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Operating system software

Operating system software

The operating system software is the first thing to load when you turn your computer on. It runs constantly, organising and controlling your computer so other programs operate smoothly.

Operating system software is required before you can do anything with a computer. As it’s such an important piece of business software, it’s wise to evaluate the options to get the best operating system for your company.

Choosing the best operating system for you

The operating system software market is dominated by Microsoft. The vast majority of companies use some form of Microsoft Windows as the main operating system on their computers. Windows 8 is the latest version – it was launched in October 2012, and was the first version of Windows designed to work across desktop, laptop and tablet computers.

Having said that, it may be worth evaluating other types of operating system software. A number of key factors will influence your choice:

  • Your existing systems. Standardising on a single operating system will make it easier to network computers in your business and can reduce your support costs.
  • Familiarity. If you adopt an operating system your staff aren’t familiar with, you may need to invest more in training and support.
  • Complexity. Some operating systems require more technical knowledge to set up and maintain than others.
  • Software compatibility. You can only run programs designed to work with the operating system software you choose.
  • Hardware compatibility. Not all computer equipment will work with less-common operating systems - always check before buying!

Operating system software types

There are three main types of operating system software:

  • Microsoft Windows. The default choice for most businesses, Windows comes preinstalled on many new computers. You can run a huge amount of software on it. If you already have an old version of Windows, you can upgrade to the latest version (Windows 8). To buy Windows 8 outright costs from around £99.
  • Linux. There are many types of this free open source operating system software. It remains a fringe choice for businesses and is most often used by IT experts. However, Linux has gained some popularity, as it is now more user-friendly than ever and now supports most common hardware. As it’s free, it’s an interesting one to trial in your company, even if you stick with Windows for most tasks.
  • Mac OS. If your business uses Apple Mac computers, you’ll probably be using Apple’s operating system software. It’s widely praised for its ease-of-use and stability.

It’s usually possible to use different operating systems on the same computer network. In particular, most problems associated with combining Mac OS with Windows have been eliminated. However, your IT support and maintenance costs may increase if you take this approach.

Operating system software maintenance

To keep your operating system software running smoothly, check for updates regularly. It’s particularly important to install security-related updates to protect against hackers and viruses.

New versions of operating systems - with major changes - are released once every three years or so. Although there may be attractive deals encouraging you to upgrade, it’s usually wise to wait until the new version has been proven to be reliable.

For instance, many companies still use Windows XP. Although released over ten years ago, it was considered reliable and is therefore still used by some companies. However, Windows XP is no longer available to buy and Microsoft have stopped providing security updates and support for it. Additionally, some recent Windows software will not run on Windows XP. As a result, it’s a good idea for businesses to move to the latest version, Windows 8.

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