Your Operating System: Options and Upgrades

Your operating system manages your computer's functions and allows it to run software. Since much of today's software is cloud-based and works on either Windows or Mac, your operating system is largely a matter of personal preference - yours and whoever's going to be managing your company's IT functions.

Windows, Linux or Mac?

All of the popular operating systems offer access to software programs such as productivity tools, calendaring, internet browsers and email. So how do you choose?

Windows is the most popular operating system, and it's long been considered the standard for business. Some points to consider about Windows:

  • Most IT professionals are comfortable working with Windows.
  • If you and your employees have used Windows in the past, you'll reduce costly training time if you choose a Windows system.
  • Some business software, especially industry-specific software, may still only be compatible with Windows.
  • Windows licenses can be expensive.
  • Windows can run on either PCs or Macs.
  • Windows tends to be more susceptible to crashes, viruses and malware than Linux or Mac systems.

Linux is a free operating system that's popular with developers. Linux can't operate as a stand-alone product – it must be bundled with additional software. Popular Linux-based systems include Ubuntu and SUSE. Linux systems are known for being fast while having a small resource footprint.

  • A Linux system is less expensive than Windows.
  • Because Linux is an open source kernel that can be modified by anyone, there are many different Linux-based operating systems to choose from, with varying features.
  • Fewer IT professionals are fluent in Linux.
  • Popular software is less likely to be available on Linux, though there may be open-source software that performs similar functions.
  • Linux lacks a centralized customer support system.
  • Linux systems have a reputation for being more secure and less prone to viruses than Windows systems.
  • If you're not a computer whiz, Linux can seem complicated and hard to learn. However, computer geeks may find it easier to access complicated functions on a Linux system than on a Windows system.

Mac operating systems are configured specifically for Mac computers and all new Macs come with the operating system pre-installed.

  • Mac's OS has long been the favorite of creatives and the art and design community.
  • Many IT professionals are not well-versed in Mac systems, so a Mac may not be a good choice if you have a large office, an IT staff, and/or complex computing needs.
  • Macs can be a good choice for a small office with a minimal IT staff because they are easy to operate and consumers can resolve most issues with the aid of customer forums or by taking the computer to the nearest Apple store.
  • Some business and productivity software is designed for Windows users and is not compatible with Macs.
  • Mac systems have historically been less prone to viruses than Windows systems.
  • If you and your employees already use Macs and are not familiar with Windows, a Mac system may require less training time.
  • You must have Mac computers to run a Mac OS. It won't work on PCs.

Upgrades: How do You Know it's Time?

Operating systems frequently release updates that fix bugs, improve security or address other issues. It’s a good idea to install these updates as they become available, to keep your data secure and your system working at its best.

But there are also major upgrades, like Microsoft’s transition to Windows 10 or Apple’s OS 10.14, otherwise known as Mojave. These major upgrades can mean anything from a new set of features to a major overhaul. Upgrades take time to install, and you and your staff will have to learn to use the new system.

So should you upgrade? And if so, when? Here are some guidelines and tips:

  • When you can't install, upgrade or operate your software because your operating system is too old, it's probably time to upgrade
  • Upgrading may be a good idea if you are having difficulties with your current operating system and the new version seems less prone to those problems.
  • What do others say about the new system? Read reviews and articles and understand what you're getting into and whether the upgrade is worth it.
  • Are the upgrade's new features worth the time it will take to learn to use them?
  • Don't be an early adopter. Initial versions of operating systems may have problems that will be corrected in the coming weeks.
  • Cost. While Apple offers all OS upgrades free, Microsoft currently has a time limit on its free Windows upgrades. And it can cost more to upgrade from a system that's two or three generations old than to upgrade from the most recent version.
  • Make sure the applications you rely on will work with the new version. Sometimes it takes developers awhile to work out the kinks and make their products fully compatible.
  • Customer support. As operating system versions age, the manufacturer may discontinue customer support. When that happens, you may want to upgrade to a fully supported version.
  • Security. Make sure the new operating system has adequate security features.