The Total Cost of Owning a Linux Server

When purchasing a car, a home, or other major investment, many financial experts may inform you about the total cost of ownership (TCO). Beyond the sticker price, you need to know how much it will cost to maintain it, insure it, and power it for the duration of its life. Similarly, a server and its operating system have a TCO. Generally, proponents of using Linux distributions on servers will tell you the TCO is less, while those in favor of proprietary OSes will say that Linux may have a lower initial cost but will cost more over time.

The truth is: when it comes to any operating system, the actually total cost of ownership may vary depending on your situation and experience with it. With a Linux server, there are a few issues that may affect cost that you should definitely consider.

  • Commercial licensing – if you choose to purchase a supported commercial Linux version, you will need to license it
  • Support – Will you have paid support from your vendor, a third party, or your own in-house IT staff?
  • Upgrades and customizations – Do you have the qualified staff necessary to perform these tasks, or will you hire a third party?

With a free and open source OS, the more you are able to do yourself, the lower the total cost will be. If, however, you need to contract out a lot of th maintenance and management, you may find it to be just as costly as proprietary alternatives, but rarely will it be more expensive. In fact, even if you pay for support, you may still end up paying less if you use a free or low-cost distribution.