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Aware Electronics Corp.
1135 E. 7th St, Wilmington, Delaware 19801

ACDC Enterprise
We can troubleshoot your computer hardware, software or server issues.
We do custom web sites, Access databases and online databases.

19 Annes Way, Landenberg, PA

CADapult FM
Cadapult FM software solutions help to meet the challenges and needs of facilities managers everywhere.
3 Mill Park Court, Suite A, Newark, DE 19713

CIM Concepts Inc.
200 Continental Dr, #112, Newark, DE 19713

Decision Support Associates Inc.
29 Hill Rd, Wilmington, DE 19806

ECHIP Inc.
724 Yorklyn Rd, #350, Hockessin, Delaware 19707

Healex Systems Ltd.
11 Middleton Dr, Wilmington, Delaware 19808

Hoover Computer Service
313 Dakota Ave, Wilmington, DE 19803

International Micro Systems
5341 Limestone Rd, Suite 202, Wilmington, DE 19808

Lab Ware Ltd.
Providing a total information solution for laboratories
3 Mill Rd, #102, Wilmington, Delaware 19806

SSD, Inc.
1024 Justison St, Wilmington, DE 19801

Smart Button Assoc.
Database solution systems for the sports, entertainment and leisure industries
325 E. Main St, Newark, Delaware 19711

T3 Technologies --› Quick Tips
Computer networking, security, support, and programming services
PO Box 7902, Newark, Delaware 19714

TechSolutions, Inc.
PO Box 727, Wilmington, Delaware 19899

Vel Micro Works Inc.
724 Yorklyn Rd, #210, Hockessin, DE 19707


Related:
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Software Advice from the Experts

Cost Benefits of Open Source Software

Open Source Software is software for which the underlying source code is provided with the software or is otherwise available at no extra charge. By and large, the 'community' that creates OSS releases such software under a GPL or similar license and offer that software for no charge. While the GPL license, for example, does allow a fee to be charged for distribution of software covered by it's license, it is considered a free software license ("free" as in "free speech," not as in "free beer.) and the vast majority of such software is made available free of charge. Many OSS developers receive payment for their work on a donation basis, while the majority make no little or no money directly from their work contributed to projects in the open source community. This paradigm is covered in more detail by Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

One major difference in OSS vs commercial proprietary software is the availability of the source code. With the source code available, user specific custom modifications of the software are possible, any bugs can be fixed by the end user (assuming that the end user has the programming knowledge to do so), and the security integrity of the software can be clearly audited through review of the code. Granted these things require particular programming skills to accomplish, which not every end-user or company workforce has. However, generally speaking, OSS bugs and security holes are typically discovered and fixed much faster than they are with closed-source commercial software. Under the most common circumstances, proprietary commercial software users are at the mercy of the vendor for any fixes and, if even available, customization or additional features. My definition of an Open Source based system or solution would be completely, or at least mostly, OSS which would include Linux as the Operating System.

Linux
Arguably, the most popular and commonly known OSS is the Linux Operating System. There are hundreds of different 'versions' known as distributions (or distros for short). While the development of the official core of Linux is rather tightly controlled, the rest of the system has countless variations and contributors which make up the components of the differing distributions. The fact that the kernel source is available and can be modified provides one notable benefit among many. The kernel can be custom configured and compiled for the specific machine on which it runs. The typical Linux distributions, like other Operating Systems such as Windows, use a generic kernel that includes support for various possible hardware combinations that may be found in a consumer computer. Removing support for things that will never be used and only including parts of the kernel that are required for the particular machine can result in a smaller kernel and increased performance. Such an option is not available with an Operating System like Windows. While to the average user this may make no difference, the option can be important to those looking to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. While Linux generally allows a company to use much older hardware and get a longer useful life out of new hardware, this ability to customize the kernel allows even more flexibility. Quite often, a PC that no longer meets the minimum requirements of the latest Microsoft release can still be used by installing Linux on it with roughly the same, if not better, performance in many cases.

Personal Experience
I started using Linux about ten years ago. Over the past five years, I've used several distributions of Linux and other open source software exclusively on my own systems. I've also used every version of Windows since 3.1, with the exceptions of 2003 Server and Vista, as well as performed troubleshooting or other technical support on hundreds of Windows-based machines. As far as I'm concerned, just the reliability and security of a machine running Linux having yet to be matched by any Windows run machine I've ever come across, makes Linux worth far greater than any possible benefit that Windows may provide. Quite simply I see no compelling reason to use Windows as an operating system. Granted there may still be some good reasons to use Windows, but there are less of them everyday. The Ubuntu distribution of Linux is quite user-friendly and is fast becoming a suitable replacement for Windows as a desktop OS. In my humble opinion, Linux has been superior to Windows as a desktop OS for years. It seems that some people have trouble with the fact that there are several desktop front-ends for the X user interface making it infinitely customizable and therefore it isn't standard among different distributions of Linux. There are many other arguments as to the desktop suitability of Linux on both sides. It really boils down to personal preferences more than anything and with Linux there's a lot more room for the interface to match that preference.

A digression on uptimes
I've seen a Novell Netware server that had been up and running for a little over a year before I had to restart it as part of the maintenance I was doing to it. I have never seen a Windows server, much less a workstation, with an uptime of much more than about a month. I have seen data on Windows web servers with uptimes measured in years. However, a relatively static web server differs quite a bit from a network server in a business environment. Since there is very rarely any reason for me to restart my own machines (I could count on one hand the times I can recall a total system crash or software install that required a reboot), their uptimes are at the mercy of the local power company since I currently don't have any backup power systems.

Total Cost of Ownership
TCO studies are relatively subjective and, just like any other report or statistic, can be slanted to favor particular outcomes. They only have real meaning within the particular parameters in which they were conducted. Any evaluation of the sort should be done within the environment where it matters in order to be considered to have any accuracy. One thing rarely, if ever, considered in TCO studies is the value of the software. If the software does exactly what is required of it and does it reliably, it's value can be immeasurable. Software that experiences frequent downtime due to crashes, maintenance and the like, would have a relatively low value. Even lower in value would be software which has plenty of nifty features that are useless to the needs of the organization, but doesn't include particular features which would be beneficial. The usefulness of the software or suitability to task(s) is most important in determining reliable or accurate TCO figures since it looks! at the bigger picture of overall productivity (and if applicable, profit) of the organization.

Nonetheless, consideration of existing TCO studies can prove useful in preliminary decision-making. The conclusions of the Cybersource TCO study, based on a 3 year period, show a 18-36% cost savings in using Linux and Open Source software versus using the Microsoft platform. The original full report can be found at this URL: http://www.cybersource.com.au/about/linux_vs_windows_tco_comparison.pdf

Initial Cost Savings
Obviously, with OSS typically being freely available the initial cost can represent a significant savings. Software licensing fees can easily run into thousands of dollars for even a small business. Commercial software licenses normally allow only a very restricted use of the program. Typically if you want to install it on several machines or have multiple client connections you must pay for additional licenses to cover this. With almost all commercial software, the user is simply leasing the program. Since OSS licensing provides very little restriction on the use and modification of the software, the initial cost savings could add up to the salary of an employee for the year in the case of a medium sized business.

Support Costs
Maintenance and support of Open Source solutions can be roughly the same as for an equivalent Windows based solution, though on average it will be less costly for those using Open Source/Linux. Many TCO reports, such as the one by Cybersource, base the cost of technical support higher for Open Source since a technical support professional or consultant that specializes in this field typically does cost more. Meanwhile, the cost difference for in-house support is usually negligible. The disparity in external support costs is made up for in the amount of time such support is required. One point worth mention concerning the Cybersource report is that they exclude the costs associated with viruses, spyware, and related malware which affect Windows based systems. The costs related to such problems (prevention, support, damage control, downtime, etc.) is significant. Such maladies are a practical non-issue with Linux based systems and can represent a considerable savings. Windows based systems on average require considerably more attention from tech support (internal or external), while Open Source tends to be more reliable or stable and overall places less of a burden on support resources. Thus it is possible for a relatively small company using Open Source to have no in-house tech staff and still save on support costs using only external tech support.

Training Issues
Training costs can be a factor in deciding what software to use. The costs of training associated with implementing an entirely different system would certainly be higher than sticking with software that is already known. However, when comparing a significant upgrade of existing software versus implementing Open Source software to replace the existing, the difference in cost becomes less significant and could even be equal. With implementing entirely new software, whether it's proprietary or Open Source, the costs of training could be considered equal. The time required for someone to learn a new replacement software as opposed to getting familiar with an upgraded version is debatable. There are several factors which could affect this and assessing them all is rather pointless simply for the sake of argument or example. It is quite possible it may take someone less time to learn a new software program than it would to become familiar with an upgraded version of the software! that they are used to. Ultimately the issue of training costs, as well as all other costs of software, comes down to end-user productivity. If the software does not meet the needs of the user and/or is difficult and cumbersome to operate, the time and money spent on training, even the software itself, is relatively worthless.

The Bottom Line
The primary goal in implementing software is productivity, making tasks easier and keeping expenses as low as possible to increase profit margins. Numerous studies have shown that Open Source software is well suited to accomplishing this. Additionally, OSS has the ability to meet changing business needs and keep up with the growth of a company with minimal additional cost compared to proprietary software. Still there are cases where a commercial proprietary program meets a company's needs quite well. Unfortunately, this sometimes locks them into a particular OS which may be more demanding of support and costly to maintain. Thus, careful consideration of such issues becomes critical. Failure to consider all the implications of a particular software package can be a very costly mistake. It is this balancing act of such factors that can make technology related decisions like software selection so difficult. It is hoped that the information provided herein proves helpful in evaluating software and making informed decisions in the selection process.

About the Author: Tom Johnson is the Principal Consultant of T3 Technologies, and has over 15 years of computer experience, primarily in networking, security, and general support. For more information and suggested alternative Open Source Software programs, visit http://www.t3technet.com



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