French Interior Ministry: Free Software Costs Much Less

“France’s Ministry of the Interior says its use of Thunderbird, a free software email client, running on its 200 000 PCs since 2008, is five times cheaper than the use of the ubiquitous proprietary alternative.”

see French Interior Ministry: open source 5 to 10 times cheaper.

That claim sounds exaggerated even to me, but perhaps they are right. You install it and forget about it. Free Software just works with no fussing. I would estimate Free Software costs about half as much but then I don’t have a lot of data on non-Free software. They do. That same ministry reports, “that it is using free and open source operating systems for its servers and IT management. It is also using the Postgresql relational database management system for its databases, and on desktops, it uses suites of office productivity tools, all “leading to substantial savings.” Who can argue with the bean-counters?

Saving money is a great feature of Free Software but far more important is the freedom to use the hardware we own most effectively. Want to run on a different computer? No problem. FLOSS licences don’t restrict how you can run. That could save a lot of money because you don’t have to run the software on old equipment just because it’s too much work to re-license. Want to go into a virtual machine? or use thin clients? No problem, for the same reason. FLOSS licences give the user the right to run, examine, modify and distribute the software. In IT that means all maintenance, tuning and growth of the system is OK without worrying about the licence. Just do it. That saves manpower, paperwork, budgeting and money while increasing flexibility. IT gets done the right way instead of the way that maximizes M$’s profits.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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9 Responses to French Interior Ministry: Free Software Costs Much Less

  1. JD says:

    Zimbra all the way. Install something like ZPush with the FOSS edition and it becomes even better. Get an app like ZAdmin and you can do most admin tasks comfortably from your smartphone.

    For those die hard Outlook fans in the organization, a few network edition licences cost way lower than the cost of trying to keep Exchange afloat, and even hardcore Outlook users won’t be able to tell the difference.

    My only concern is that they have been bought from VMware by this company called Telligent, and from their Wiki page, their CEO seems like an ex MS guy. I only hope this isn’t another of MS’s dirty tricks to EEE the competition.

  2. Dr Loser says:

    I’m definately of the opinion that it should part of the core K-12 curriculum.

    Well, you could start with spell-checking, basic grammar, and trying to express yourself in the sort of English that seems to come naturally to inhabitants of Bangladesh or Bengaluru, much though you despise the 30%-40% with “thick accents.”

    But, sure, Joe. It’s not at all hard to imagine a “hiring manager” who spends most of their time playing around with a six-month-old Linux distro devoted specifically to dealing with network intrusions, yet incapable of installing a single such package on their own. I could throw a rock in any direction and hit more than one!

    You’re just so utterly believable, it’s cute!

    Maybe you can lean on one of your less fortunate hires and get them to explain how “awesomewm” is not an absolute requirement for college/university entry. Although I did find the reference to “gateway drugs” extremely funny.

  3. Joe says:

    Mr. Pogson,

    That’s great. I found that using GNU/Linux is a good teacher for technical skills. University students seem more in tune to the whole Free Software philosophy which also attracts them to the OS. A lot of students in college use it as a kind of “gateway drug” to into Computer Science, ie. they might discover Linux and end up switching majors or something along those lines. It’s great because we need a lot more STEM graduates in the US. Since I am a hiring manager for my organization, I get to see a lot of resumes and I see a lots of students putting Linux experience front and center on it. A lot. So they definately value it as a professional attribute as well (and we do too). Getting them involved with GNU/Linux at an early age would be even better. I’m definately of the opinion that it should part of the core K-12 curriculum.

  4. Joe says:

    To license enough of Exchange to actually use it. You need to buy Exchange Server, Windows Server (and the chaper Web Edition won’t do), and need a special “Client Access License” for ever USER connecting to Exchange. You need a copy of Outlook for every USER as well. These costs add up quite quickly, especially if you have tens of thousands of users.

    It also doesn’t admin itself, and admin’ing Exchange is a “special skill”, so you need to hire Exchange admins and what not.

    Altogether this can add up to a ton of money. With FOSS solutions, there is no [usually] licensing costs so everything is administration.

    These days Exchange has SERIOUS competition from the likes of Zimbra and Google. So interestingly, the price of Exchange licensing has been going down signifiantly for the past few years. M$ is trying to stem the tide of organizations jumping ship, probably.

    Regardless, Zimbra is IMO, a much better product anyway, so I don’t think simply cutting the licensing costs is helping all that much.

  5. dugman wrote, “The best being …”

    Chuckle. I have seen some crazy examples over the years. The same folks who will gladly share an installation CD from M$ will rant about how sacred the OS is. As a teacher with access to computers where I worked, I took the opposite extreme, “If it isn’t locked up or you haven’t been told to leave it alone, improve it.” Asking permission really delays a project going up and down bureaucracy. I was in one place where simple changes had to go up seven levels of bureaucracy and back down to a different department to make a local change like cooling a server… I wanted to knock out a concrete block or cut a hole in a door but I was not allowed so we had to leave the server room open to a high traffic area… even after I pointed out that students could walk off with $thousands worth of stuff in a few seconds.

    Fortunately, most of the misinformation is that it’s hard to change an OS or that ordinary folks can’t do it. I showed my students and they had no problems. One even went home, disassembled and cleaned the parents’ PC without asking permission. We were all horrified but no harm was done. The student did not install GNU/Linux but could have. 😉 The parents were quite impressed that I had taught little Sadie something useful.

  6. CrayXMP wrote, “this comes from an answer to an official question “

    I don’t doubt that but I would like to see the maths. Obviously the licensing is a big savings but how did they manage to make management of an e-mail client/server system go away? After all, you have to create/destroy accounts and keep herding passwords. Then there’s backup. I would expect them both to be similar in cost and about the same cost as licensing, so 2:1, not 5:1 or 10:1. What am I missing? Is it that apt-get upgrade kills many birds with one stone (spreading the cost of updating over all the packages, so 1/many for the mail-system)? Did they automate stuff to death and get users to manage themselves somehow?

  7. CrayXMP says:

    “That claim sounds exaggerated”

    Not at all, this comes from an answer to an official question (namely number 27634) !
    Since 2008 they proceeded to replace Outlook/Exchange with Free Software solutions.
    In detail, Thunderbird yields 5 times less expensive and the usage of OCS/GLPI for management yields 10 times.
    See for yourself, from the French congress…
    http://questions.assemblee-nationale.fr/q14/14-27634QE.htm

  8. Joe says:

    Totally believe it. Outlook and Exchange is stupid expensive. I question anyone that honestly thinks it’s a good purchase for a company when there are turn-key alternatives like Zimbra around which also consequently have complete IMAP and CalDAV support, so people aren’t locked to one crappy e-mail client.

  9. dougman says:

    I gave a short speech at Toastmasters sometime ago titled “Linux is Boring”, basically mentioning what you just stated, “You install it and forget about it. Free Software just works with no fussing.”

    I got some decent inquiries from that talk.

    See people coming from a M$-centric environment, have this misconception that one MUST tinker with their computer daily for it to work, they need to install additional software to make the ORIGINAL software function properly. They think that there are additional drivers to install, when in fact Linux INCLUDES all the drivers you need from day one.

    It really numbs the mind when you ponder how people are trained to think when it comes to computers and the misconceptions beat in to their minds by M$.

    The best being, “Its illegal to remove Windows from your computer”

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