Total Cost of Ownership: Microsoft vs. Linux and the Winner Is...

July 6, 2005
July 6, 2005 - (HOSTSEARCH.COM) - The debate over total cost of ownership (TCO) between Windows vs. Linux rages on with Microsoft having published the results of a study performed by Wipro Technologies at the behest of Redmond to find out which system offers a lower cost on security.

While Linux advocates are quick to point out that the vast majority of malware is written with Microsoft in mind and that alone makes Linux more secure and therefore less costly, the study does provide some interesting points.

Microsoft as a corporation provides a single professional point of reference for support. As Independence Air’s Stephen Shaffer, the airline’s director of software systems states, “With Linux, we had to rely on consultants to tell us if our system was secure. With Windows, we can depend on Microsoft to inform us of and provide any necessary updates.”

Also, as per the Wipro study, “because the Windows installed base is many times larger than the open source software installation, Windows can appear more expensive to update, even though this view overlooks benefits widely associated with economies of scale.”

While the study claims that, at least for one company, the total cost of running Linux is 20 percent higher than the total cost of Windows, the truth is there is going to be a different total cost depending on each individual company’s needs and situation.

From my experience in the IT industry as a release and configuration manager I remember getting patches from Microsoft and having some of them cause severe problems for us. We kept a list of which updates and patches were good for us and which ones were going to blow up the servers. It was always a big deal to install a new patch and then go back and test everything to make sure it all continued to work.

Of course, a patch for a Linux based system would have required the same kind of testing and may just as well have caused something else to fail. The difference is that Windows automatically sent us the patches and helped us figure out the problems (sometimes the solution being to not install the patch and thus continue being exposed to a particular security risk), while with Linux it is by nature going to have to be a more pro-active and organic situation for the IT staff. The Linux advantage is being able to inspect the patch and modify it as needed vs. having to hold more responsibility for the system as a whole.

In a nutshell, this seems to define the difference between the two systems and thus apply to determining the total cost for running either one. Are you willing to take responsibility for your system from A to Z or pay a consultant to help you, or do you want to spend time on and focus on other things in your company and leave the technical wrangling to the experts at Microsoft?

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