What do CNN, ABC, The New York Times and a lot of Fortune 500 companies all have in common?
Can you say “clueless Windows administrators”? I knew you could.
Zotob variants, todays Windows worm, are running roughshod over Windows 2000-based businesses.
The businesses being smacked by Zotob are a laundry list of some of the worlds biggest, best, and, when it comes to IT, dumbest companies.
First, theyre not the brightest bulbs because theyre still using Windows 2000.
In case youve been hiding under a rock, Windows 2000 support croaked on June 30.
Despite that, when I talked with some CIOs and CTOs in April, most of them were still using W2K.
Worse still, they had no plans to immediately switch over to XP or any other alternative.
It wasnt just the people I talked with. According to AssetMetrix, almost half of businesses were still using desktop W2K earlier this year.
Yes, Microsoft will issue critical security patches for W2K, but the company has also said that it will not be releasing any major security updates, a la XPs SP2, for W2K.
Second, Zotob can be stopped in its tracks by anyone who simply installed the latest W2K patches.
Heck, Microsoft even warned everyone that big trouble was on its way for W2K users.
Youd think that anyone with half a clue would have spent this weekend patching their W2K systems. Obviously, many didnt.
Still, there were some mitigating circumstances.
First, Microsoft, for reasons the company still hasnt disclosed, reissued its initial security fix for three critical Internet Explorer vulnerabilities that had been corrupted in some instances in its initial release.
And, lets not forget, that some third-party security applications were breaking because of the last major Windows 2000 update.
Dead in the Water
Neither event would make me feel all warm and fuzzy about installing the latest patches without a lot of testing.
Would I want to explain to my boss why an application that worked on Friday was dead in the water on Monday? No, I dont think I would.
So, when you look at the big picture, you can understand why W2K administrators were reluctant to push Microsofts latest patches to their users.
Still, that last warning, and the news that exploits were prowling around, would have had me patching my systems anyway.
But, lets take a long, hard look at an even bigger picture: using Windows period in a business.
Keeping up on the endless stream of critical Windows fixes, even with Windows patch management tools like my personal favorite, is hard work.
And thats before you even consider having to test your applications for interoperability over and over again as the new patches keep coming.
Many of the businesses still using W2K are doing so for the pragmatic reason that their older hardware could no more support XP than it could Mac OS Tiger.
Its neither easy nor cheap to switch to a new operating system.
So, if youre in a company thats just been Zotobed, what should you do?
Get ready to move to Microsoft Vista?
Please, who knows when it will actually show up, and Im still waiting for someone to explain to me whats in it thats really worthwhile.
Oh, and you do have a big, fat hardware budget dont you?
As it happens, Laura DiDio, Yankee Group research fellow, can help you find some of the answers. She just wrote in an interesting piece on Linux vs. Windows that I think many of you will find very helpful.
“If you do not know what is on your network, if you cannot at least estimate the hourly, monthly or yearly cost of downtime, if you do not know how long it takes to recover from a security outage, if you cannot answer questions about the extent of your companys license compliance, then you cannot truly evaluate whether Linux, Windows or Unix is right for your business,” DiDio wrote.
Now, DiDio, for those of you who dont know, is usually seen as being anti-Linux. I, as most of you probably know, am often seen as being pro-Linux.
What we both really are, I think, is were pro-what works.
So, read DiDios article, analyze what your real costs are now and what theyre going to be.
Id just like to point out, as you start that exercise that in all the years Ive been running both Windows and Linux, Ive seen about five times as many failures on Windows that I have on Linux.
I havent gotten a virus on either one, but then I spend a lot of time and money on making sure that my Windows machines are close to untouchable.
You do the math.
After you do that, heres a little guide I did on picking out the right Linux desktop for you or your business.
eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.