Linux vs Microsoft costs

Old 6 Comments on Linux vs Microsoft costs 50

Those of you who have been following my posts have probably guessed that my preference leans towards Microsoft products. I find that their sever and infrastructure solutions are generally pretty good and reliable, and work well in the business environment. So what do I think about Linux ?

Well, the main driver for Linux as a solution for small businesses and organizations was the price point. It’s free, where-as the Microsoft options cost a lot. In defining ‘a lot’, we’re usually talking in the thousands of dollars. Remember, there’s server-side licensing, then end-user licensing too. Add more if you wanted e-mail services like Exchange.

This was true, to a large extent, in the late 90s and early 2000s. But today is the year 2014. Windows 2000 Server Advanced was upwards of $3999.00 for the operating system and 25 CALs (Client Access Licenses) back when it was current. Things have changed. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, which is a full-fledged Windows Server operating system with 25 user CALs included, can now be bought for around $399.00, quite the price difference when compared to the old Windows 2000 Server Advanced. The cost for Windows 8 Professional is down around $149.00, compared to Windows XP Professional which retailed upwards of $699.00.

When you compare the two offerings, there is a significant downside to using Linux so close to the end user. It’s difficult to administer. It doesn’t offer ALL the same features as the Windows-based servers do (think Group Policy Objects, pushing out software through Active Directory, etc.). Printers don’t always cooperate over Linux shares with Windows-based desktops. These trade-offs were once worth it, because of the extreme price difference. But now, we’re talking about much smaller scales. For example, do you pay $450.00 for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and 3 hours of an IT professional’s time to install and configure it, or do you pay $0 for Linux Ubuntu Server edition and 10 hours of an IT professional’s time to install and configure it ?

Do I think Linux doesn’t belong in the IT world ? Not at all. It makes total sense for larger scale applications, and as a back-end component of larger networks (like ISPs, or hosting providers, or large scale services like Facebook or Twitter). But in the ‘end user’ location like a small office, the Microsoft product has become very competitive both in quality and in cost.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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  1. Andrius June 11, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    You fail to see that 400$, when converted into local currencies is valued a lot more than work of a person setting things up in other parts of the world. Also Linux is great for specific tasks and specific applications that don’t need full-fledged MS server. For example backup servers, VoIP, FTP/SFTP, simple file servers. Render farms, CRM or CMS are also highly cost effective on Linux platform due to Open Source and ability to sidestep licensing fees. Linux is also excellent for legacy hardware reuse, as small/medium sized businesses can’t afford to splash on server hardware and MS licence fees. In the perfect world you would have virtualized small business Dell/HP server running Exchange, full office of Win8+ with Cisco networking hardware, Cisco VOIP, cloud backups and network printers, but if we are talking about real world – small and medium business can’t splash that money. From my experience it’s usually used old boss’s PC in a closet running Windows XP Home on one 120GB HDD acting as server, 5 x 20$ switches lying around the office, WEP/Open 30$ wireless router, couple of old USB HP inkjet printers shared on network and skype as means of office communications and/or VOIP. If I told my customers you HAVE to invest 15k $ to bring it up to speed I would never have work. What you do is you get as many as MB can support cheap HDD’s, new PSU, a cheap UPS, stick whatever distro onto that old PC in the closet, set it up on ZFS, setup samba4/kerberos domain, join whatever is capable of joining in the office said domain and export their home/docs to server. Setup kvm/lxc virtualized environment for mailserver, slap E.F.A.3.0 onto another virtual machine, one more virtual machine for Openfire+Asterix. Get a 100$ OpenWRT capable router, set that up, grab a used networked enterprise level Kyocera printer, and entry level/used gigabit managed switch. Now they have a starting point that is scalable and spent maybe 3k $ on the whole deal. MS server products are excellent, don’t get me wrong, but small/medium business segment has other options.

    • Martin Lehner June 11, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      Agreed, I am speaking from the USA / Canadian perspective on costs. I’d say that most small and even medium size offices don’t require Cisco gear, but that’s just my opinion. As for hardware re-use, some people believe in it and some people don’t. None the less, good points, thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Yannis Milios June 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I agree with you that Microsoft server and desktop o/s are cheaper than they were years before and easier to manage than linux.On the other hand I prefer to mix both of them.For example I use win7 desktops on a small office with Zentyal as an all in one server.Linux is better on some aspects like firewalling for example.On the other hand AD and gpos are unbeatable,at least for the time being, but samba and openldap have make good progress too.I think as a sysadmin that is good to have options and learn and use both of them.I don’t like the idea that all my infrastructure must be depended from a company(MS).Finally Linux would better if it had better support from hardware vendors.Many of them just dont release drivers for Linux which I believe is unfair.

    • Martin Lehner June 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Yep, definitely agree. As you can guess, I mainly deal with Windows servers and that’s probably 90% of what I see out there. But the other 10% is something different, most of that being Linux. So whether I liked it or not, I’ve had to learn Linux (and have been for a number of years now). I certainly don’t think Linux is bad, or junk, but I do think the MS offering has become quite competitive.

  3. Steve June 11, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I think microsoft licensing is absurd, why CALs, I already paid for the server OS and the client OS, why do I have to pay for them to talk to each other. And while the price is down, it has nothing to do with microsoft but with the market. And the quality is another issue, while the server side has been improving with time, the client side is a total mess, Windows 8 is unusable

    • Martin Lehner June 11, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Microsoft has adapted to the market, I agree. As for Windows 8 being unusable, in my real world experience, I’ve got about 180 users on Windows 8 without any real issues at all. It’s a learning curve, yes, but it’s not really THAT different from Windows 7.

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