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Free software part I

The cautiousness with which the Open Source software has been dealt with until recently, is gradually disappearing. Today, using the Open Source software is seen as a way of saving on licence fees, which additionally equals many commercial applications in quality. Which tasks may be assigned to Open Source programmes without fear? Should it be implemented to a company gradually or should everything be changed at once? How much can one gain? What should be avoided? Usually the implementation of the free applications begins with the new operating areas of the IT systems, not exploited by the commercial software providers. In such a way Linux got to the network equipment.

According to the rule of priority, the Web server market has been overrun by free Apache. Time for migration? An extensive migration to Open Source Software happens rarely. In Poland a well known exception is the implementation of Linux and StarOffice to the Jan III Sobieski hotel (next to commercial software for hotel management). Linux is also used by the chain of Orbis hotels, however, they do not boast much about it. The fact that a migration usually takes place gradually, has few reasons.

It is difficult to resign from well operating commercial software, most of all due to the already incurred costs. The next reason is the well understood conservatism (better as the enemy of good), and the resistance of people by nature not too eager for changes. Important is also the exchange of information with the outside world, especially in desktop installations - the departure from data formats used by Microsoft Office raises doubts, although the mechanisms used in free applications offer similar possibilities. Sometimes companies evade this problem using StarOffice or OpenOffice within the company, whereas for drawing up the documents exchanged with the outside world they use Microsoft Office. An incentive to migration towards Open Source is often a necessity of subsequent updating the software.

The more users, the more means is required for such an operation. Additionally, new versions usually need more efficient hardware. Controversial costs According to the survey published in April and conducted by an Australian company Cybersource, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a free business platform, based on the operating system Linux, is 24.7 per cent lower than that of the Microsoft platform if new hardware is purchased, and 34.

25 per cent lower if the so far applied hardware is used. It means considerable savings, however, the critics of the survey consider it too simplified. In Cybersource model the training in use of Open Source software has not been taken into consideration, which is of great importance in the case of migration from the Microsoft platform. As the survey estimates, most of the software costs in the case of the Microsoft platform is related to the licence fees for back-end software ' SQL server or e-commerce interface (Microsoft Commerce Solution); great sums are also required for Visual Studio, Exchange Server 2000 and ISA. Included were also the licence fees for the operating system and Microsoft Office for the 250 users assumed in the survey. The model created by Cybersource describes an extreme situation, in which all the IT system components may be replaced by the free software and only for the purchase of Linux it is necessary to spend several dozen dollars.

However, it does not include the software, for which the free counterparts are not available or still do not rival the commercial products; the examples are application servers. In some cases passing to the less mature environment may be profitable, taking into account the high cost of commercial solutions. However, the authors of the survey did not take into account such a scenario. Specialist in demand The main position in operation costs is IT personnel's salaries. The employment of three people: an experienced administrator, applications specialist and a junior assistant for easier work is according to Cybersource, 9 per cent more expensive than in the case of free software. Unfortunately, no slightest justification for such an estimation is provided in the survey.

The differences in recruitment costs were also not pointed out; after all, before the decision about the salary amount is made (normally, as a result of negotiations between an employer and an employee), the company has to find a person with suitable qualifications. A tip concerning the salaries is to be found in the Dell's webhosting offer including the lease of Dell PowerEdge 350 servers, which play a role of Web servers. An annual lease cost of a server together with the administrator's services is 2629 dollars if Microsoft Windows 2000 is used and 2079 dollars if the server has Red Hat Linux installed, whereas the installation fee is in both cases the same: 299 dollars. The price of the administration of Linux server is 21 per cent lower than the one of the competing Microsoft server.

Problems with quality Taking into consideration the issue of costs, it is necessary to consider what software one already has and with what one wants to replace it. As for the operating system, the Web server or office software is concerned, it is possible to find suitable free components. It is even worse when we want to replace a programme with specific functions. Seemingly it is not difficult to find a free counterpart or something, which pretends to be such a counterpart; on websites cataloguing freeware or supporting its development (e.

g. SourceForge or FreshMeat) there are many proposals. Unfortunately, quantity does not always mean quality. Testing a programme, as it may seem appropriate for our needs, we will quickly become convinced that its functionality was overestimated. It's not difficult to find such packages, which reliance on other preinstalled components effectively discourages.

A good experience is browsing through the packages described as 'website' or 'contents management system'; in spite of the difference suggested by the names, most of them offer identical mechanisms, mainly not very elaborate, requiring from the consumer adjusting them to individual needs. Less 'mature' products may also unpleasantly surprise reporting an error after installation and leaving the user with it. A lot to be desired leaves the openness of some Open Source products to the cooperation with other applications. Often the ingenious and useful programmes can not be used, because of the lack of possibility to exchange data with the external word. Copyright (c) 2008 Adam Nowak.

This article was translated by mLingua Worldwide Translations, Ltd. mLingua provides professional language translations in all major Western and Asian languages, software localization and web site translation services. Please visit

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