Linux Operating System: Sound Investment; Sound Solution

By Irina Popescu

Computer software and equipment budgets are shrinking. More and more companies are turning to the license-free Linux operating system to run their business operations and applications. This is because Linux provides a low cost technology infrastructure that is reliable, secure, and flexible; it is extremely suitable for use in the call center environment.

Brief History: Linux is an open source operating system developed by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of other software developers worldwide. Version 1.0 of the Linux Kernel, the main part of the operating system, was released in 1994. Continued development has produced version 2.4, released in January 2001.

Lower Technology Costs: Linux-based systems are less costly primarily because of the Linux operating system software. The Linux software can be downloaded for free from the Internet or purchased on CD from vendors for about $30. It can be legally installed on as many machines as you want. In addition to providing the Linux operating system, distributors, such as Red Hat, Mandrake, and Debian, provide just about every imaginable application that rival and outperform commercially available counterparts. Call centers can reap the benefits of free applications like email, instant messaging, and fully featured office productivity suites at absolutely no cost.

Linux applications generally can run on less powerful machines, which saves businesses a significant amount of investment in hardware costs and upgrades. In fact, this operating system can give new life to old hardware, allowing it to serve as an information server (such as a file server, email server, or Web server) for office intranets.

Gnome and KDE provide an excellent windows-like graphical environment that runs extremely efficiently on top of Linux. This is ideal for call centers because their operator stations and office productivity suites can generally run smoothly on PCs with as little as 16 Meg of RAM. As operator workstations tend to require less polished displays and fewer animated icons, call centers can operate their desktop applications along with their messaging and order-taking applications from disk-less workstations running off a central Linux server.

Stability: It’s generally accepted that Linux is a stable operating system. Linux, as with many of the software packages that run on Linux, is open source and is constantly under peer review. This approach has been proven to have advantages over closed source software in that the software matures faster and has fewer bugs.

Call Center Applications: Linux’s strongest point is its network friendliness. Most of the basic computer services (file systems, printing, log-on, backup, etc.) can be done over the network, while the central system controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic. This allows for easy system administration without sacrificing any of the benefits of lower cost and better fault tolerance in micro computing and distributed computing.

Linux can easily implement a unified “supercomputer” by pulling several PCs into a cluster. This is very useful for computing-intensive tasks in operations that require significant amounts of innovative programming. It also supports most of the major networking protocols, such as TCP/IP (Internet), Novell Networks, Windows Networking, and AppleTalk. A smart database is an emphasis for call centers. Open source databases, such as Postgresql, satisfy call center needs for swift and easy access to information, without the need to regather previously compiled information.

Call centers need to be ready for customers’ increasing demands for Internet connectivity. Powerful Linux Internet appliances are available free of charge. Examples include Apache, a commonly used Web server, and Exim, an email server. The setup of these server tools with an additional Internet connection allows call centers to provide specialty services with lower initial costs.

Security: Connecting a company network to the Internet incurs risks from both internal and external sources. Managing an Internet connection requires a firewall application. A firewall filters harmful packages of data from the Internet, allowing and disallowing the access of available services. Linux inherently has the ability to be used as a firewall and it provides many excellent firewall packages. It also allows full control over network connections, so that additional security measures may be implemented.

Sound Investment; Sound Solution: A Linux-based infrastructure is effective because of it’s a high utility to cost ratio for a small to medium size call center environment. Foregoing the hefty licensing fees by using free software packaged with Linux can save call centers significant amounts of money. Linux packages suit the low graphical requirements and all the personal productivity needs in call centers. They can also help call centers expand into Internet related services.

Irina Popescu is the manager of product support services at Szeto Technologies, Inc. She is the product coordinator of “Call Linx”, a new teleservices release from Szeto Technologies, built to run on a Linux-based workstation. She can be reached at Szeto Technologies Inc. at 888-421-3737 or at irina@szeto.ca.

[From Connection MagazineJan/Feb 2002]

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