Yep, we're talking about viruses. And we're going to show you how, with open source software, you can effectively eradicate the problem for your business once and for all.

Think back. Have you ever had to reformat and reinstall Windows across your networked PCs because of the latest virus epidemic? Have you had your email service taken out or your website made made unavailable for days? Have you had inboxes filled with floods of messages like, “I sent you this file in order to get your advice”? Or “Really cool screensaver”?

Have you had management screaming at you to get the business back up and, at the same time, had users phoning every few minutes complaining about yet another IT failure? Have you ever had those embarrassing interrogations as to why we got hit by viruses again? And how much time, money and energy did you have to waste trying to fix it all?

Now, just imagine a world where this never happens.

A rapidly increasing number of businesses already live in that world.

You can too. And guess what? It's simple, very quick and easy to do, and it saves the business a fortune - not only from the cost of virus damage, but also in time, software licenses and CALs (Client Access License's).

The scale of the problem

There have been many published estimates on the business cost of viruses.

Regardless of which you believe, even the smallest estimate comes out at over £6 billion each year. So the damage to business is considerable and each epidemic is worse than the last. Every few weeks or so (like a London bus), along comes another one - Melissa, Sobig.F, Sven, Nimda, FunLove, Code Red, Bugbear, Klez...the list goes on and on and on.

The board, users, management, the IT team, everybody - we all hate viruses. But we've come to accept them, and expect them. After all, they're a part of computing life, aren't they? Well, actually...NO!

There is a set of widely held beliefs about the virus problem that, over time, seems to have become mainstream virus orthodoxy. They have been repeated over and over, mantra-like, by the vendors, the press and TV, the 'antivirus industry' and 'technical experts' until they've been adopted by users, management, and perhaps even by you. They are cherished like religious beliefs.

They are, however, untrue. You might have been told that viruses are a computer problem. They're not. They're a Microsoft Outlook problem.

You might have been told that viruses will be as common on Linux when it has Microsoft's market share. They will not. Its architecture makes epidemics effectively impossible.

You might have been told that expensive anti-virus software is the solution. It isn't. You've bought it but you still get them.

You might have been told that viruses are inevitable - part of the computing experience. They're not. They are a consequence of flawed software design.

You've been living in a dream world, Neo!

Take the red pill?

The critical step is to realise that Microsoft software is almost entirely to blame. It is the problem, always has been the problem and, through the fundamental flaws in the underlying design and implementation of the software itself, will always be the problem. So the solution is simple and blindingly obvious. Replace it!

And this is precisely where Open Source software comes in.

Open Source software doesn't have these problems. It never has and never will. It's simply better. So you can eliminate your virus problems and, while you're doing that, gain loads of the other crucial business benefits and savings that open source delivers. Let's get started.

As usual the Pareto effect applies - the 80/20 rule. Certain areas give you the biggest returns for least effort. They should be tackled first, simply and very, very quickly. This way IT gets a clear, high profile, instant win. Now there's a first!

Let me give you some examples. Viruses wreak havoc with and spread like wildfire around Windows File and Print servers. So don't use them.

Replace them with Samba. Samba does everything that Windows servers do, and then some, but does it far, far better. Samba 3 is now out and has been benchmarked at two and a half times faster than W2K.

It's over four times as scalable. So not only is it impervious to viruses but it's quicker, more reliable, and more scalable. It also saves your business an absolute fortune in license fees and CALs.

Most viruses exploit Outlook right there on the user's desktop. So stop using it. Use Mozilla messenger instead. It's fully featured, faster and just better. For all your multi-platform businesses out there, it's available on all of them. You can tailor how it looks (your MD will lovethat) and, of course, it has shared calendaring as standard. Viruses can't pull the “Outlook Address Book Trick”. And, guess what? It doesn't lose emails!

Most viruses enter your network via email and pass through your mail server. Exchange server is desperately vulnerable. You should replace it with the far better Open Source alternative.

If you really want to save on license fees and CALs big, big time, this is The One! And, of course, while you're at it, replace ISA (see last month's Open For Business for full details) - you'll gain even more!

Viruses just love IIS. So, whatever you do, don't use it. Deploy Apache instead. You'll gain unprecedented up-times (years, not weeks) plus see an instant performance increase. It's great to see a server just sitting there, quietly in the corner, simply doing its job, and not needing continual nursing, patching, and maintenance.

Do all this and next time the latest Windows virus epidemic comes around, you'll be sitting, like us here at Sirius, wondering what all the fuss is about. Your users will thank you, your staff will thank you, and your board will thank you. Okay. Maybe not. But we all like to dream, don't we?

So there you have it. You've eradicated a massive and costly IT and business problem. No more viruses. Plus you've delivered a far faster, far more reliable service from IT, and cash savings that any Finance Director in any business would die for. It was quick and it was easy - and all simply because it's better software.

See you soon.