On Linux vs Microsoft: Linux is NOT FREE


This article is from 1998 about a Linux installation in 1995!

The machine was a 386 with 4 meg of memory. Linux came on 40+ floppies. We only had dialup to the net and I had to setup both sendmail and nntpd to use uucp, something that as far as I know doesn't even exist anymore.


Though, unless you've actually used Exchange, it's still way more work to setup a Linux box to do everything exchange gives you out of the box. Not just email but shared folders, shared calendars, permissions allowing an assistant to mail for you, integrated newsgroups, etc, etc, etc... One you install, type in a domain name and it's all working. The other you'll configure for hours if not days and still never get all the functionality of exchange. Ever wonder why the topic of an open source replacement for exchange somes up on slashdot every few months? Because sadly there still isn't one.

Please don't flame me for this. I'm only pointing out one data point, mine but this is my experience with Linux.

I installed Linux as an e−mail server in my company. I used sendmail. Linux was free, I put in on an old 386 I had so that computer was practically free. I bought 3 or 4 $50 books about linux and another 3 or 4 about sendmail, uucp and nntp.

I set it up, it took 3 weeks for me to get it stable.


My Time3 weeks *
5 days a week *
8 hrs a day *
$50 an hour



A year later I got a budget and we "upgraded" to a Dell server and MS exchange version 5.0 (at the time). It took about 2 hours to install and 1 $200 call to Microsoft.


Time2hrs * $50 per hr = $100
Call 2 Microsoft$200



So, at least in my experience the price was about the same but there's more.

You could argue that Linux actually cost more for the following reasons:

  1. I spent 3 weeks installing Linux instead of 3 weeks developing software. That put me 3 weeks behind schedule and 3 weeks of lost opportunities.
  2. My employees had no e-mail for 3 weeks. Lost productivity (or maybe that's actually less distractions 😊
  3. Linux crashed when one of the employees filled the hard drive by forwarding himself 1 gig of usenet porn. Add another 3 days of maintanence or $400 to the Linux cost (Linux doesn't like a full hard drive)
  4. With Exchange, for the 2 hour install I got NNTP support both in and out, POP3 support, IMAP suppport and E-mail access from the Web. I also got very usable public folders and other goodies like electronic scheduling and stuff. Most of that I did not get with Linux. It may be available for free somewhere but finding it and configuring it would have made the Linux solution even more expensive. I did get NNTP working but since at that time there were no News/E-Mail integrated applications nobody used it and it is arguable not as capable as Exchange folders.

    I'm not saying Linux is bad but until somebody provides a support line where for $200 a call they will QUICKLY solve my problems I'm going to stick with Microsoft. I don't think that is likely to ever happen since there are so many different parts to Linux by so many different people I think it would be nearly impossible to run a company that tried to understand and support all that stuff. I do hope it happens though.

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