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Show Me the Money

The organization's virtual private network (VPN) is also Linux-based, by the way. Legal Aid Manitoba takes advantage of FreeS/WAN for their virtual private network. Linux FreeS/WAN provides a free, open source implementation of Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) for servers running Linux. Using strong encryption, FreeS/WAN makes it possible to build secure private networks over untrusted lines. Simply said, the organization can use inexpensive DSL Internet connections while still providing a secure VPN. The use of FreeS/WAN alone provides for a substantial cost savings.

In fact, Linux has found a home in almost every part of the organization. Their firewall runs Linux, as does the Legal Aid Manitoba web site.

In terms of dollars and cents, the transition to Linux has paid off in a big way. The annual costs of running the main office and its satellites, DSL wide area network, VPN connections, 15 servers, and 150 desktop clients comes in at just $50,000. That's Canadian dollars, by the way. The cost for an equivalent Windows setup would have been as much as $650,000 annually, under the province's umbrella. By doing a lot of the work themselves and chiseling away as much as possible, they were able to trim that cost down to $300,000. Given that that kind of money wasn't really available, as Balneaves points out, Linux was like a gift from heaven.

But what about training costs? At the conservative end, the Linux solution comes in at only 15% of the Windows solution. Surely, the costs of getting users up to speed on a completely new operating system must have a serious impact. In order to make things as familiar as possible, Balneaves used IceWM. This particular window manager is not only easy on resources, but its look and feel is very Windows-like, thus softening the transition for users who are used to seeing things a certain way.

Once users were switched over, Balneaves and his group would hold their hands for a couple of weeks, and that was it.

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