Do a Partial Switch to Open Source Solutions

Paul Mah

Reflecting the savings possible by adopting open source software, France's Gendarmerie Nationale, the national police force, says that it has saved millions of dollars by migrating to various open source solutions. As part of its pilot phase, the organization has already migrated to Ubuntu Linux on some 5,000 workstations. Plans are in place to switch a total of 15,000 workstations to Linux before the year is up, and all of its computers by 2015.


With some 90,000 workstations, the Gendermerie Nationale is hardly a small business. However, we can certainly study and learn from its implementation.


Indeed, a cursory examination of the transition reveals that the savings come from the following areas:


  • Productivity software: From Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org
  • E-mail client: Using Thunderbird now, I presumed they switched from a proprietary client like Microsoft Outlook
  • Operating system: From Windows to Linux


Before we plunge straight into the deep end, I must caution that Linux in itself is not the magic bullet for every organization's software licensing woes. Considering that most computer vendors do not offer discounts for selling computers not already bundled with Microsoft's Windows operating system, there might well be zero savings from making such a jarring transition. Ultimately, I believe most SMBs lack the resources to properly evaluate their existing applications and peripherals for Linux compatibility for such a significant switch.


On the other hand, SMBs will find that switching their office productivity software or e-mail clients to open source ones could generate significant savings with far less resistance from users. This is because popular applications such as Microsoft Office or Microsoft Outlook typically cost a premium. And that is especially true for smaller organizations without the numbers to qualify for cheaper pricing tiers.


In such situations, it makes perfect sense for SMBs to opt for open source solutions. What about support, you ask. My rejoinder: When was the last time you asked Microsoft for support for your Microsoft Office suite anyway?


Be sure to read my earlier post about the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0, too.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 12, 2009 10:20 AM Ann All Ann All  says:

For the same reasons outlined above, I wonder if Google Apps would be a good fit for many SMBs?

Mar 19, 2009 12:27 PM Jesse Jesse  says:

We are a small business with approximately 80 users.

We have also recently gone the open source route for email and document processing. Using both Open Office (Novell edition, as it is slightly more compatible with Ms Excels macros) and Thuderbird.

There were a couple of users that we could not change, and thus are still tied into using Ms Exchange. Thunderbird is fully compatible with Ms Outlook, being able to import all your mail, contacts, and even accept and edit meeting requests using the calendar. This move has saved our business hundreds of thousands, and with very little gripe from the minions.

Mar 23, 2009 9:06 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Jesse


Glad to hear about the tremendous savings that you managed to reap for your company.  You mentioned some users who would not change though, I am only guessing, but are they senior executives?


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