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Linux Business

Migrating Your Office from Windows to Linux? 682

bastiji asks: "I work at a mid-sized company, around 50 people and 90% M$ shop (10% being the Sun server doing our backups). Most of my users are using Office 85% of the time with some specialized apps thrown in for good measure. With the upcoming licensing changes from M$ my finance guys are worried about increased spending on even the software that we already own. I've been to told to look for alternatives and I'm asking for your help. How does one begin to do migration from a totally dependent M$ shop to the least expensive options. Are there any examples for mid-sized firms taking this route and any public examples of cost-savings?"
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Migrating Your Office from Windows to Linux?

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  • Good Luck (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mittermeyer ( 195358 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:19PM (#3538699) Homepage
    I expect that like Linux at ISPs this is sneaking up on everyone, but may be difficult to find companies publicly willing to risk Microsoft wrath by being open about it.
    • Re:Good Luck (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kindaian ( 577374 )
      What wrath? After the migration is done... M$ can call anything but will be eating the dust...

      You can even deny the "right" to auditory... and even deny the right of M$ to know how many computers and licences you have...

      Unless they come with a court order...
      And even then... you can refuse to deliver the data to M$ and demand to deliver it only to the court itself...

      P.S.- Of course you can end with all your licenses voided but alas...
    • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by soloport ( 312487 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:33PM (#3538826) Homepage
      Diferentiate between quick-learners and, uh, reluctant-learners, first. If you can't figure this out intuitively, ask. "Would you like to try something new?"

      Entice even *one* person to try a new, alternative Office suite (start with an MS-Windows install of TOS Office). Ask for their feedback. Observe their learnning experience and learn from it, yourself. Then take it to the next level.

      Teach a half-dozen people -- in your spare time. Grow your "install base". Always return to the original group(s) and make sure they're not feeling abandoned, etc.

      Next, introduce *one* new person to a "pretty" desktop (Grome/KDE). Show them all the ease-of-use options first. Then help them understand the details as they walk through the learning curve. Every newbie will be diferent. But every newbie needs encouragement; A reason to stay the course.

      By all means, show them the same app. they used on MS-Windows (e.g. TOS Office) running on the new desktop! Help them make "familiarity connections".

      Be methodical, plodding, patient and open-minded. You'll succeed far sooner than you ever dreamed! The initial newbies, if you employ them, will help newer newbies. And the love will spread...

      Do I sound like I've done this before? ;-)

    • Re:Good Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rseuhs ( 322520 )
      I think the best would be a 3-step strategy:

      • 1) Install StarOffice and Mozilla on all computers and switch to multi-platform standards like rtf, pdf or Staroffices format.
      • 2) Fade out IE, MS Office and all Windows-only apps. This will be the hardest thing to do. Don't buy any upgrades, tell users to use Staroffice when they notice that they can't read the newest .docs with MS Office anymore. If you need some Windows-only apps, you can check if they work reliably in Wine, which is likely with office-apps.
      • 3) Don't switch PCs to Linux, just gradually replace Win PCs with Linux PCs when they are getting old and are renewed.

      Only proceed to the next step when the current one is fully completed.

      You can also run MS Office with CodeWeaver's CrossOver (also based on Wine), but since you want to cut costs, you probably don't want to run MS Office.

    • Even thou we have a license's for Netscape, we went to apache on Solaris for most of our servers. We do buy Allaire java jrun, but they are very stable with over hundreds of hits per second.

      Some of the open source products I can think off, are Apache, Bind, Sendmail, Mysql, Postfix, perl, mrtg, etc. We also have commercial equivalents for most, which do think is the most stable? Theres alot of push to go with the multi-million dollar companies, and high profile software. Many times I look at a billing server and shake my head in disgust.

      www.spoonwizard.com [spoonwizard.com]
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:20PM (#3538706) Homepage Journal
    Give the techies the linux boxes and the business guys keep windows. Always keep window's boxes, cause customers will always send documents and reports in some microsoft format, so make it available.

    Plus, changing business guys over to linux is no easy task.
    • This is the correct solution for the majority of configurations. Since there is NOT a one-to-one coorespondence between MS and Linux apps, and because Linux simply cannot read some of the MS formats (Access DB, oddities in Excel/Word files), you still need to keep some MS products around.

      Unfortunately, introducing another Operating System into your (until now) heterogenous network can cause some headaches. Most notably (at least in my case), backups can become a problem. We use AMANDA here for our backups and haven't had a problem. YMMV. File serving is a breeze (and FAST) with samba so you shouldn't run into any problems there.

      Expect to spend a significant amount of time explaining "Windows Equivalents" to your users. Cut and Paste for example, can be a PITA.

      It can be done. Don't let anyone tell you it can't.
      • erm. When I said:

        "...Linux simply cannot read some of the MS formats (Access DB, oddities in Excel/Word files), you still need to keep some MS products around"

        I really meant:

        "...Linux apps capable of reading all of the MS formats (Access DB, oddities in Excel/Word files), do not exist yet, you still need to keep some MS products around."
    • We can barely get some of the administrative people we have trained on Windows.

      I tried to get my fiance to use Linux (SuSE 8.0), her response was "I don't want to learn Linux. I want to use Windows, that's what we have at work". Even though 90% of what she does on her computer at home (online banking, documents, web surfing) can be done just as easily on Linux, the exception being playing games (which I already have a dedicated machine for doing just that).

      I tried telling her "There's nothing to learn really, you click on the menu, launch the program and use it like you would a Windows computer". Alas, to no avail.

      My point being, even if you convince them it's cheaper, more stable, they won't care unless you force it down their throats. It's like medicine or a new dish. Some people like to try new things, others don't.

      Not to mention the fact that you have to convince them that productivity won't be hurt. (now the Systems and help desk productivity might be hurt having to run around and say to everyone "it's just like windows". Your biggest problems will come when everyone and their dog wants to install their personal stuff (screensavers, wallpaper, P2P apps, etc...) on their new Linux machines, then get mad when you tell them it won't work.
      • "Your biggest problems will come when everyone and their dog wants to install their personal stuff (screensavers, wallpaper, P2P apps, etc...) on their new Linux machines, then get mad when you tell them it won't work."

        Screensavers? Have you SEEN the latest full Gnome install? I could spend an hour browsing through the stock screen savers! As for wallpaper, that's cross platform. A jpeg is a jpeg is a jpeg. P2P apps would be a problem if it wasn't for wine [codeweavers.com] and people like Frank [franksworld.net], who've figured it out for you. Closed formats are really the only thing that Microsoft apps can read that Linux apps can't. Even that barrier is crumbling.
      • That's funny (Score:2, Informative)

        by dar ( 15755 )
        I don't have any problem using my Windows wallpapers on linux.
      • Your biggest problems will come when everyone and their dog wants to install their personal stuff (screensavers, wallpaper, P2P apps, etc...) on their new Linux machines, then get mad when you tell them it won't work.

        If you were doing your "anal administrator" job properly, this isn't a problem. You see, the anal NT admin would only allow the end user to use the mouse on their machine. Typing would require an admin password.

        So the answer is to become an anal NT admin, then switch everybody to Linux when they are used to not being able to do anything.
  • Standard functionality ( such as office, email ) you can do, but trying to find a replacement for something 'specilaized' wont be easy.. and forget wine running something 'wierd' ( at least today ).

    Perhaps use linux on desktop + metaframe
    ( plugin for citrix works great on linux ) for those apps you just *cant* replace...
    • by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:26PM (#3538775)
      Actually, specialized apps are often developed by small companies who don't use the newest wizbang API's that trouble Wine. I've got several specialized apps running on Wine that run perfectly. Sure, the file open/save dialogs look like the ones on original Win95 but who cares if the app solves the problem at hand.
    • ( plugin for citrix works great on linux ) for those apps you just *cant* replace.

      The Java client works well in Mac OS X too. Use it everyday to manage legacy NT servers which I will shoot once we are finished with them.

    • If you've still got an old copy of Win95 you could try tunning the really wacko stuff under Win4Lin or VMWare. Of course, you might get some strange looks from the users you're trying to convert, as Windows launches on their new Linux system that you bought to get out from under Microsoft.
    • We've been using rdesktop for a while now. We are in the process of converting a call center to linux desktops with rdesktop for accessing some windows applications (that were handled in a term serv client window before anyway...). It's fast, free and works great.
    • They could always try recompiling them. As long as they aren't written in VB, who knows, it just might work. There may be some porting necessary, and I don't have any experience with porting to know how big of a problem that would be (I've only tried it on a few simple C++ programs I wrote in Borland on Windows, and I didn't have any problems with a straight recompile).

      If they are written in VB, I remember seeing a Borland ad that said they will port VB apps to Linux about 2 years ago. That might be worth looking into.

      This is assuming, of course, that these are specialized in-house apps. It would be nice if there were a little more detail provided about the nature of these specialized apps, or even what business the guy is in might help us name some alternatives.

      Who knows, maybe the providor of those apps have already done, or are working on, a Linux port. Has he talked to them about it?

  • Paper, pencils, crayons for those dazzling multi-color pie charts, in/out trays, and paper clips. No licensing fees, no support needs, no viruses. What could be better?
  • Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:23PM (#3538735)
    Don't upgrade. Office 97/2000 will work fine for the next few years. At that time, your financial circumstances may be different or Linux may have even closed the gap some more making it a more viable alternative. Who knows, maybe a miracle will happen and M$ will develop Office for Linux (who's laughing now?)
    • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:30PM (#3538804) Homepage
      It does seem like it should be that simple but you neglect the existence of the BSA audit. If you go that route you can expect to hear from the BSA before too long offering an amnesty if you buy the latest versions of the software. If you don't, of course, they'll take you to court and they'll get you for that one or two pieces of software you didn't license. Every company has one or two pieces of software they didn't license. That's all they need to get you for the software costs and legal fees. Fun, non?

      My suggestion is that if you choose not to go the Microsoft route make a point of either:

      1) purging every vestige of microsoft's sofware from your office

      2) making sure everything is in pristine order for when the BSA comes along

      • Looks like Seattle schools are going to have the same problem [usatoday.com] as you.

        From the article
        Call Eric Harrison at the Multnomah Educational Service District in Portland, Ore. Since 1997, Harrison has been developing networks based on the free Linux operating system. His latest project links 40 older PCs to a single set of software applications running on a central Linux server computer. The cost: $200 a seat vs. $1,500 a seat for PCs running Microsoft, he says.
      • F*** the BSA. If the BSA comes anywhere near you, and you are not some major corporation who would lose as much from the bad publicity as MS would, flip em off. Tell them to come back with a warrant if they want to conduct any type of audit. THen go to every media outlet you know of (the problem solers, etc.) and explain how MS' jackbooted thugs are harrassing you for no reason, how the cost of doing the audit is a heavy financial burden on your company, etc. MS' can not and dos not want to deal with the bad publicity anymore. Period.

        Of course, none of this applies if you have bootleg software all over the place, but if you are legit company who is slightly out of compliance, fight back. And don't forget to call your attorney too.
    • Not so simple.

      Newer machines come with newer OS/Software only which is OEM bundled and not replaceable by your old "compatible" OS. Your older OS will either not work on them, or you will not have a legal license or both.

      As a result, if you need to replace just one machine you immediately open a can of worms that will be very hard to close after that. You may repair machines ad naseum but no new ones. Which obviously is not always possible.
  • by whizzird ( 129373 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:25PM (#3538753)
    I'd suggest having the users (or leads or whatever) try the windows version of star office. Make sure they can do what they need to do, before you switch them. Otherwise you'll be forced to switch back, and they'll have a negative view of Linux.
    Also make a list (you can't plan something like this too much) of all the apps they're using, and what features they're using, and make sure you can provide all of those features before you switch.

    And put lots of pictures of Tux around the place. His cute smile will calm everyone's fears. :)
  • by essdodson ( 466448 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:26PM (#3538770) Homepage
    Have your finance people taken into account that the majority of the employees know Microsoft products fairly well and would have to be retrained for such a migration. The problem getting Linux or other OSS into the office isn't cost or a technical issue. Its a people issue, plain and simple people know MS Products, they've been using them for years. A move to a completely different operating system and business suit will leave the employees feeling abandoned and useless and will more than likely hurt productivity.

    Something to consider. This is probably the biggest reason that OSS has had such a hard time infiltrating the office.

    • This is just a lot of FUD. Currently Linux Windows Managers are an easy transistion from Windows. In fact most Windows users will catch on quickly. The biggest train issue will be the Office Suite. Luckly most office suites tend to be a lot like MS Office in Menus and Commands to the move won't be as hard as expected. No retrain won't be a big problem. The problem will be the fear of moving from Windows to Linux that some of the Employees will have.
      • Mod parent up, please.

        We switched our e-mail system from pure POP3 (using Netscape) to Lotus Notes about a year and a half ago. Despite all the propaganda we've put in place, there are still people who won't use Notes. Most give me some bull about how "it's too hard, I don't know how to get my mail". I'm pretty confident this is just stubborn whining because the default opening screen in Notes has a gigantic bright yellow envelope, labeled "Mail" in large letters, occupying the upper left corner of the screen. Happily, though, the number of whiners is subject to attrition, and is down to the single digits now.

        Most other posters have already discussed decent strategies. Just keep on the propaganda, and be patient.
      • by mckayc ( 307712 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:27PM (#3539240)
        Put your average Windows user in front of a Linux box and ask them to do something they can do in Windows like change the background. Watch them panic when they can't do it, or don't know where the C Drive is. It's not because they're stupid, they're just not used to the differences between the two OSes.

        If you ignore the issue of retraining because "Linux Windows Managers are an easy transition" you're quite simply dimwitted.
        • Most Windows users don't know where the C drive is. They store everything they do in My Documents because that's what the save screen defaults to. They may put in some subdirectories, but that's about as advanced as your likely to see on the average user's machine.

          You could tell the average windows user they have to save everything on the D drive and you'd encounter at least as much panic as you would switching them to a different OS.

    • The vast majority of the users I've worked never use things like mail merges, bulletted lists, tables or forms - most people type the same memo over and over again, just by opening the last one. We don' need no steenking "templates"!

      I think the retraining issue is important for about 5% of the users, the rest is just FUD.
    • OpenOffice (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Weasel Boy ( 13855 )
      As a user already familiar with MS Office, I had no difficulty at all learning how to use StarOffice. The migration was almost completely painless. The only hangup I've hit so far is that OLE controls on speadsheets (buttons, checkboxes, etc.) don't translate -- but that's a very esoteric feature. 90% of users will not see any significant difference.
    • by jmarca ( 303319 )
      Many years ago the company I worked for migrated from word perfect lotus 123 to work/excel. it was a
      painful transition for the average secretary, but the tech staff didn't care much.

      In my opinion, the people who claim to "know" ms office products actually have an arcane set of incantations and bad practices that get the job done. the retraining you speak of should be rephrased as "learning a whole new set of bad heuristics". I haven't really used any ms product since 1997, but when i glace over my shoulder at my wife's work on word, i want to retch at her one-at-a-time modification of paragraph styles, intendation, and so on. And she is considered a small miracle worker amongst her co-workers.

      That aside, my migration path away from windows is to get away from the whole what you see is what you get trap. what you see is all you get. Instead,
      make everybody use LaTeX, cold turkey, and hire a LaTeX hack to devise a set of document formats for your company---reports, memos, letters, etc. That's how I switched. First MikTeX, then Emacs to use MikTeX, then ghostview to see the .ps output, then gnumeric got pretty usable at version 0.4 i think, and voila, i jumped into linux with a completely compatible set of skills.

      I've been installing MikTeX around the office here on various windows boxes, and the latest setup is pretty nice, and there are some excellent setup instructions linked from that page. Although Emacs has a learning curve, AucTeX is pretty great, and with Flyspell running in the background, Word users can even get their spelling checked as they type.

    • by iabervon ( 1971 )
      At this point, you're going to have to invest a substantial amount in retraining, regardless of what you do, because different versions of windows don't work the same way. In '95 I switched from windows 3.1 to Linux. It took me some time to get used to Linux. But everything I learned at that point still works.

      With my knowledge of Windows 3.1, I couldn't figure out anything at all about Windows 95, let alone anything more recent. Had I taken the time to learn Windows 95, I would have had little advantage in learning 2K, let alone XP. Furthermore, there's so much fragmentation in windows software that, when I was using Word at one point, experienced people using the same version on a different computer couldn't explain how to do things.

      Cost of retraining is a significant factor, and you shouldn't do it until you have to. But sticking with MicroSoft doesn't reduce the cost, and it means that you'll get hit with it again in 2-3 years.
  • by forkboy ( 8644 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:27PM (#3538779) Homepage
    Are you looking to get away from M$ entirely, or just Office because of its hideous licensing scheme?

    You're in for a real treat if you're going to try and get an alternative OS going in an environment that's not filled with techies....most of these people took years just to "learn" Windows, Linux (or whatever) is going to be a nightmare for them.

    Maybe you should just look into a different office suite.

    As a side note, it really bites my ass that M$ is trying to leverage companies into paying more money because of the fear of having to switch to new apps that possibly might be incompatible with other companies' documents. Yet another reason proprietary technology sucks. There needs to be an industry-wide switch to open document formats....RTF and whatever the spreadsheet and presentation software equivalents might be.

  • by T3kno ( 51315 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:28PM (#3538786) Homepage
    If I were doing this I would create a "I want that" sort of environment. What I mean is pick a Linux distro that has a lot of eye candy and cool features, ala SuSE or Mandrake, and give it to some of your more advanced users, those willing to experiment a little bit. Let them play around with it, and give them some freedom to customize as much as they want. Once they start to really make the GUI look nice, and playing with some of the stuff that is just not available with out of the box Windows/Office they will start to attract other users. Have them tell the rest of the staff that this is the "future" and they are beta testing for the optimal environment. It wouldn't hurt if you got them new machine, or monitors, give a users some incentive to learn and use Linux.

    With KDE 3 it's really not that hard to learn the OS, how many Windows users use a CMD shell, the same will be true for the average run of the mill Linux user if the GUI is setup right. I have been using KDE3 for a while now and it is at least as easy if not easier than Windows to do just about anything.

    If you allow fairly unrestricted Internet access I would make sure that all of the multimedia apps are working correctly, and that flash is working as well. These are big things for the weenies, they want the bells and whistles that Windows provides, and with a good distro they're all there, but they may need some tweaking to get them running flawlessly.

    Just my $0.02, but that is what I would do.
  • Slow transition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:28PM (#3538789) Homepage Journal
    Plan a slow transition. Microsoft is going to hit you with a deadline to buy into their subscription system. The deadline is that if you don't buy in by then, you have to pay full price for upgrades in the future. But you can ignore that since you'll be transitioning away from Microsoft instead of upgrading.

    If you're lucky, your custom apps will run with Wine or can even be compiled with winelib to be native on Linux, even if they are a pain to port to real Linux apps.

    If you find you can't effectively transition your apps, you can stick with Windows, but drop Office in favor of Star/Open Office. Even if you get stuck paying more for OS licensing, you'll save a huge bundle on the other licenses. If you do that, just be sure you're very careful with not letting unlicensed copies of MS Office onto your systems, or you'll be in big trouble if a BSA audit comes along.

    • If you find you can't effectively transition your apps, you can stick with Windows, but drop Office in favor of Star/Open Office.

      Has anyone tried that, or plans to do that? How good is the compatibility between OpenOffice & MS Office?
      How many complains about unreadable Ms Access databases, or not working Excel forms should the IT department expect?
    • Buy StarOffice for all and switch everybody over to it. Keep your user systems running Windows, but stop upgrading them, just patch them as needed for security. Let new hardware purchases supply new Windows licenses if needed, otherwise buy OS less machines and put Linux and StarOffice on them for new employies and upgrades.

      The need for specialized applications may hamper your getting fully off M$ products. First try them all under Wine, noting sucesses and failures. Contact the software suppliers in question for the ones that don't work and ask when they will have them running under Linux natively or under Linux/Wine. Do so in a respectfull manner, and use company letterhead in all snailmail corespondence. Tell them specifically that your company has made the decision to switch to Linux (even if it isn't true) and you want their app on Linux or you will go elsewhere. Don't forget to mention your position in the company. Embelish it a bit if needed.

      Make sure you have licenses for all the installed software, if not remove it from the system.

  • by schowley ( 415879 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:28PM (#3538792) Homepage Journal
    The company I work for will be converting the entire backend to Sun Microsystems machines. While working with the Sun engineers I asked about alternatives to M$ as well, and it turns out that moving off M$ to a Sun thin client was easier than I had expected. We have 110 users and may look at using the Sun iplanet app server to administer our in house apps through an intranet portal to the desktop.
  • HTH (Score:5, Informative)

    by cymraeg ( 578870 ) <sean AT full DOT vu> on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:29PM (#3538799)

    In my experience, it's best to replace your servers with Linux, particularly because end-users tend to be more resistant to change concerning their day-to-day activities. If you're using Windows NT for file and print sharing, then you can easily replace those with Linux and Samba. The user's won't care what the server OS is so long as they have access to their files and printers. Most of your cash outflow can be stopped here. Of course, if you have specialized apps that require MS software (ASP scripts), then you'll need to maintain those, but for pure file and print sharing, you can easily go the Linux/Samba route.

    For internet services, you're set. Linux can do everything Windows can and more. For SQL services, you can migrate data from MS SQL to any myriad of free SQL servers available from Linux. Just make sure that your SQL statements are ANSI compliant.

    You'll just have to handle these on a case-by-case basis.

    For the end users, consider OpenOffice as a replacement for MS Office. There are plenty of good browsers for Linux (Mozilla and Opera) that can replace IE. Eventually, you can get users used to using Linux with KDE/GNOME and still give them the functionality they need.

    One caveat: in my experience, leave the accountants alone. They tend to be moody, set in their ways, and can become quite a strain on your happiness if you try to mess with their routines.

    The only thing I can offer you advice on are your custom apps. For those you can either just live with the fact that you need MS for them, try to find Open Source alternatives, or if written in-house, consider porting.

    I hope this helps you a tiny bit. Best of luck!

  • I would suggest that you proceed slowly. Linux doesn't have the mature GUI that Windows offers and it takes some getting used to. Most non-technical people are inherently disturbed by change - they fear change. My current employer is considering this. We have organized groups by job function. The admin assistants will be going first since word processing, email, etc. are fairly robust for Linux. I suggest that you look at Ximian.com and their Evolution product, namely for the email client. I also suggest AbiWord as a good "Word" replacement. The whole office suite is relatively simple to replace.

    Our developers and IT staff, which make a large part of our company, are having difficulty since we use many of those "specalized applications" that you were referring to. We have had some luck with WINE. You might also want to check out Lindows. VMWare is another option, but that still requires a Windows license - however - it wil allow you to run what just became your legacy apps until you can migrate off them as well.

  • One way ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <jonkje@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:29PM (#3538801) Homepage
    ... is the hard and brutal way. Buy some easy Linux distros (Mandrake or perhaps RedHat) then send all employees away to learn about using Linux. If they are depending on the haunting .doc format run Office through Wine. The special windows software should either be run through Wine or in an emulator such as VMware (although this would require a separate Windows license.) Get some geeks/gurus to work on making Wine working near perfect.

    Whatever you chose professional training and a support deal with the distro manufacturer.
    • Re:One way ... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dasmegabyte ( 267018 )
      Great. Way to make things cheaper, ace.

      Support deal: $100 per seat, maybe $10,000 for a site.

      Training: $1000 per user, and it probably won't help if it took them years of hands on to learn Windows. You weren't thinking a $50 CompUSA class, were you?

      VMWare: $100 per seat plus the windows license.

      Plus the work you lose while the enployees away and when they come back and resist the transition.

      Those $200 yearly office upgrades don't look so bad when combined with your $1200 per machine transition costs (plus labor costs and $100 "geeks" working to make Wine work "near perfect").
  • by VAXGeek ( 3443 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:30PM (#3538802) Homepage
    I suggest moving your server to an Intel 386DX/33 with at LEAST 16 mb of RAM. That should have no problem running a pre-1997 version of Linux. For Internet connectivity, you can get a 56k modem very cheaply from Best Buy. You should be able to lease a 24 hour 56k baud line from Earthlink at about $60 a month. This will be much cheaper than the costly T1 you have now. Move the clients to VT320s. You should be able to find a few terminal servers at Salvation Army, or perhaps K-mart. As for Office Software, hand out LaTeX manuals and have your users use vi for inputting, and then they can run LaTeX for the nice output. This should save on licensing costs on the server/clients, and a VT320 is a lot easier to maintain than a full PC. Instead of Outlook, teach your users how to use mailx. Instead of IE, give them a few lessons in lynx. You might want to limit the amount of users that you let surf the web concurrently, because with 16mb of RAM, we don't want the server thrashing too hard. Backups should be no problem. You should be able to fit all of the server's data files onto a zipdisk, which you can connect through the parallel port on the PC. Also, junk all your old HP LaserJets and pick up some old DEC LP printers. They can do quite a few pages an hour, as long as you don't mind the noise. If you implement my plan, I bet your users will be smiling all day!
  • Micro$oft has way too much dominance in the business world when it comes to office applications. This is why I hope Lindows is able to proceed into development and future release onto desktops. That way, we can still run what I believe to be one of the best word-processing programs on the planet, yet still run an operating system that is more stable than Windows (and not overly priced).
  • by bsharma ( 577257 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:32PM (#3538816)
    I have been using it and it is simply great. Absolutely better than StarOffice and a fraction of the MS Office cost.
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:32PM (#3538818) Homepage
    Give me your business name and location. I will call the BSA to perform a free audit of your company. I am sure after the friendly BSA auditors finish, your boss will see the reduction of cost moving to Linux will be. Don't worry about paying my consultancy fee for assisting you in this matter, I am sure the BSA will kick back some bucks to me because, without a doubt, your finance guys forgot to pay for every license for every software package on your company's computers.
  • by jest3r ( 458429 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:33PM (#3538824)
    At this point you really don't .. because most of your employees also use Windows at home ...

    As an experiment some of our more computer literate employees switched to Linux - but in the end had to switch back due to a plethora of small but annoying problems.

    These included opening files sent via email .. as well as simple things like fonts not displaying properly .. websites not working properly (ie. streaming win media) (yes we know about crossover but BUYING a program to run FREE windows programs seems wrong) .. file system structure .. and believe it or not the 'ugly' interface was mentioned quite a few times. Yes GNOME looks nice - but its nowhere near as polished as Windows or Aqua ..
  • by nedron ( 5294 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:33PM (#3538825) Homepage
    I would call this a small company, but that actually makes the proposition easier.

    First, evaluate the alternatives. What applications can be replaced with Linux equivalents and which can't. For the ones that can't, would it be cost-effective to consider limited licensing for those apps and running them from a Windows terminal service with Citrix Metaframe installed? Or would it be cheaper to by VMWare licenses for those users who absolutely have to run some esoteric Windows app.

    When the alternatives have been considered, propose a pilot targetting a limited group of users to see whether the can continue their normal work routine on the new platform.

    These are all starting points. The tough one is what to do about apps that only exist on Windows and are critical to the job the person is doing.

  • Well... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Arminius ( 84868 )
    I work for a large transportation airline. We are a large Sun shop. We are currently looking at switching over to Sun Office 6.0. Our software costs shold be dramatically reduced while maintaining MS office "compatibility". The compatibility issues seem to be the biggest factors we are addressing at this time.
  • I work for a small company (4 people) and MS called us to try and get us to subscribe to their maintenance program. The first thing they said was "MS Project 2002 is going to be 4 times the cost of Project 2000 unless we got on the <something - he mumbled> upgrade package".
    • I work for a small company (4 people) and MS called us to try and get us to subscribe to their maintenance program. The first thing they said was "MS Project 2002 is going to be 4 times the cost of Project 2000 unless we got on the upgrade package".

      Oh that would be *beautiful*... my immediate response: Oh! That makes the decision much simpler - we'll just migrate to Linux and save lots of $$$. Retraining is no worse than training people to use M$ products anyway (probably less in the long run).

  • The "specialized apps" are where it really makes the difference, unfortunately. For example, if you're doing mechanical engineering, there's nothing out there like Pro/ENGINEER for linux (That I know of...). Also, stupid little things like shipping and receiving needing to use UPS software and accounting using Peachtree or Quickbooks. There's not a lot of professional-level software like this out there for Linux. Don't get me wrong - there's a lot of stuff - I run it exclusively, but I have to reboot to use Pro/E.
    • I agree, the apps matter.

      Last time I tried staroffice it was good, but not 100%, which isn't surprising, MS office itself isn't 100%.

      But what about CAD, you must use the exact same program, and VERSION, along with handfuls of specific apps.

      There is also the ever common MS Access Databases (which are quite nice for many simple tasks).

      Not to mention the crazy Calculation programs most larger technical companies have, heck I still use some DOS programs regularly.

      With Microsofts past history more companies are getting scared to just upgrade, they evaluate whether EVERY application works properly and take it nice and slow, moving to Linux would be quite a jump. It likely is quite a bit cheaper to just pay $2k/yr and stay with MS
  • Keep the users on windows for now.

    StarOffice 6.0 (get the supported version from Sun) $76.95/user

    Mozilla 1.0 or Netscape 6.2.3 (1.0 will be out end of month)

    SunONE Calendar Server 5.1 (formerly iPlanet, formerly Netscape) web interface, email integration $30/user

    Cyrus IMAP 2.x (available with most distros)

    OpenLDAP 2.0.xx (available with most distros also needed for the Calender Server)

    pam_ldap (available with most distros)

    Your fave distro with a recent version of Samba

    Use the LDAP server for centralized user management, the Samba server for file sharing and authentication for the Windows boxes. The Calendar Server + Cyrus + OpenLDAP should make a nifty Exchange Server Replacement.Of course, don't forget Sendmail, which has some nifty integration with LDAP too.

    All relavent documentation for doing this should be available on the web, mailing list archives and such.

    You will need a Sparc, HP-UX or WinNT 4.0 box for the Calendar Server, but that should run you less than $1K for an older UltraSparc or around $1K for one of the new mini servers Sun is selling now.

    So, total cost of migration (minus Labor)

    ~$1K for Sparc box
    $106.95/user for software
    ~$70 Your favorite distro

    10 users for less than $2500 plus Labor if you recycle existing hardware..... not bad, what's that? 1 Win2K Server License + 1 Copy of Exchange 2000 without the client licenses or the Office licenses?

    Oh yeah, and now you can manage the servers via dial-up over ssh. Sweet!!!!!
  • It sounds like you're afraid that what you have won't be viable in a few years. If you have Windows 2000 and Office 2000 or XP, though, you should be fine.

    Read this article [com.com] on CNet. In your case, forget the Software Assurance program and buy OEM licenses from your vendors. The cost increases that Gartner is factoring are for the retail copies of Windows and Office -- OEM copies are usually about 60% of that price.

    Microsoft's licensing changes have pissed off a lot of customers, and a lot of those customers are migrating off Windows and onto Linux on their servers (because heck, it's $999 for Windows 2000 Server and migrating to Samba/Linux doesn't involve much retraining for your users.)

    I would be hesitant to push users off of Windows and Office at this point, especially if I had an all-Windows 2000 shop. With only 50 users, you can get a VAR to hook you up with OEM copies of the latest and greatest Windows/Office at any time without buying in to the Software Assurance program. Thus, I wouldn't worry too much about licensing changes. If you want to see the greatest benefit with the least migration cost, put your web and workgroup servers on Linux.

    The desktops, however, are often more trouble than they are worth. I'd leave them alone if I were you. The migration and training costs just aren't worth it at this point. The best thing you can do is just to get them all on the same version of Windows (2000) and Office (2000 or XP) and leave them alone from there. You can look at it again in a couple of years.
  • And its a huge nightmare the more we think of it and that's just the tech side. And we use Corel Office, so should have an easier time. The problem is all those custom access databases that people have that won't work anymore. That's gonna hurt big time. OpenOffice is good. Heck its great. But there isn't an access equivelent yet. That's were all the customization dookickeys happen that the IT staff probably won't know about. And they important. Other then that we may be doing it. It looks good, its cheaper, we can make more simple user menus. People can't install their cool version of something unless we let them. Less viruses. Less crashing. Better preformance on lower grade hardware. If people can run word processing, spread sheet, access the internet, get mail, run calendars, print, listen to a cd, and not crash 10 minutes into the day. People would be thrilled. Dang. Now I gotta go fix someone else.
  • I'd agree with an earlier poster: Stick with what you have for now. Software doesn't wear out; as long as you have the features you need, don't upgrade.

    If you must upgrade, what about Apple Mac's? Is the Office licensing the same for Office for MacOS?

    Another alternative: WordPerfect. The word processor is just as good, if not better than Word; the drawback is that the spreadsheet, while decent for many tasks, isn't suited for power Excel users. The last two versions of WP even run VB.
  • Several people have replied about migrating to StarOffice (can't say anything about OpenOffice since I've never used it). They are right in pointing out that getting the office apps right is the numero uno priority. Anything that a user uses 85% of the time is going to be something that they are very passionate about. Which brings me to my point.

    Now to be honest, I haven't looked at SO in about a year, so things might have changed since then. But my impression (as a very long time Word/Excel user) was that the program was not up to snuff. On equivilent hardware it took forever and a day just to start up, the user interface is radically different than office products, and it just had a very clunky feel to it. Now the first two issues don't speak to whether SO is actually _better_, just different enough to create a learning curve. A learning curve that it will be hard to get the average user to try to tackle without a pretty darn good reason. I think that this will be your biggest hurdle. Saving a few bucks here or there is important only to the bean counters. And if those bean counters are going to be forced to switch from Excel (which most know quite intimately) to SO, then they might not be so quick to want to switch.
  • Linux can be made a lot friendlier just by configuring the desktop for really easy use.

    This is a small change to the way KDE and Gnome look, but I think it's an important change: the typical Gnome taskbar along the bottom is three times as big as Windows users are used to, and is cluttered with a bunch of useless toys. Get rid of everything except the buttons that indicate which programs are running, and of course the button that users think of as the "start" button.

    The default menus in most distros are also way too extensive. They tend to have the same thing several times in several places. Pick the dozon or so programs your users generally need and put them in the main "start" menu. Hide the rest in a single "advanced" menu, or even get rid of the menu items altogether.

    Put icons for the most important programs right on the desktop: Spreadsheet, Word Processor (not "Text Document" like Open Office says), etc.

    By default, don't allow multiple desktops. Users who are advanced enough to understand the concept will know to ask you for it.

    Finally, sit and watch users play with the system. Note any place that they frown and get confused. Don't believe self-deprecatory excuses that they just don't know what they're doing and they're sure the system is fine: if they don't know how to do something it's the systems' fault for not being easy enough.

  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:53PM (#3538982)
    Demonstrate that you can play those two essentials on Linux just as well as on Windows, and you'll have no problems from there on out.
  • Windows=Linux (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:54PM (#3538988) Journal
    Each shop is unique, so there's no boilerplate migration plan. But here's my two cents:

    I'm slowly migrating to Linux at my company. So far it's going pretty well. We had to add an extra box to everyone's desk in the call center due to [Non-Disclosure Agreement], so I spent $1000 for some old P233MMX w/64MB RAM, slapped Linux on them, and the users went to town.

    After a couple of months with Linux in production I have to say that it's going well. Help desk calls are waaaaay down and users are happy. I've said this before, but here goes: users don't remember the last time they rebooted the Linux box, but sure remember the last time they rebooted Windows.

    We're replacing Windows boxes right now by attrition, but plan to replace them all by the end of the year - OS, not hardware.

    Since Office runs on Linux now it's at least theoretically possible to standardize on Open Office or something internally and have a single box with a single MS Office license converting both incoming and outgoing attachments to and from MS office format. When an open-source conversion utility comes out, you'll probably be able to abandon MS Office altogether but keep compatability with others.

    Be aware that Citrix ain't really that cheap a solution. You'll pay through the nose for licenses (application licenses for each connectd user, terminal server client access licenses for each connection, citrix licenses for each user, and connection licenses for each computer). You have to get licenses for client machines (unless they're Windows 2k or XP which have their own) that connect to a Citrix server, which defeats the financial purpose of replacing Windows with Linux.

  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @02:58PM (#3539026) Journal
    you can check here [robval.com] an interesting review between Microsoft and generic Open Source software in a business environment.
    Here is a quote:

    This review focused on Red Hat Linux 7.1 from a business user's view and attempted to answer my client's question "Can Linux be used as a replacement for Windows 2000". After an intensive hands-on Linux project lasting several months, I was able to provide my client with a pertinent answer to this question.

    Based on a solid Linux business plan, my client decided that Linux was a good investment for most of the company's employees, but will retain a few key Windows computers in the office for specific applications. Connecting Linux and Windows computers on the same network, and sharing Office 97/2000 files between the different OSs, is easy and works well, thanks to Red Hat Linux and Star Office. The primary reason for this decision was a $10,000 saving on his IT budget! For support reasons, he decided to use a local Linux supplier for installation and configuration work. View the Summary and the Details.

    For other business users, here is my advice:

    * For whatever reason, if you want to get started with Linux, or implement an office network of Linux and Windows clients, Red Hat Linux 7.1 is very much the way to go. Red Hat Linux 7.1 can be used as an alternative to Windows 2000! You will be stunned by the bang for the buck that Linux bundled free "open source" software offers. Red Hat Linux is a complete server (LAN, Web, SQL) and offers excellent desktop applications for corporate users. Each business user will need to look at the benefits of using Linux (no software licensing fees, fewer hardware upgrades, many good applications) and the costs (installation, configuration, upgrades, training, support). If the benefits outweigh the costs, then you have an affordable viable desktop alternative to Windows.

    *Red Hat Linux 7.1 is a great package: it provides a smooth installation, has many good applications and is an especially attractive option for small to medium-size offices. However, many business users will want to purchase a computer with Linux pre-installed, or at least use a Linux support professional for post-installation configurations, maintenance and upgrades, just as you currently do for Windows.

    Still, in my opinion, the great majority of end-users is still too dumb and this will cause you greater troubles, at least with all the time you will waste trying to explain'em that No, You Can'T Have A Dancing Lady On Your Desktop, And Even If You Were In A Windows Environment You Just Cannot Install It And Later Complain Because You Got a Virus!

    However, have fun.
  • I found this article online a few weeks ago, maybe off of /. I can't remember. Anyways, it gives some great real world examples of Open Source software in the workplace, along with the cost savings. Definetly worth a read if you're looking for facts to back up this decision.

  • by GroundBounce ( 20126 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:03PM (#3539052)
    I work for a medium sized (~40) company and we are no longer MS dominated.

    Disclosure: we are an engineering company, so we have been doing some things on UNIX for a long time.

    Having said that, our current mix is around 85% non-MS and 15% MS. For our engineering tasks, we use software that never did come from MS (although it was supported on the Windows platform, even though we never used it on Windows). For most of our "office" tasks, we use StarOffice 5.2 and will be moving to 6.0. All of this is now running on Linux based PCs.

    The 15% MS portion is mainly for certain cases where we must use the same tool as our customer, and the customer want's to use MS tools (mostly spec. and project management related).

    All-in-all, it works pretty well, and it definitely shaves $$ off your overhead costs, not to mention reduced audit worries.
  • aren't very hard to find. There are some online at the Mandrake website here [linux-mandrake.com] and others elsewhere (use Google).

    Microsoft can't force you to upgrade your existing software, so take your time. Set up a couple of test Linux desktop systems (KDE looks/works like Windows) with OpenOffice 1.0 or StarOffice 6.0 (if you want/need things like templates) and Netscape 6.2 maybe, Gabber for instant-messaging, and look into Evolution if you need a Microsoft email/calendar workalike.

    Then setup Wine (or CrossOver Office) for the few specialized applications and get them working well. Clone your desktop system for a few recruits (managers, if possible) and do some hand holding, er... training, until they're comfortable.

    After that, it shouldn't be too painful to move the rest of the company onto all-Linux desktops. If you can avoid future rounds of Microsoft taxes for WindowsXP/OfficeXP (and later) this way, you will save about $700/user, or almost $35,000 _per year_. You'll save more if you replace those Sun machines with Linux, too, instead of upgrades.

  • users will complain (Score:2, Interesting)

    by g4dget ( 579145 )
    It doesn't matter whether StarOffice is an adequate replacement for Microsoft Office or not, you can be certain that your users will complain. It's not really surprising either: imagine someone was forced to replace their Lincoln Towncar with a Toyota Camry. The Camry may be a reasonable replacement, but the person forced to switch won't like it and will become nostalgic about their wonderful old car.

    So, try to figure out how to motivate people to use the new software. Maybe you can arrange for people to share in the financial rewards of the switch (a small raise for all the MS Office users, financed from the license savings). If people see and share in the financial benefits, that might motivate them. On the other hand, if they are forced by decree to use something they consider inferior, it's going to be a disaster.

    Also consider introducing it gradually over the next year, requiring to use StarOffice for some peripheral business processes and getting people used to it without forcing them to switch cold.

    I would probably go with StarOffice (as opposed to the free suites), though. That's not because StarOffice is necessarily better, it's because you can point out that this is a commercial program, developed and supported by a large software company. You probably don't want to fight the "switch from Office" and "switch to open source software" battles at the same time. Once your users accept StarOffice, you can then still switch to OpenOffice.

  • I suggest you to just download a copy of OpenOffice which is the open source office suite for Windows. That might do it since it will do a small but consistent migration in the aplications. They will learn linux later as they perform their general tasks on a office suite that is more secure and has less bugs that MS OFfice.

    I suggest you to spend 20 USD in CD-R and burn copies of OpenOffice, then start distribuiting throught our your perzonel and tel them to do some test days where all their activities will be done completely in OpenOffice and they can migrate their data more confortably.
  • Well Sience you are already dealing with Sun for your servers StarOffice is an aforadable alternative to Office. The best thing to do is check all your office documents and make sure they work in StarOffice then alter any ones that dont work so they do. The next version of Solaris (9) will be shipping with Gnome later this year. This will provide a much more user friendly interface on top of a unix platform. To add to that if you planning on upgrading all the PC's anyways You may want to see if the Sun's SunRays are a good solution for you it makes administration easier and easier to train your emploies and if you have to stick with Windows the sunrays can be configures to run Windows threw a terminal server. Although you still have to play MS money it will be less then having 50 PCs installed.

    Apple Macintoshes may be a better fit you can have the MS Office on it and still have a pricing structure that is not unreasionable. Keep in mind that any migration will cost more money in the short term. With training and and remakes of custom software but they will pay for them selfs in time.
  • Linux adoption really comes down to the cost of hiring a capable staff.

    Large companies are an excelent target for Linux.

    Small to medium (50-500)sized companies are a good target as well. The right people for the job are going to be more expensive than you are used to though. Time to read mythical man month.

    When it comes to small companies smaller than 50 my advice is when you are big enough to justify a full time IT person, then it is time to consider it. The market isn't big enough (yet) to ask your neighboor for help with Linux, so you really can't attempt a switch with a part time computer guy.

    Unless that part timer happens to know Linux and Windows well.... In which case you should give him a raise because he isn't long for such a small operation. He will be offered a job he can't refuse RSN.

  • I am currently migrating a company 80+ users [150 employees] from 100% M$ to Linux. I think the tactics depends on the industry. I am working for a manufacturing company. The process is different then say , a law office.
    the first thing I did was bring in a linux. I have been able to easily manage the T1 for security, block inappropriate sites, and watch usage and traffic with Zero downtime :) .
    Yesterday our new server came in a Dual Athlon 360gig Raid5 monster! I will now integrate all the M$ servers, but one to this single server.
    Third step is to switch the ERP system.. and here is where the trick comes in. We will get a new ERP system that runs a java client instead of a M$ client. that will leave the desktops only needing M$Office. to conduct business. we will have to look at Code Weavers CrossOver plugin and at Staroffice6.0 and see which is the better solution. when switching to Linux on the desktop we will of course go Thin client. this will dramatically cut administration cost. and save allot of man power.
    In the engineering department we will be going to linux and ProE. YES ProE for Linux!! ProE for linux will be release at the end of this year. We will run redhat with acceleratedX drivers. just to keep it simple. (I don't think Xfree86 ever has full FireGL support any how). and then we are done
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:12PM (#3539114) Homepage Journal

    How does one begin to do migration from a totally dependent M$ shop to the least expensive options.

    A lot of it just comes down to file formats. If you can't switch now, then at least you can make it easier to switch later: have your users start saving their stuff to standardized formats instead of closed proprietary lock-in formats. Yes, OpenOffice can read MS Word files, but just about everything can read RTF, and RTF has all the functionality needed, 99% (subjective) of the time.

    Once you get out of needing dead-end tools, you'll be in a better position to be able to use whatever you want to.

    Start doing it now, even if you don't ever intend to break free of MS. Standard files might even be more compatable with future MS products than today's lock-in formats will be.

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:13PM (#3539121)
    First of all lay down your architecture. In our shop we started by loading a huge compaq server with memory. We went to a local used pc company and bought a whole bunch of used p350 machines at 100 dollars a piece. We loaded redhat 7.2 on the big server along with open office, mozilla and some other productivity apps. We turned on GDM on the big server to dish out x displays. Next we built a kickstart install to do the workstations. The kickstart does a standard minimal linux load with x and at the end of the install modifys the inittab to query the server for a display. These machines do nothing but X display so we wanted to capture the free cycles to run computatational fluid dynamics applications on. So we add the mosix kernel at the end of the kick start and boot the now running workstation. Another way to accomplish this is by using LTSP but it is more trouble than it is worth in my opinion. It is far easier to just load linux on the local disk. We totally control the desktop on each machine right down to the application icons...The moral of the story is "we are happier than pigs in shit with the outcome" and I have never had to show a single user how to use the kde desktop.
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:20PM (#3539179)

    I would install as many alternatives as you can, and make them the default. Open a doc in staroffice, and things should work. You can get at word, but not without going through a wrapper that requires you to email what staroffice cannot do that you need. Users will try to use staroffice where they can, where it fails they will tell you what doesn't work.

    Or to save even more money, just start migrating people to linux/kde/koffice, after verifying that their applications will work.

    Remember, you are a company, you have work to get done. Find out what tasks you really need to do, and then find a linux program to do it. For those who only use a few features of Word this is easy, koffice is there already. For those who need something complex, you might need wine, or devolpe your own solution.

    Do not forget to do some practice runs. Take your backups, restore them to a equivelent systems, and convert that system to linux with the old data, and run some fake transactions. (be careful not to get this data into the real world). And don't convert anyone before a major deadline. Accounting gets converted right after payday, and nowhere near april 15th!

    You don't have a hurry now, if the BSA does come knocking, or Microsoft does start demanding unreasonable fees, you have a plan in place to convert quickly, otherwise just convert as an open source alteranative is just as good as the windows equivelent. (Note, I said just as good for your pruposes, and Not as good. If you never use some feature, then there is no reason to wait for it)

  • two cents (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalhermit ( 113459 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:23PM (#3539208) Homepage
    Here are a few things that I've used to eliminate MS products on my networks:

    For word processing I like AbiWord. The 1.0.1 version has just been released and it works quite well. It doesn't have *every* feature of word, no sane program would, but it does have all the features needed for general word processing.

    I don't have much use for spreadsheets, but Gnumeric and kspread have worked fine for me. People have also mentioned that OpenOffice/StarOffice has a good spreadsheet.

    For reading email there's Evolution, Netscape or Mozilla Messenger, and various others.

    For database, use MySQL or PostgreSQL as the backend instead of access. Use HTML as a frontend so you can access it from any system, even Windows.

    For webmail, take a look at squirrelmail. There are many other imap/pop/mtas that you can choose from to create your mail server. Of course, you'll replace IIS with Apache :)

    For viruses you'll need to use the Unix honor system. su to root, choose a file at random then delete it, then email everyone in your address book with similar instructions. To mimic the crashes you can try turning off the power when you're in the middle of something very important.
  • by gonerill ( 139660 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:41PM (#3539370) Homepage
    I had to work for 5 years before I got an office with windows. No way am I going back.
  • by Codifex Maximus ( 639 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:43PM (#3539383) Homepage

    Well, you must have realistic goals like: Reduce software costs, provide a stable environment, reduce support costs etc...

    If you want to use Linux as the OS, you may get some opposition from the Windows fans. So, migrate using a gradual approach.

    • Begin by replacing the expensive Office Software on Windows with a cheaper yet functional alternative like maybe Sun's Star Office 6.
    • Analyse the mail situation... are they using all the functions of Outlook (are they even *using* Outlook?) Replace with a reliable alternative like maybe Netscape 6.2.x mail.
    • While yer at it, replace the use of Internet Explorer with Netscape 6.2.x and encourage the use of Netscape Mail and the Address book functionality included. Use the argument that when Internet Explorer crashes, it can bring the whole operating system down.
    • Install Sun Java on the user's machines and encourage the use and development of Java programs for the company's business.
    • Begin replacing Window's Servers with Linux/Unix servers on the backend and migrate to a crossplatform database like maybe MySQL or PostGreSQL or even Oracle or DB/2 for Unix. Replace Exchange with Sendmail or something and use BIND and other UNIX style server software. Justify with stability and lower price for most items.

    After you do all these things... the stability and usability of the user and server software should be evident and the switch to Linux as the OS should be fairly painless as there are Linux equivalents to the programs they've been running on the old Windows installations. You may find you have made some Linux fans in the office too!

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:47PM (#3539417) Homepage
    I changed one full department and may spread the change further by using the BSA's scare tactics and their current advertising campain. My boss heard one of their ad's that say "We'll fine you 100,000 dollars per incident, which can add up to millions!" and asked if we are compliant.... I honestly answered, that if a sane person did the audit, yes. but by BSA standards... no, and if we are ever audited they will leave with a fine on us even if we were 100% perfect... it's just like OSHA, they never leave without issuing a violation. I also informed him that cince the employees are allowed to take their laptops home there can be upwards of 20 violations per computer as we have no control over what the employees do at home or outside the building... I can wipe all the laptops, but then the salespeople will whine again..

    he then asked me if there was another solution, and I wipped out my Redhat 7.3 laptop with open office..

    Guess what... we're gonna switch to NON-MS.. all thanks to the BSA.

    so basically... Use Microsoft's and the BSA's tactics to your advantage... push the fear,loathing and threats they are pushing... keep mentioning the 100,000 dollar fine PER incident. that the companies sensitive data will be accessable by strangers during the BSA visit, and the business disruption and public notification by the BSA that XYZ company STEALS.

    works great..... Thanks Microsoft and the BSA for the BEST tools a Linux Advocate could ever want.
  • by DrJohnEvans ( 553988 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @03:50PM (#3539440) Homepage
    We Have The Way In [wehavethewayin.com], in the GNU/Linux section [wehavethewayin.com], features a link to a 12-step program for a Microsoft-free shop [cio.com], by Scott Berinato, from the January 1 2002 issue of CIO Magazine [cio.com].

    It's a very thorough overview of all the major steps (technical, mental, emotional, you name it) that an office must pass through in order to successfully dump Microsoft. It'll be very helpful to your cause.

  • by Rocketboy ( 32971 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @04:38PM (#3539760)
    We have 45 users, most local but three remotes in other states. We recently took a look at Microsoft's pricing, calculated our costs over the next three years, and ended up converting to Lotus SmartSuite. If the current StarOffice had been ready in time, it would have been a strong candidate, too. Keys to the process:

    - Bring the users into the decision, not only what software to use but why.
    - 3rd party training for software other than MS Office is available, even if not listed in their course lists. Ask. Our local Productivity Point has personnel qualified to teach the Lotus software and has complete course materials, they just don't list it in their offerings because there's so little demand. They were delighted to teach the courses for our users, at very reasonable cost.
    - Having a backup process leads to user comfort. We'll still have four people with MS Office on their PCs, mostly administrative assistants and a lead customer service person. Their primary purpose is to provide access to documents which don't get converted by the time we remove Office from everyone else's PCs and to convert documents from outside the company which for one reason or another won't convert to Lotus cleanly using the Lotus software. This is a real benefit to our users and we wouldn't have gotten their buy-in without being able to assure them that we weren't abandoning their old documents.
    - Don't rush the process. We started out by giving our users 60 days to convert their old documents to Lotus. We'll end up giving them an additional 30 days on a case-by-case basis. We installed Lotus on user's PCs in addition to MS Office so they could get used to the new software gradually. Once a user has been to training we made it clear that all new documents were expected to be in Lotus format. They have both the incentive and the training to make the change and it is working out very well. On the other hand, there has to be a due date or nothing will get done!

    Our users initially resisted changing and why not? Learning new software, even as simple a change as from MS Word to Lotus Word Pro, is intimidating to someone who views computers as a tool rather than a way of life. We overcame their resistance by putting the facts before them: the lifecycle cost of MS Office over the next three years vs. the lifecycle costs (including training!) of switching to Lotus, Corel, etc. The savings were really very dramatic, particularly for a company like us which tends to keep using old software for much longer than the vendor would really like. Since we're a pretty open company anyway and take pains to not only present financial information to everyone but teach them how to interpret it as well, this had an impact. When you put it like, "we can spend the money on MS Office software and upgrade desktop PCs every five years, or switch to an alternative and keep to our three-year cycle", everyone had the same answer. They *like* getting new PCs every three years. The admin assistants *like* using shiny new Thinkpads which they can take to meetings and access information or take minutes with wireless connections to the LAN, etc. All of the productivity and convenience improvements we've made over the past five years took capital to implement, capital which in no small part would have gone into simply maintaining the software they already had. They didn't want to do that.

    Once the decision was made we immediately chose a dozen key users and sent them off to a special Lotus SmartSuite class we had developed with our local Productivity Point franchise. A combination of the Introductory and Intermediate classes, it assumed that everyone knew how to use a mouse, access pop-up menus, etc. and concentrated on the differences between MS Word and Lotus WordPro, Excel vs. 1-2-3, and Powerpoint vs. Harvard Graphics. The class lasted three days and we had a very enthusiastic (and very relieved!) team when they got back, confident that they knew what they were doing and how to do it. They've been evangelists to the rest of the organization to the point where people were competing to get into the next class! A month into the process, people were competing to see who could be more 'MS Office free' and new documents were all being generated using the Lotus software. That was a month before the deadline! Now when someone from outside the company sends us a Word document (non of which, by the way, we've had the least trouble converting to Lotus,) people grumble about how 'backward' other companies are. Those who have regular contact with MS Office users outside the company are now evangelizing them and rumor has it that at least a couple of our business partners, faced with the same costs we were facing, are considering the same move away from MS Office.

    The key is not that the Lotus software is so good but rather that it is good enough and *much* less expensive (and a key to that is that we buy IBM notebooks and desktop PCs, mostly because of their terrific technical support, and SmartSuite comes free with them. A real savings, that!)

    Difficulties in our project:
    - Some MS Office documents do not convert very well to Lotus. Most Word and Excel documents do (in the case of Excel, usually needing at least some clean-up by hand,) and Powerpoint presentations don't convert nicely at all. Don't even think about converting MS Access to Approach (but then, think about it: do you really trust anything more complex than a grocery list to Access? If its really important, shouldn't it have a real database behind it?)
    - Some people just don't like change. We've got a couple. Peer pressure works most of the time but we have one granite boulder who not only isn't going to change, is senior enough that it would take tippy-top management ordering him to before he would, and then he'd just sabotage it ("See? Told you so!") Not a real problem, though: he doesn't really use the computer for anything other than e-mail, anyway (and half the time he dictates replies to e-mail to his admin assistant.) His assistant is very happy with Lotus and buffers between him and the rest of the company, so it works out.

    Good luck!

  • Why do anything? (Score:4, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Friday May 17, 2002 @05:01PM (#3539892) Homepage
    Basically, the questioner is treating this as a choice between two alternatives:
    1. Upgrade to new versions of Windows stuff
    2. Migrate to something else, like Linux

    What about the option no one seems to consider? Stick with what you have right now. It works today...it will still work tomorrow. Get out of the "gotta have the latest" mindset.

    For most of what business users do, using software that is a year or two or five old is just fine.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger