I dont want to pay Microsoft an extra £8,000 for a server – but what is UNIX?

Every one assumes that everything computing is either Apple or Microsoft and if it’s a server then it’s got to be Microsoft, well sorry to disappoint you but the big computer systems run on a product called UNIX, of which variants can also be used on other systems too, such as a server, a television, the Android phone in your pocket and all Apple products.

Just some of the 300 flavours of UNIX

Just some of the 300 flavours of UNIX

This blog is to explain why UNIX might be a better solution for you than having a Microsoft server, because it’s cheaper, its more reliable and much more efficient at networking.

Why isn’t everyone selling it? Well that’s simple it takes a special technical IT person to install and configure it, an IT technician who actually understands computing as opposed to someone who has been on a one day course or read “Networking for dummies”.

If you want to want to know it’s history and why it’s sometimes the best choice for smaller companies then read on, otherwise just re-read the second paragraph.

What is UNIX?

UNIX is an operating system like Windows and Windows server. It easily predates Microsoft by decades and comes with a totally different history. Microsoft was designed as a single computer operating system and then added networking later, whereas UNIX was designed from the beginning as a multi-user, shared, networked operating environment.

There are many variants of UNIX such as AIX, Solaris, Xenix, Posix, Linux, Os X, Chrome and Android but they all started from the same source and we use the UNIX as a generic explanation.

In the early ’60’s AT&T and Bell labs developed the original UNIX. AT&T tried to commercialise it by licensing UNIX to third-party vendors, leading to a variety of both academic and commercial variants. Eventually the product became an open source product and the Open Group decides who can call their system UNIX. There are many UNIX-like systems but the group disapproves of the term being used by them.

There are many versions now available but we have chosen to use the BSD distribution which originated in the University of California, Berkeley and which is now the most widely used derivation.


As mentioned earlier UNIX was developed as a multi-user networking product. Because the typical computer in the 1960’s was less powerful than a modern digital watch it had to be small to run. Now computers are more powerful it is ultra efficient in what it does. Windows was designed to run on bigger systems and networking was added making it large and cumbersome in comparison. UNIX does it in a small space but Windows needs massive computing power and RAM to do the same task.

Why UNIX for Small Business?

UNIX needs less to do more. So if you need raw networking power such as running a Sage system then UNIX will give it to you on a smaller machine. No matter how large and powerful your system is Windows will always work slower in supplying data down a network. It means that a simple data server can cost £££’s less than a Windows server.

Why supply Windows Server then?

Microsoft has several server packages apart from just a file server such as SQL, Exchange and other more specialised packages. This makes it an easy recommendation, sell, buy and install but it might be the easiest but not necessarily the right choice. There are other programs that the vendor says will only work with Microsoft because they don’t want to try it on other platforms, after all they are selling software and not buying hardware. So sometimes Microsoft is the only choice. The difference is we sell both Microsoft and UNIX , we know the difference and we know which is the right solution for you, After all we will be the ones looking after it and how many sales people can say that?

What is the difference to me then?

 UNIX servers don’t get viruses or hang like Windows.

UNIX servers usually cost 50-70% less than Microsoft servers for the same performance.

Larger files are delivered 300% faster on a network with UNIX as opposed to Microsoft Server 2012

Microsoft Server can be installed badly by anyone

 Who uses UNIX ? –

Apple, Amazon, IBM, Google, Android, Panasonic and virtually all of the Internet and big businesses who use IBM, Sun, HPUX, the list is endless really.

Anything it doesn’t do?

Apart from the washing up, its not very good at GUI’s, that’s graphiocal interfaces such as the desktop screen you see when you use icons, there are versions of it but it uses a large amount of processing power, Aple have the best implementation but you can get at the nuts and bolts behind Apple to run your own programs.

If its so good why isn’t everybody selling it instead of Microsoft Server?

Lets say you want to find a file, in Windows you enter it into the search bar, in MSDOS the command you enter is C:> DIR myfile* /s. This will search everywhere in C: and display all files that start myfile. In UNIX you would type in ROOT:> find / -name ‘myfile*’

So its too technical for most computer companies to install and setup. Once its done though, it just works, like an Apple product or Panasonic TV. The hard / clever bit is installing it and setting it up. It takes years of experience, training and knowledge, we have loads of that but most companies want a quick easy install using cheap labour. We want a reliable, value for money install instead.

I was talking to a computer company who is bigger than us, we have 7 staff and they have 17. They target companies with 100 + users whereas we target SME 1 to 60 users. Different market and Microsoft is an easier sell and install for them. They will never invest in UNIX expertise. I suspect if their target market was 1000+ users then they would.

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