Windows PCs vs. X Terminals: A Cost Comparison
Windows Licenses: Windows $2,500 (est.); Symantec Ghost $1,700 (+ $525/annum); Symantec Antivirus $1,544.25 (+ $525/annum)
Linux: per server annual subscription is $50 beginning in 2003.
Table 2. Software Purchasing Cycle Cost Comparison Over 15 Years
Based on our experiences over the last eight years hosting both PC and X terminal labs, we estimate that we would hire and retain roughly the same amount of administrative and technical staff to service this number of systems regardless of whether they are Windows or Linux-based.
During 2003 and 2004 so far, however, we have seen a dramatic rise in the amount of time spent patching Windows systems and removing ad-ware, spyware and viruses from unpatched systems and re-imaging OS images. This rise is time spent on these tasks may increase dramatically our administrative costs going forward.
As far as installation and maintenance, for Windows PCs, the weekly manual processes involve cleaning old data off of primary ghosting systems, building three updated workstation ghost images with Windows updates, A/V updates and ad-aware updates. Then there is an automated push of ghost images to the workstations. The total time spent on this is three hours two times a week.
For Linux X terminals, no regular ghosting or updating of images is required. Primary work involves fixing bad hardware when installing antiquated systems and setting up each system as an X workstation. This all takes two hours per newly installed workstation. A new client application host installation requires 16-20 hours to set up and to complete the migration of applications.
Excluding administrative costs, the 15-year cost of 25 Linux systems in a lab environment is estimated to be $41,359 versus a 15-year cost of $100,000 to $155,000 for Windows PCs serving the same function. Although these estimates are based on rough cost estimates, the overall cost of hardware and software deployment, coupled with the shorter overall time spent on administrative tasks, yields significant cost savings over long-term deployment cycles in our work environment.
Salvador Peralta is the systems administrator for the Mark O. Hatfield Library at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
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