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Some readers of this blog will already be Linux aficionados, but for many people Linux is still technology they only have passing familiarity with.  This week The Register asks whether 2009 will be a good year for Linux.

My initial reaction was that expressed in many of the article’s comments: a yawning lack of interest at yet another year being tipped as Linux’s coming of age, something which somebody in the tech media seems to have predicted every January for the past decade — with as boring regularity as the mainstream press run December articles on how online Christmas shopping is really taking off.

But for once there is actually an interesting point behind the question.  Linux is well known for being free software — sometimes labelled software libre, to emphasize that “free” is about freedom rather than being free of charge.  However, regardless of your political views on the open source movement, such software generally is free in the price sense as well, and that’s what becomes more relevant in the credit crunch.

If business is booming and your staff are stretched then it probably doesn’t seem an opportune moment for getting to grips with a new technology; it’s worth paying for familiar software to save time for spending on other things.  But in leaner times every small saving is worth considering, and perhaps you have a little more time to investigate whether Linux (or OpenOffice, or Thunderbird or Scribus, or Apache, PHP, Perl, Ruby, MySQL, Postgres, etc) would be worth switching to.

Here at 123-reg our web hosting is already Linux based.  Not that as a user you need to be a Linux-head (you upload files and use our control panel, never going near anything as scary as a command line), but it does help us to offer such competitive pricing.

We offer dedicated servers through our sister business WebFusion with the choice of Windows or Ubuntu Linux.  Unsurprisingly we’re able to offer the Linux servers at lower prices for the same hardware, so there are definite cost savings which can be made in switching to Linux.

What do you think?  Have you made any savings by careful use of free software?  Is the credit crunch making you more seriously consider Linux?  Leave us a comment below.

PS:  I nearly titled this article “Will the credit crunch help Linux?”.  Then I remembered the way to deal with Daily Express-esque yes/no headlines (“Does Diana’s butler hold key to cancer cure?”, that sort of thing) is simply to answer them with a brusque “no” and move on.

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