Ever since Microsoft started publicly outing Linux with their “Get the Facts” campaign, I have seen numerous articles and studies about the TCO (total cost of ownership) of both products in a head to head manner. However, I have yet to see one article discuss the TCO for home users and small businesses. I have thought long and crunched many numbers to devise a conclusion to this years old debate and I think the results are obvious… Windows is way more expensive than Linux.First off, let’s pass off my background. I am not a corporate lackey, I’m not a programmer, I’m not a statistician and I’m certainly not a militant Linux user out to prove the inferior quality of all other OS’s. I manage a small tech service company as lead technician. This means that everyday I’m working on dozens of different machines, with different problems, from different people. In homes, offices, and home-offices, I can tell you one thing for sure, Microsoft rules the desktop market. The catch is that I can’t figure out why. So for the purposes of this article, assume you have my job and you’re giving a quote to a customer who wants to get into a new system. Here we go.
For the 5 years that I have been doing this job, each year gets worse for end users. Viruses, upgrades, Microsoft’s expensive office suites, spyware…etc. Yet I never hear anyone get so fed up with the problems that they just up and switch to something else. So here I am with my simple outlook on the whole situation. I would never suggest people actually go out and buy all of this stuff as there are better alternatives, but let’s do this the way Microsoft thinks it should be.
Let’s start with the basic costs of a Windows XP Home machine for an average user. We’ll say about $500 with the OS (you picture whatever sort of system you want here). But wait! You can’t go online with out Anti-Virus protection! Drop another $45 into Norton 2004 (complain if you will but it’s better than McAfee in my experience). Want to type nice looking reports and make super fancy presentations for work?? That’s another $400 for Microsoft Office XP Standard. That’s STANDARD not Pro. If you want Pro, plop another $150 in there. And last, but never least, if you want to stay safe from getting your Gibson hacked, you’ll need a firewall. That’s another $30 for Norton Firewall (again, complain all you want, it’s all home users understand). Total cost for a halfway decent Microsoft machine = $975-$1125
This of course does not include service charges for the other multitude of problems plaguing the Windows OS as of late. Spyware has grown to be worse than viruses. Most people reading this will scoff and say “Only an Idi..” and I’ll stay stop right there. No matter what you think you know of the average user, you don’t know it all until you see their systems every other day, filled and overrun with whatever the latest browser hijack or insertion tool hit the net last night. Normal users aren’t as savvy as the rest of us, which is why studies say that over %70 of home users who have Windows machines online regularly, are infected with some type of spyware. This is like saying that over %70 of said Windows machines are infected with viruses. So for the average user here we’ll say about $60 a pop for getting a system cleaned and updated at a service shop that knows what they are doing. God only knows how many times a year people will have to pay for this so use your imagination.
If I’m getting long-winded here just hold on. Take everything you’ve read above, and slap it into a small business with say 15 workstations running Windows XP. But this is a business that just bought a shiny new Windows 2003 Small Business Server! We’ll say $2500 for a small server. Oh yeah! Pull out your checkbooks and pay another $150 per machine for Windows XP Pro (if you didn’t know, XP Home is crippled to not be allowed to join a Windows domain). What? You need additional licenses to use the Exchange 2003 Server built into the Windows 2003 SBS Server you just paid for? Another $33 per machine (these are starting to sound like board game penalties). Basic TCO per machine for this small business = $1308
This is a company without a tech staff, so they rely on regular service to fix network issues, clean viruses, patch systems…etc. So again, use your imagination with this. $60 per hour, per machine, to clean out a virus. The costs just go on and on. Now let’s look at the alternative, in this case a Linux environment.
Since most of you know the ins and outs of the Linux world, I don’t have to tell you that almost every Linux distribution comes with everything the user may need: OpenOffice, Antivirus, client apps…you name it, so there aren’t many additional costs per workstation. Let’s say we’re going to use Suse 9.1 pro as the desktop. Drop that same $500 from above into a system. For businesses we’ll use Suse OpenExchange Server 4.1 for the server. So pay that same $2500 into a small server. In this instance we’re pretty much done. For now, there aren’t any spyware threats, or massive outbreaks in Linux capable viruses. So who needs all that other stuff?
This is all just my personal opinion on such discussions about TCO. I just wanted to see an article talking about the majority of users around the world, and not a study on massive corporate costs. Granted, there will always be problems with any piece of software and nothing is perfect. But living in the present, wouldn’t you rather vacation away from the operating system that causes the most harm to your productivity and entertainment?
About the author:
I live in Illinois and run a tech service shop which keeps users from the problems listed above.
What about archiving programs? Everyone seems to like some format, so register winace, winzip, winrar, whatever. Register getright for downloads, and all the other little utilities for things you might want to do. It adds up.
I use IZarc archiving tool, opens all of those extensions plus many more and it’s free. Do a Google search for “izarc” you’ll find it. If you look you can find a free version of just about anything you can in Linux. I’m a developer (currently .Net and Java), my entire setup for all that development on my Win2k box is all free software. I make $65 a hour as a developer so I could afford to buy VS.NET or JBuilder for my development but I use Borland C# Builder and JDeveloper 10g instead, because I get my work done with them. I use VS.NET 2003 at work and admit it blows away C# Builder or SharpDevelop, but for my side jobs C# Builder suffices.
a) haven’t adressed the TCO issue at all but ranted on about that linux do have HW support
I was responding to some poster who was going on about hardware troubles. Was it slightly OT? Sure. Sue me.
(That’s not an argument, that’s necessary to even consider it)
Uh, yeah, whatever.
b) Spread FUD about Linux drivers which obviously is NO WAY near the Windows quality on the drivers.
I don’t think you know what FUD means. Spreading FUD about Linux drivers is what you’re doing, by falsely claiming that Linux drivers are no way near the quality of Windows drivers (except, perhaps, for ATI drivers). FUD is “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt”. You can’t have “positive” FUD. There are more appropriate words to describe what you’re thinking of (which I wasn’t doing, anyway); FUD just doesn’t apply.
In defense of Windows, or in fear of Linux, people keep saying, try teaching some older person to use Linux. Well, no matter who it is, you have to teach them how to do it. Kids are by far the easiest, and middle aged adults by far the hardest, they assume too much, and don’t make obvious connections. Elderly start getting to be more like kids in they will make those connections. Install Fedora, and Install Win XP, sit a newbie at both, and ask them to get on the Internet. Both have an icon right there for it. Ask them to open email. From both machines, they are going to ask you where to click. How is Grandma going to know the big blue E is for the internet anymore than she is going to know the globe icon is the internet browser? In either case, she won’t you say click here. Grandma doesn’t need to know how to tune Linux, once it is up, it will work. She isn’t going to know how to remove spyware, and you will be doing that for her.
I am a network admin at a global company, I am certified on numerous Windows versions. I support Netware servers, Windows servers, and Windows desktops as well.
What is the cost of having to rework a document that you need looking pretty because it is part of a proposal and your recipient can’t understand its format? (One of my techies edited a Word document in Open Office, when he sent it, it was unuseable. 4 hours (At $100 an hour) later it was unuseable. And he writes OSs for a living! Multiply that out.)
What is the cost of having to work out document exchange formats rather than just being able to assume that “de-facto business standards” will allow you to work together?
What is the cost of lost image when you send someone a document that they can’t read or print?
What is the cost of not being able to find a product that does what you need and will install on your version of your chosen OS?
What is the cost of not being able to get casual help from multiple sources (friends, church members, school mates)?
What is the cost in lost productivity of having to learn quirky interfaces that differ from package to package?
It isn’t the OS it is the apps. And the cost of buying them pales in comparison to the cost in lost productivity of having trouble using them.
People cost more than IT and you should optimize around their productivity.
Don’t focus on initial hardware or even software cost. It isn’t really that important in most businesses.
(Said as one who has 4 Linux servers 8 feet from him)
Running Windows with its many backdoors that enable Microsoft to steal data off of your computer can be very damaging. I’ve heard many people have lost important intellectual property because they use Windows.
Did you wear your THICK tinfoil hat when you posted this one ?
Before I, personally, say anything about the “other platform” v. GNU/Linux: TCO for home and small business users” let me say there is an excellent book out there called “The Business and Economic of Linux and Open Source” by Martin Fink (2003), Prentice Hall PTR. It covers the “business” aspect of GNU/Linux and is written to and speaks in the lingua franca of business managers.
The arguments I see presented sometimes looks like an episode of the “Three Stooges”. One individual trying to outsmart and out wit the other. “Mine is better than yours – NYUK NYUK!”
Seriously, there are so many equipment variables out there in the wild that each persons perception of operating system reality is painted by their own biases and preferences. Honestly, I would love to see “hard core” reviews of other platform v. GNU/Linux.
Seriously, the GNU/Linux and open source movement are “big” business. I make money with it. I don’t have it taken away to a huge corporate marketing entity I do not agree with. Freedom to make money with GNU/Linux. What a concept for small businesses and home computers as well.
You cannot say that average (eg 75% of) users are going to use free software. PC World will say you need to pay for everything, and if they get it from anywhere else, they will be warned about all the spyware, adware, crapware etc. and look for something themselves.
They do a search in Google (anti virus), and the first thing that comes up is “McAfee Security”. The next two are the non-free (V7) versions of “AVG” and then some other sites.
Another point about free software is that average people will say “If it’s free it can’t be any good..”, and this is one of the problems in getting Linux onto the desktop. People trust Microsoft because it is reassuringly expensive (Like Stella
BTW, great article too…
“What is the cost in lost productivity of having to learn quirky interfaces that differ from package to package? ”
And only in OS X and maybe Gnome applications will you find similar interfaces in all apps. In fact, thanks to Microsoft’s very “powerful and open” API you will find that no two apps will have a similar interface.
The honorable posters squabble about the nickle&dime costs of a PC. Other costs are involved. How much does it cost you to squirm in Bill’s Grid for the rest of computer years? When, how, are you gonna get out?
So be it and stay ignorant, or for example drive the path i’ve shown you. It is a freakin’ fact in regard to Windows 98! Pretty wide known among the geek communities afaik…
Of course in the Cryptography community its known to be a joke but hey those guys don’t really understand security do they ???
what are you on about ?
I have been using linux since 1993 and have never once been rooted.
I also have never heard of anyone who has been rooted.
you also mention time… time to install, time to train etc etc
can you try this experiment. Get someone you know who has had previous windows experience and someone else who has had no pc experience and put them both in front of a linux machine with either kde or gnome, and see how long it takes them to pick things up. you will be very surprised with the results.
oh btw hahahahahahaahahahaha I had to laugh at the fud you tried with that rooted statement
Let’s take a look at the basics.
Windows Full install CD 199.00
Windows Upgrade CD 99.00
If I am using a decent running system and want to upgrade
Linux is cheaper when it comes down to OS price. One can argue many other facets but the bottom line is when the latest and greatest upgrade comes out for linux it is free and it is not free for windows.
>> “What is the cost of having to rework a document that you need looking pretty because it is part of a proposal and your recipient can’t understand its format?”
Working in education, I see this all the time. Some student has written a document in “other platform” Works v.X.x. and almost commit suicide because they can’t get Word to translate their nicely formatted documents to convert. It could be an older computer or bundled software – who knows. The stress times are especially notable during mid-terms or finals times.
There are professors who scream at IT for errors that are produced when they carry a “PP” presentation from their staff computer, where they usually add stuff to their client, then try to use it on an educational “class or lab” machine and that special font or graphic is not there. What about the Chemistry professor, now retired, that lost over 20 years of contacts (*.pab) when he upgraded his Outlook without IT assistance.
What are the TCO for a business that deals with K-12 or higher education?
>> “(One of my techies edited a Word document in Open Office, when he sent it, it was unuseable. 4 hours (At $100 an hour) later it was unuseable. And he writes OSs for a living! Multiply that out.)”
I work on a closed “other platform” campus. This “corruption” happens on occasion even between one copy of Word to another on another client with the exact same build. There are options like: make a duplicate backup of the original, make copies of the document in other formats, say pdf or post script, and compress it. The list of variables goes on.
>> “What is the cost of not being able to get casual help from multiple sources (friends, church members, school mates)?”
Ouch. Do you live in a city with a college or university? Generally, at least this was true when I attended mine and worked in IT as a workstudy, most IT departments have or keep a list of “higher quality” workers that make extra cash, twenty to thirty dollars per call, to local students or businesses with their documents, programs, or computer issues. Most small towns have one or two geeks that do the same for about the same price.
>> People cost more than IT and you should optimize around their productivity. … Don’t focus on initial hardware or even software cost. It isn’t really that important in most businesses.”
This depends on how well an institution or business can “sharpen” its proverbial pencil. There are quality people out there in the market who know how to use multiple vendor hardware and software. Hiring cycles can get brutal. The “bottom line” truely is important in most businesses and a key to its success is reducing the complete TCO. Small businesses and educational institutions, especially private and struggling public ones, need options to reduce waste and bleed in resources. When a major portion of you TCO is to pay “licensing” fees your TCO, per machine or server, or what ever agreement you agreed to, there are various licensing schemes the “other platform” marketing giant uses to get you money, you are not “making” money or enhancing learning.
“Linux distribution comes with everything the user may need: OpenOffice, Antivirus, client apps…”
I’m not sure what “Antivirus” he is referring to here. No Linux distributions come bundled with Antivirus software since there are no viruses that infect Linux.
The only “Antivirus” you need under Linux is if you are sharing a partition via Samba to Windows boxen. And again, the Linux server itself is by definition immune to any viruses that might have infected the Samba share from the Windows machines.
Hey Guys get series. You complain about the windows. It was time that we have the best OS you can dream about OS/2 (sure IBM staff this OS, pity). I work whir OS/2 and was happy to have this system.
If I look backward, it seems that the IT is bunch of uneducated people.
Ok, I am happy that the Linux is doing fine. I support this i.e. using at home and pushing to have this OS at work.
The campaign what is the real cost of Linux by MS is obvious they loosing ground slowly but surly. So, do nOt get stupid about the perfect marketing plan from MS and get real. BUY and IMPLEMENT LINUX – THE ONLY WAY OF GET GOOD AND INEXPENSIVE OPERATING SYSTEM.
Go away. I do not like you. I was literally replying to one who said “everything works in XP”. Which is not true. How that relates to TCO differs per situation. Doh. Now go away, and ignore me, stupid troll.
that Linux will not always install smoothly on a lot of machines. I have tried Mandrake, Fedora Core 2, SUSE, Lycoris, and the new Xandros OCE on my 2 year old AXP2000 rig, and the only one which installed without some major annoyance (X not working, soundcard not working, strange noise, etc. etc.) is Mandrake, and even Mandrake has some weird mouse problems at first. And I’d imagine by this stage the average user will give up and just switch back to Windows.
Debio, I suggest you check your package selection. Every distro I’ve ever owned has antivirus software included, and sometimes more than one program. Usually it’s Antivir. Aside from that, there are multiple eiditions from many companies regarding server antivirus software. Panda, Norton, Vexira, OpenAntivirus…etc. And there ARE viruses that can infect Linux, just not many, and they usually don’t get far into the wild before someone fixes the problem.
Well I used to rebuild my Dads Windows PC every three months after it was overrun with various problems, wether is was user inflicted, or the tons of plugings, other apps that were installed and he has know idea how it happened. etc. Not to mention the various virus’s he had picked up and was slowing the machine to a crawl. My Dad is 65 years old, I switched him to Libranet (a debain based distro)a year ago. Since then I have not had to do any (OS) repairs, rebuilds etc. He just use’s it and I apt-get the security updates for him every so often.
For my Dad, as soon as I had pointed out what apps did the jobs he requested, i.e. web mail and open his Ms Excel files, he was happy. OpenOffice and the Gnome is his preferred environment. My Father has said to me that since I switched his computer to Linux, it has been faster than his Windows ever was. He is running on a Durion 750 with 256MB Ram etc… He is happy and so am I.
Oh, and I did the same for my Aunt (who loves KDE), a Friend, and my older Brother, with the same results.. Linux is the way to go in my opinion, with a lot less long term headaches and suffering. So I belive the linux installed based is actually getting larger than you see printed via the market share studies you see posted so often. Yes in my humble opinion linux is way more cost effective, as less problems = less money spent on support and more time actually working.
“It isn’t the OS it is the apps. And the cost of buying them pales in comparison to the cost in lost productivity of having trouble using them.”
Indeed. And attempting to explain why you can’t just drop everything Windows related, and convert to FOSS in ten minutes is impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t already understand it.
Some of the previous comments discuss defacto business standards, unfortunately years ago these standards were established by proprietary products.
It’s going to be a very long time before these existing standards could/can be changed, and a lot longer if there is so little interest in doing so.
Take for example the U.S. is about the only place on earth to never adopt the metric system as a standard. Sure it could have been done, it would have solved a lot of problems, and the cost wouldn’t have been a large thing fifty years ago. It all comes back to little interest in doing so.
I don’t see many of the U.S. defacto business standard formats as a whole lot different. There is simply very little interest or motivation to explore other formats.
Many here will remember the havoc of dealing with Lotus 1-2-3, Wordperfect, Wordstar, and the dozen other formats before most settled on Word as the defacto. It wasn’t pleasant, productive, or inexpensive, transfering all of those documents from one format to another.
While I agree that if you want to go with MS Windows the cost in unavoidable, it is possible to nicely equip a home system with the rest of the needed software for free. OpenOffice for an office suite, and a number of free (for personal use) firewall and antivirus programs exist. And if Outlook is not your choice of mail programs there are free windows based mail clients as well.
When it comes down to the bottom line, forgetting all these TCO reports I see this.
For starting a NEW business: Hire Linux geeks instead of Windows geeks. Therefore your cost of training is null and void. So what is left for costs? Hardware, which you need anyway! Then, software… Windows = BIG$$$, Linux = FREE. As well, any applications you deem necessary will cost you with Windows 90% of the time, as opposed to maybe 3% of the time with Linux (I guess there are some people convinced they can sell software to Linux folk?)
That’s the basic principle. You can crunch numbers all you want, but in the end that is all there is to compute. If your business is deeply emerged into the MS world, then probably it’s going to be cheaper to stay that way, or re-staff.
Here’s the funny thing… Everyone says that old people can’t use linux… No grandma’s or pa’s!!! Well here’s the funny thing about that.. It simply ain’t true… Senior Citizens are very money conscience! You show them a FREE os and they WILL learn how to use it.. Two people in my Linux Users Group as of now are over 65 and the one guy that I help down the street from me is damn near in his 80’s and he LOVES it! The thing I’ve learned is put linux where the money isn’t and you’ll have a very happy person.. Although the one thing I have learned from helping senior citizens use linux is that a distro with really good package management is a must.. Usually SuSE or Mandrake fit the bill nicely..
“Here’s the funny thing… Everyone says that old people can’t use linux…”
Bullshit. Both what you wrote and the claim that age have anything to do what people are interrested in. Of course many people have had the same interrests for a large part of their lives and that would exclude UNIX/Linux for older people…