Nothing in a Business is Free



  • I've been on both sides of this issue over the years, and thought it'd prompt a good discussion.

    A common idea held by many one-man IT shops is that if you can get something for free, usually software, that you're saving the business money. Don't want to pay for MS Office? Use LibreOffice. Don't want to use Windows Server? Setup something with Linux. Etc etc

    However, the fact is that, in a business, NOTHING is free. It's limited thinking. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is free. Everything costs something!

    I've found many times that it's easy, especially in small shops, to only consider the dollar and cents right in front of you. Don't want to spend the money on licensing for a piece of software? Use an open-source or free alternative. However, there are things to consider:

    User blowback. Most users don't like change. Most users are familiar with what most businesses use, and often what they also use at home, namely those products many small companies don't want to pay for but usually end up doing. It costs mostly time to the IT department hearing user complaints about how they "used to do X" and now it's a different method, which leads us to...

    User training. In IT, we pick stuff up pretty quick. I mean, that's our jobs. We try a new piece of software and have no issues fiddling around with it for a little bit to see if it will do what we want, either period or possibly better than what we currently use. However, most users aren't that patient or eager to learn, so training people takes time away from them doing their job, and costs the company money.

    Ongoing support. IT guys often think about solutions they implement very much around them. They find something THEY like that works for THEM that maybe they played with and got working. However, if you got hit by a bus tomorrow, or had some other reason that meant the company had to replace you and SOMEONE ELSE had to learn that system, how much effort would it take for the company to find someone? How much time? How much money to get someone with the qualifications? Ideally it'd cost them the same or less to replace you but in small shops, we often wear many more hats than we seem to get paid for.

    The fact is that while sometimes you pay a premium to keep all of your <insert item here> the same brand or the same system or whatever, that initial extra cost can also sometimes mean a huge time and cost savings for the company down the road.

    What are your thoughts?


  • Service Provider

    You are correct, nothing is free and this is where the term TCO (total cost of ownership) comes in. The price of LibreOffice might be $0 but the TCO might be $10. It is a huge thing for everyone to keep in mind.

    As my teacher friends have pointed out.... a free hamburger isn't free unless they eat it and poop it for you.


  • Service Provider

    However, just as Price is only one factor in TCO, TCO is only one factor in ROI. ROI includes the concepts of technical debt, improved productivity and other factors that TCO ignores. No matter what the TCO is, the ROI is what matters.

    So in the case of LibreOffice, absolutely the price is free and the TCO would be non-free. But the ROI might tell us that long term, it makes money rather than losing it. So it might be better than free, it might be cost-positive!



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    You are correct, nothing is free and this is where the term TCO (total cost of ownership) comes in. The price of LibreOffice might be $0 but the TCO might be $10. It is a huge thing for everyone to keep in mind.

    As my teacher friends have pointed out.... a free hamburger isn't free unless they eat it and poop it for you.

    This is an issue I've seen a lot with SMBs and a mistake I made very early in my career that I've come to learn more about as I've grown. Too many IT guys, sadly, but more so owners and those with purchasing power, see only that initial dollar amount. It bites them in the ass later and then they often get huffy about it but I thinks it's important that IT guys understand this principle, because it means understanding business and will help them when pitching various purchases.


  • Service Provider

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.


  • Service Provider

    @thanksajdotcom said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    You are correct, nothing is free and this is where the term TCO (total cost of ownership) comes in. The price of LibreOffice might be $0 but the TCO might be $10. It is a huge thing for everyone to keep in mind.

    As my teacher friends have pointed out.... a free hamburger isn't free unless they eat it and poop it for you.

    This is an issue I've seen a lot with SMBs and a mistake I made very early in my career that I've come to learn more about as I've grown. Too many IT guys, sadly, but more so owners and those with purchasing power, see only that initial dollar amount. It bites them in the ass later and then they often get huffy about it but I thinks it's important that IT guys understand this principle, because it means understanding business and will help them when pitching various purchases.

    Like datacenters:

    • IT department only sees the cost of server replacement.
    • Facilities only sees the cost of power and cooling.
    • Business, we hopes, puts it all together and sees the cost of running a datacenter.


  • @scottalanmiller said:

    However, just as Price is only one factor in TCO, TCO is only one factor in ROI. ROI includes the concepts of technical debt, improved productivity and other factors that TCO ignores. No matter what the TCO is, the ROI is what matters.

    So in the case of LibreOffice, absolutely the price is free and the TCO would be non-free. But the ROI might tell us that long term, it makes money rather than losing it. So it might be better than free, it might be cost-positive!

    Also agree. 100%. The point was that anything you do is an investment of either time, capital or something else. It's really all about figuring out what makes the most sense, both short-term and long-term. If something costs more over the first 3 years but over 10 years will save a large amount of money, it's probably worth it. Etc etc.



  • @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    Agreed. Never said it was. See Scott's point about ROI.



  • @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    This was going to be my comment. The OP demonizes FOSS and free software. It makes it sound like you will never see a return on the investment if you go FOSS so you should always choose the solution that is the most familiar and costs the most.

    While your point in the OP is valid it doesn't include all the things aside from cost that go into these decisions. There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux. They see the long term investment as worth the initial cost.


  • Service Provider

    @coliver said:

    There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux.

    And even moreso at LibreOffice.



  • @coliver said:

    @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    This was going to be my comment. The OP demonizes FOSS and free software. It makes it sound like you will never see a return on the investment if you go FOSS so you should always choose the solution that is the most familiar and costs the most.

    While your point in the OP is valid it doesn't include all the things aside from cost that go into these decisions. There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux. They see the long term investment as worth the initial cost.

    Oh, I am a staunch supporter of FOSS and Linux, etc. I have been for a decade now! The ROI potential on FOSS is DEFINITELY enormous! No arguments there! The post was more targeted at small businesses or 1-2 man IT shops just as something to consider.


  • Service Provider

    I think it is more of - one step towards understanding the visibility of spending.



  • @thanksajdotcom said:

    @coliver said:

    @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    This was going to be my comment. The OP demonizes FOSS and free software. It makes it sound like you will never see a return on the investment if you go FOSS so you should always choose the solution that is the most familiar and costs the most.

    While your point in the OP is valid it doesn't include all the things aside from cost that go into these decisions. There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux. They see the long term investment as worth the initial cost.

    Oh, I am a staunch supporter of FOSS and Linux, etc. I have been for a decade now! The ROI potential on FOSS is DEFINITELY enormous! No arguments there! The post was more targeted at small businesses or 1-2 man IT shops just as something to consider.

    I'm just telling you how I read it. I have no doubt you are a huge supporter of FOSS. I've run into this attitude several time in the past... "You get what you pay for." is something I heard once or twice a month at my last position. Granted I wasn't deploying FOSS wholesale just recommending ones that I've worked with in the past for certain task they would have worked for.



  • @coliver said:

    @thanksajdotcom said:

    @coliver said:

    @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    This was going to be my comment. The OP demonizes FOSS and free software. It makes it sound like you will never see a return on the investment if you go FOSS so you should always choose the solution that is the most familiar and costs the most.

    While your point in the OP is valid it doesn't include all the things aside from cost that go into these decisions. There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux. They see the long term investment as worth the initial cost.

    Oh, I am a staunch supporter of FOSS and Linux, etc. I have been for a decade now! The ROI potential on FOSS is DEFINITELY enormous! No arguments there! The post was more targeted at small businesses or 1-2 man IT shops just as something to consider.

    I'm just telling you how I read it. I have no doubt you are a huge supporter of FOSS. I've run into this attitude several time in the past... "You get what you pay for." is something I heard once or twice a month at my last position. Granted I wasn't deploying FOSS wholesale just recommending ones that I've worked with in the past for certain task they would have worked for.

    Yes, I've heard that quite a bit too, and sometimes you have to factor in the time it takes to setup demos and show certain key people what these pieces of software can do into your ROI.


  • Service Provider

    @thanksajdotcom said:

    @coliver said:

    @thanksajdotcom said:

    @coliver said:

    @hubtechagain said:

    this is valid. but free isn't always evil either.

    This was going to be my comment. The OP demonizes FOSS and free software. It makes it sound like you will never see a return on the investment if you go FOSS so you should always choose the solution that is the most familiar and costs the most.

    While your point in the OP is valid it doesn't include all the things aside from cost that go into these decisions. There is a reason a lot of municipalities throughout the world are now going hard at Linux. They see the long term investment as worth the initial cost.

    Oh, I am a staunch supporter of FOSS and Linux, etc. I have been for a decade now! The ROI potential on FOSS is DEFINITELY enormous! No arguments there! The post was more targeted at small businesses or 1-2 man IT shops just as something to consider.

    I'm just telling you how I read it. I have no doubt you are a huge supporter of FOSS. I've run into this attitude several time in the past... "You get what you pay for." is something I heard once or twice a month at my last position. Granted I wasn't deploying FOSS wholesale just recommending ones that I've worked with in the past for certain task they would have worked for.

    Yes, I've heard that quite a bit too, and sometimes you have to factor in the time it takes to setup demos and show certain key people what these pieces of software can do into your ROI.

    Likewise, however, it is common for people to point this out when we are talking about new software (especially FOSS where they simply assume that the move has all of these hidden costs) and ignore them with existing apps, technical debt or just expensive software based on the completely unfounded assumption that expensive software has no hidden costs.

    Look at the MS Office 2003 to 2007 move as an example. Most shops that looked into it found the TCO of going to OpenOffice lower than going to Office 2007 because the user re-training was less switching.


  • Vendor

    @thanksajdotcom said:

    [ ... ]

    The fact is that while sometimes you pay a premium to keep all of your <insert item here> the same brand or the same system or whatever, that initial extra cost can also sometimes mean a huge time and cost savings for the company down the road.

    What are your thoughts?

    I think there's a FREE stuff as long as somebody else is a sponsor. It's a big question however can you build a healthy business on that or not :)


  • Service Provider

    @scottalanmiller said:

    As my teacher friends have pointed out.... a free hamburger isn't free unless they eat it and poop it for you.

    That's gross. If that's how it works, I'm never touching free software again. ;)


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MangoLassi was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.