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Low-Cost Alternatives

The low-cost alternative to Microsoft Windows 2000 Server software in a networked environment is to use Linux servers such as Red Hat 7.x Linux, Networked Attached Storage (NAS) such as the FIA POPnetserver 2000, and network attached printers such as most HP printers or any printer attached to a print server. Because the main functions that client PCs use in a network are shared disk drives and shared printers, these alternatives to Windows server software can provide lower-cost alternatives because there are no client licensing costs associated with using them. Linux software and these devices do not require licensing each PC accessing the server, like Windows server software requires. Further, there is no expensive client license monitoring because extra client licenses are not required. The cost for FIA POPnetserver 2000 NAS is $700 for 80GB, $900 for 120GB, and $1,375 for 240GB. In contrast, the cost of Windows 2000 server software with five client access licenses (CALs) is $762, discounted from a list price of $999. (This is the software cost alone with no hardware.) Such software acting as a disk and printer server would require about $1,000 in PC hardware. Additional CALs needed for each simultaneous server user run $33. (This is discounted from a list price of $49 for each individual CAL.) The savings over Microsoft's expensive licensing just mounts and mounts. Add in annual "software assurance" licensing fees, and the savings increase even more.

Additionally, Macintosh and Linux PCs could easily replace Windows PCs. The functionality that an organization needs is mainly focused on Office software and e-mail. Basic office software is equally as effective as Microsoft Office software when it comes to writing memos and simple reports. Creating more extensive documents, such as 400-to-800-page books, may benefit from some of the more advanced features of MS Word. However, not every enterprise employee writes extensive reports. So, only a few would use such features. Further, the best security is provided by exchanging Rich Text Format (RTF) files. RTF files are supported by most all office software. E-mail software that is not Microsoft Outlook is attacked less frequently by virus software. Because Microsoft has such a large installed base of software, Windows and Outlook security vulnerabilities are exploited by new virus programs almost weekly.

Red Hat Linux, purchased online, costs from $18 to $80. Keep in mind that a single copy of Linux could possibly be used on all computers in an enterprise. So a PC could be configured with Linux and then cloned. Even if the $18 were paid for each PC's copy of Linux, it would be much cheaper than any Windows software. Linux hardware support is getting better and better. It does not need to be exactly equal to Windows 2000 or Windows XP to make Linux a viable competitor to Windows. All that is required is that the Graphical User Interface (GUI) be similar to Windows and that office applications exchange data with Windows applications.

The newer features of Microsoft software are not compelling or highly desirable for the average user. Home users surfing the Web do not need Windows XP's and Internet Explorer's fancy features. Glitz does not necessarily sell. Ease of use, good prices, ethical sales policies (for example, letting customers know whether something is in stock or is a grey market product), and clear information on the product do sell. Thus, a dirt-cheap packaged Linux system with a Windows-like GUI that runs an office suite could easily outsell Windows and Macintosh PCs because this is what many home users need—and no more.

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