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Windows and Linux both require training and experience to use welland this goes doubly so if youre migrating from one OS to the other and need to jettison existing work habits and acquire new ones. The TCO studies that Ive seen typically mention these things as part of the system support and administration costs, such as admin salaries, and so are not always obvious. To that end, I took the time to think about what these costs really mean, and how they often manifest in the real world.
Finally, some cite Linux as being slightly more expensive in this regard, not just for the cost of the in-house expertise needed to run it but for the possible cost of external support and consultancyneeded either to get things running or keep things running, depending on the scenario.
With both Windows and Linux administration, though, what matters is having people who can respond creatively and intelligently to problemswho, if theyre uncertain about something, will take the time to educate themselves about it and come up with long-term solutions. Such people are never cheap and shouldnt be treated cheaply, because they can stay with you for the long haul.
Another factor is the cost of retraining existing users to work on the new OS, which is often not so much overlooked as misinterpreted. One area I see this extending most into is what applications are being used. If youre moving from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice and most of your workers are not doing anything particularly adventurous with the program, the total amount of retraining needed probably wont be too big. Retraining users for workaday processes usually doesnt cost very much. Outside of that, though, if there are specific, technical things that youre training users fori.e., writing macros or performing other work with the program beyond simple daily usethen youll need to factor in the cost of training and research for those things.
The cost of retraining can also vary widely within a single organization, simply because not everyone will need to be retrained in the same ways. To restate the above example: if youre in an environment where most of the people use a heavily macro-driven set of Word documents, the bulk of your userswho just use Word and dont code for itwould not need to be retrained if you switched to OpenOffice.org. However, the few folks you had on staff to create those macros would need to be retrained on the new suite.
In the end, though, the only truly accurate and useful TCO study for comparing Windows to Linux is the one you conduct yourself. You can look to other TCO studies to get an idea of how to model one for your own organization and needs, but youll need to know your own environment intimately to get a real grasp of the cost. Whenever possible, look to another company whose work habits and needs match your own and learn about what they didyou may be surprised at how the costs added up or leveled out for them.
Sometimes you need to spend a lot of money now to save money in the future, and what looks like a bargain at first doesnt turn into a bargain later.