Linux Terminal vs. Windows Desktop Cost Comparison

Willamette University’s Mark O. Hatfield Library recently worked on a system upgrade for its administrative and public computers, and put together a cost comparison of using recycled machines as Linux terminals versus purchasing new systems loaded with Windows. They shared the results with Linux Journal.

Not surprisingly, the cost savings of using the Linux terminals was significant. Recycling old equipment was a significant cost savings alone, and they only paid $50 per terminal (I presume they bought a commercial distro for support) rather than several hundred dollars per station for Windows (not to mention MS Office).

The article sites four key advantages of terminals over standalone desktops:

  • Provides a no-cost alternative to expensive desktop deployment and cloning packages, such as Symantec Ghost, because new software is added to a single machine rather than deployed and run on each individual workstation.
  • Provides a centralized environment that is superior to standalone computing for backing up and maintaining user data as well as company proprietary data.
  • Enables institutions to maintain a homogeneous, flexible software environment even on PC hardware that has been purchased over a period of several years.
  • Extends the lifespan of personal computer hardware, yielding an overall decrease in investment in new hardware.
  • Is not susceptible to Windows-based viruses and spyware. Required security patches need be applied only to one system in order to update multiple systems.

There are cost-saving comparison charts in the article, but they’re not very clear unless you read the article itself. The total cost savings across the lifespan of the machines is estimated at between US$50K and US$100K. However, as the author mentions, the significant portion of the savings is actually the reduced time involved in administration and rollout.