When the time comes to choose an OS, the choice can be overwhelming. The three main options are Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Windows 8 (release date October 26, 2012) and Mac OS X Lion. This entry will discuss the pros and cons of each of these options briefly.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (RHEL 6) is based on the Fedora freeware and open source model, but has been fine-tuned for the commercial market. As a result, it’s a great option for businesses who may be interested in complex computing – the entire source code is available on-line. While updates are available on a regular basis, new versions are released only once every two years. The open source origin of RHEL 6 allows users to obtain applications and programs for little or no additional cost. Features that are especially valuable for the workplace include the ability to move entire virtual machines within the system, and a global file storage system with formidable security. The Red Hat family of products is known for its tight security, making it an excellent option for businesses dealing with sensitive data. You will need excellent IT personnel, however – RHEL 6 is best for the computer literate.

Windows 8

The upcoming Windows 8 release is expected to make a positive impact on businesses running older Windows platforms, such as XP or Vista. Windows 8 includes anti-virus software, and is expected to offer a significant discount for customers upgrading from previous versions. This is a big move for Windows, whose older versions required additional anti-virus software and were criticized for their costliness. The Enterprise edition, slightly more expensive and geared specifically towards small businesses, will allow users to create a USB portable version of the OS called Windows to Go. The goal of this feature is to allow users to move from PC to PC with ease, making working out of the office more feasible. Drawbacks for the new version include a drastically different user interface than previous releases, and a design which seems friendlier to touch screens than the standard keyboard and mouse.

Mac OS X Lion

The most recent OS release from Apple has been praised for its appeal to the general public, but received sharp criticism in the small business community.  The previous Mac OS X release incorporated compatibility features which allowed small business users to continue running Microsoft Office programs, but this version has significantly stepped-down the cross-platform compatibility. That said, Mac OS X Lion is significantly cheaper than Windows 8, and has been praised for its security features. It’s a good option for businesses already running on Mac, but not necessarily for those using a Windows or Red Hat platform.