People have various reasons(... and more reasons) to use Linux:

  • Freedom
  • Reliability
  • Stability
  • Security
  • Commercial support

But the question of cost is usually put aside, although Linux is essentially free, unlike Windows. Why? Does that mean that Linux cannot compete with Windows in a cost measure?

The focus of the question is

  • Can migration be profitable in the sense of saving money by the migration?
  • How big does the cost saving need to be in order to motivate a company to migration?
  • Specifically I'm interested in the usage of Linux by small business. (For large companies the Unix systems are profitable.)
  • Specifically I'm interested in the usage of Linux on desktop computers (the workstations).
  • Identify some model examples of profitable migration.
  • @ire_and_curses thanks for your corrections. Just minor points about it. I feel a certain difference between "free" (freedom) and "for free" (at no cost). I wanted to highlight the cost matter. Also the note I kept because people may be wondering why I am answering my own question. Thanks again for correcting my grammar mistakes.
    – sumid
    Sep 12, 2012 at 5:21
  • No problem. Please add back any highlighting or clarification you feel was important. In my opinion, too much highlighting can be very distracting, but you are free to disagree - it is of course your question! I don't think there's any need to include the reference to the old closed question. It's perfectly ok to answer your own question (there's even a badge for it). Sep 12, 2012 at 5:38
  • @Michael Mrozek - Why would you close this much better question as a duplicate of a terrible prior version (which is already closed)? Sep 12, 2012 at 6:03
  • @Michael Mrozek The same question. I'm just trying to improve question. Is by your opinion trying to improve something wrong?
    – sumid
    Sep 12, 2012 at 6:10
  • @Michael Mrozek so I clicked to remove the old question. So in two days this question won't be duplicate anymore. Fair enough?
    – sumid
    Sep 12, 2012 at 6:20

2 Answers 2


The answer to your question isn't atainable in a general sense. It all depends on a few factors.

  • Do you have enough experience as a linux sys admin to take care of support needs?
  • If so, is your time more valuable spent on administering your OS, or would it be better spent on running your business?
  • Will your company increase it's profits from the use of linux?
  • If so, will it increase profits enough to pay for a linux administrator?

So unfortunately this question can't be answered by someone else, you have to think critically about the situation and do the math. I'm not a paid linux system admin, so I can't say what they would normally require for a salary, but I would assume they would work for a base salary of $30000. You could also get red hat, which you pay for and they provide you with support but you still need to do the actual technical things, they just help you through it. For the desktop edition its a couple hundred dollars I think and a few thousand for a server distro.

  • 1
    And, I might add that you WILL need system administration, especially in a business application. If you are not VERY confident in your administration skills I would say paid help is necessary, but again, thats for you to decide.
    – Austin
    Sep 12, 2012 at 4:57
  • So generally you suppose that the think which makes Linux expensive is, that you need an administrator for Linux, while don't need one for Windows?
    – sumid
    Sep 12, 2012 at 5:00
  • It depends on your specific use for the operating system. If you are a web hosting company, you would certainly need a windows sys admin for your windows boxes just as greatly as you would for your linux boxes. If you are a small bakery owner and you need to use MS word to make flyers, I would hope that you could manage that without a sys admin. So again, you have to think critically about your specific application.
    – Austin
    Sep 12, 2012 at 5:04
  • After re-reading your question, I realize that my answer wasn't all that great. After reading "the focus of the question" part I tried to tackle those questions rather than the overall, question, which does not specifically ask for the cost of migration, but instead asks for the factors to consider. I think your answer to your own question is fitting and quite helpful. I would advise editing your question to keep people focused on answering with the factors to consider rather than the specific cost they might incur, as I did.
    – Austin
    Sep 12, 2012 at 5:42
  • You picked up correctly that the question is essentially about money. And I like the concrete point of expense on the system administrator.
    – sumid
    Sep 12, 2012 at 5:50

The main factors as I see it are:

Migration fitness

At a glance Linux seems fit to replace Windows in majority of desktops, because they usually run (computer role):

  • Only general programs (Office, E-mail, Web)
  • Graphical software (Photoshop, inDesign, 3DsMax, Autocad)
  • Programming software (Eclipse, NetBeans, MS Visual Studio)

majority of those can be easily replaced by Linux alternative (The Linux Alternative Project, Linux App Finder). And then we also have wine or vmware with whose we can bypass the rest. For example following roles:

  • IE only web applications (these are fading)
  • Finance & controlling programs (SAP, MS Money, MS Project, Accounting software)
  • Specialized, but generally available programs.
  • Tailor made program only for one company.

Emotional factors

There are also emotional factors which make people stick with Windows:

  • custom
  • FUD
  • Employees training
  • OS specific applications (people don't want to give up one application in favor of its alternative).
  • Strength of owner of the business/CEO overcome these factors in imperative way.

Money view

So what are the financial factors?

  • How much the company pays for OS licenses?
  • How much the company pays for core programs (Office, Graphical programs, Programming software) and Security software (Anti-virus, firewall)?

How these expenditures repeat in time

  • Do the managers realize that the cost repeats in time?

  • Upgrade of core programs once per 2 years

  • Upgrade of OS once per 5 years
  • Upgrade of security once per year

Of course there are some things which put the prize of Windows solution down

  • New computers (mainly) don't sell without pre-installed Windows
  • Unauthorized usage of software (software piracy) - puts cost of SW to zero. Helps to increase Windows market share. Thus actively works against free software.

And also costs of having Linux

  • (Optional) One time migration cost
  • (Optional) Paid commercial support
  • (Optional) Employees training
  • (Optional) Need of system administrator

How much they can save? It is enough to motivate them to go through the trouble of migration?

Model examples

  • Mexico city government uses Linux
  • Municipal library, Prague
  • (Irrelevant) Android, IOS, servers, TVs DVDs and media centers


  • The cost savings might not be big enough to motivate the migration.
  • Most of the desktop computers should be fit for the migration.
  • Emotional factors play significant role as a barrier for the migration.


Added need of system administrator among costs as suggested by @Austin .

  • Here jasonwryan wrote: There is very little, if any1, quantitative or qualitative data on the benefits (or total cost) of migrating to a GNU/Linux environment . @jasonwryan could you please share some more details about it?
    – sumid
    Sep 13, 2012 at 3:32

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