linux, a more user-friendly version of UNIX, are available to users 'free of charge' on the Internet. This 'free' cost can be deceptive, especially if one considers many versions of UNIX and Linux are available for Enterprise use with an annual support or usage fee. These fees can often be comparable in cost and annual fee structures to Windows products of the same caliber. For a majority of businesses using server-based networks and applications, implementing a 'for cost' version is a must have. Solaris, a product of Sun Microsystems recently purchased by Oracle, is one such high cost choice available on the market for business networking needs.

A series of trade-offs between Windows and UNIX systems occur between start-up and maintenance costs. UNIX-based and Linux-based devices generally accomplish more with less, both hardware-wise (less memory, processor speed, drive space, etc.) and non-existent or low licensing fees, resulting in lower overall costs when compared to Windows products. However, when one considers the Keep-the-Lights-On (KTLO) costs, Windows often fairs better than either the UNIX or Linux options. Microsoft even goes so far as to offer a number of free support options to increase their cost advantage. The exception to this remains the more expensive and better-supported UNIX and Linux options. Appendix A displays a cost comparison between UNIX and Windows systems.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) remains the best method to resolve conflicting cost data of the different OS's. Many companies conduct and publish TCO studies across the globe. Care must be taken when reviewing these studies when one considers they may be biased for one OS versus another, depending on the party mentality of those conducting the study. Publications recommending Windows often point out Microsoft support professionals are easier to find and less costly than UNIX or Linux system administrators or certified professionals. Publications recommending UNIX or Linux often point out UNIX servers are often less prone to difficulty; requiring fewer UNIX system administrators than a Windows environment. Please note the number of UNIX and Linux professionals is on the increase (Nash Networks, 2009).

The Verdict

Based on a confluence of data, it seems evident that with startup costs including hardware, software, and basic support, a UNIX/Linux installation would cost less than a similar Windows setup. The greater debate ensues with the costs of maintenance and length of service. Windows advocates claim the cost is negligible, but their figures rely on requiring the same number of support staff personnel spending comparable time on tasks as Microsoft professionals. These advocates also claim similar length of service between the two formats. These premises are faulty, as UNIX/Linux installations generally require much less upkeep in terms of time and staffing than Windows, and the average life span of hardware running UNIX/Linux is generally longer than those running Windows. When these variables are weighed more objectively, UNIX/Linux is a wiser choice in terms of cost (Murphy, 2008).

Market Share

As previously mentioned, UNIX and Windows are two popular OS's in competition with one another since the 1980's. Even with the advantage of coming first, UNIX has strong competition from Windows. Appendices B and C show the UNIX and Windows timeline from their inception to today, respectively. Linux, the new comer to the competition, removes one previously enjoyed advantage Microsoft experienced over UNIX, support of the Intel processor.


The UNIX market share, while not as high as the market share Windows holds today, still remains strong in areas where stability and security are a must. Windows controls approximately 95% of the personal computer market while UNIX is typically chosen for business critical services such as the Web hosting market. The cost of UNIX continues to be another factor in deciding which OS to run; UNIX is either relatively cheap or free per copy, while Microsoft typically charges for Windows on a per seat or Enterprise licensing structure.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft's development and release of Windows Vista and Windows 7 aimed at gaining on UNIX's security advantage by incorporating permissions that prevent malicious programs without user consent. Windows market share remains greater than UNIX thanks to the user-friendliness of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the popularity generated through marketing and pre-installation on personal computers when purchased. Appendix D illustrates a market share comparison of server usage between the Windows, UNIX, and Linux operating systems.

Hardware Requirements

Running UNIX or Windows smoothly comes with hardware requirements that must be met. Failure to meet these specific requirements may result in a non-functioning system or an improperly functioning system. The hardware requirements for common UNIX and Windows OS's follow:


The hardware requirements for UNIX-based systems are listed below, as well as in Appendix E:



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