Summary of Linux vs. Windows Total Cost of Ownership Comparison

Last few days, when I was trying to research to know more about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), I found an interesting documentation on the website entitled “Linux vs. Windows Total Cost of Ownership Comparison” which I would like to summarize it based on my understanding from the reading.

This documentation mostly discussed about an analysis that has been done few years ago for the purchase and total operational costs of running an enterprise on Linux and Open Source software in comparison to Microsoft’s Windows computer system platforms.

The comparison is based on a study of an organization with 250 users, a number of workstations, servers, Internet service charges, e-business system, network calbing, hardware, software and salaries for IT support for this technology. This also includes the IT training for the staff and external consultation expenses in order to runs this system working properly. The simulation for the expenses will be over a 3 year period and there are two different ways carried out in this simulation. The first one will be purchasing new hardware and network infrastructure, more to start everything from scratch to build this system and the second one will be using existing hardware and infrastructure.

Summary of Results

Scenario 1: Standard Linux vs. Microsoft’s Platform (include costings for deployment, either existing or new hardware)

  • Using Linux Standard Solution with existing hardware and infrastructure estimated can saved up around 36% of the total cost comparing with Microsoft Solution.
  • If new hardware and infrastructure being used, Linux Standard Solution is still the better choice which can saved up to 26% of the total cost.

Scenario 2: Red Hat Enterprise Linux Solution vs. Microsoft Solution (include costings for deployment, either existing or new hardware)

  • Open Source is still the winner and able to saved up to 27% of the cost if using the existing hardware and infrastructure.
  • Purchasing new hardware and infrastructure doesn’t stops Open Source is the best solution for cost saving and the percentage saved is 19%.

Lower Labour Costs for Linux results Lower TCO

Based from the survey conducted by the Robert Frances Group (RFG) for the attempt to determine the TCO comparison between WIndows and Linux, they found that there were significantly lower labour costs for Linux and causes it to deliver a lower TCO compared to Windows. Based from the research, there is an interesting quote from ZDNET article:

In the survey, Linux admin salaries were slightly higher than Windows admins, with Linux at $71,400 per admin, and Windows at $68,500 per admin. But Linux admins took care of an average of 44 servers and Windows admins an average of 10. So the salary per processing unit was Linux, $12,010, and Windows, $52,060.4.

Open Source Migration

In the documentation, it also mentioned that there was a study by the Dutch government and the researchers found that migrating to an open source desktop productivity platform was 90% less expensive than migrating to the new version of the Microsoft productivity platform which includes the calculation and costs of migration, re-training, re-development of macros and add-on applications, any conversion costs for existing documents and etc.

It is recommended to compare the costs of an upgrade-upgrade-upgrade vs. migration-upgrade-upgrade process rather than upgrade vs. migration. The reason is many of the upgrading costs to newer versions of Microsoft platforms requires renewal, licenses, software assurance and etc. whereas most of the costs of migrating to Linux are renew once (during the initial migration) and also no license costs nor software assurance costs are required in upgrade for Linux platform. A realistic evaluation of the scenario will be better to include two or three full refresh lifecycles, stretching over a period of 5-10 years.


According to a PC World article on a study, the conclusion of the report is:

“80 percent of the Linux users believed that they needed only one week to become as competent with the new system as with their existing (presumably Windows ­­ Ed) one”

Windows Platform Solution

Windows Server 2003 and a list of office productivity tools as well as back-office technologies was chosen which includes the price (USD) of the product and licenses.

Linux Platform Standard Solution

Although some of the distributions required purchasing fees, however, most of the applications sich as MySQL/PostgreSQL, Apache, Open Office (productivity suite) and etc are included with Linux distributions or free download. In the report, it also mentioned that since Linux is generally taken to be immune from viruses in general, any virus-scanning software is not added to the list.

Linux Platform Enterprise Solution

Enterprise Solution has an ongoing support contract with the Linux vendor. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux solution is based on an annual subscription model and 3 years of annual subscriptions will be included in the cost.

Scenario 1 (New Hardware) – Microsoft Windows vs. Linux (Standard) vs. Linux (Enterprise)

Total Hardware Costs
Microsoft Windows $330,170.50
Linux (Standard) $330,170,50
Linux (Enterprise) $330,170.50
Total Software Costs
Microsoft Windows $504,712.00
Linux (Standard) $89.95
Linux (Enterprise) $99,279
Total Operating Costs (i.e. staff salaries, Internet connectivity)
Microsoft Windows $1,366,883
Linux (Standard) $1,012,260
Linux (Enterprise) $1,111,450

% of Total Open Source Savings Cost for Linux (Standard) is 25.94% and Linux (Enterprise) is 18.69%.

Scenario 2 (Existing Hardware) – Microsoft Windows vs. Linux (Standard) vs. Linux (Enterprise)

Total Software Costs
Microsoft Windows $504,712
Linux (Standard) $90
Linux (Enterprise) $99,279
Total Operating Costs (i.e. staff salaries, Internet connectivity)
Microsoft Windows $562,000
Linux (Standard) $682,000
Linux (Enterprise) $682,000

% of Total Open Source Savings Cost for Linux (Standard) is 36.06% and Linux (Enterprise) is 26.75%.

Software License Costs
Microsoft Windows $504,712
Linux (Standard) $89.95
Linux (Enterprise) $99,279

Other calculated costs are hardware specification, comparison of salaries and services costs between Windows and Linux platform.


I was trying to summarized of what I read from the research documentation. The source for the reference is: Linux vs. Windows TCO Comparison. If you are interested to know the details of the figure and the results of the research, you can download the pdf documentation and have a read of it.


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    • Thanks for telling me. I can’t check the condition of the links for each post in my blog. Such feedback is appreciated. I had changed the reference link to a working one.

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