Here is a summary of the feedback I got from a posting sent to 6
different ListServs last Monday. Thanks to those that responded:


1.  First, there was no reference to any published results from such a
study? A business student would probably be best for a study that
actually compiled the numbers and did the statistics for hours spent by
professionals on the professional tasks like organizing, describing and
reference services as well for professionals more involved with getting
the technology to work.

2.  The responses seemed to support a study by Gartner Research that
predicts Software as a Service (SaaS) overtaking open source as a cost
cutting choice by 2012.

3.  Some people seemed to take exception to my question being posed and
accused me of using the listserv for advertizing. I did mention "In our
consulting work with archivists ..." - not really blatant promotion. The
irony is that the complaints came from associations that endorse and
even subsidize consultants that charge for service related to open


Here are the quotes from some of the responses from the various
listservs. In interest of space, they are taken out of context.


*         "Nothing is really free... there are costs and trade-offs
associated with both approaches."


*         "It's certainly a challenge finding people with the right
skill set."


*         "Yes, and aren't there open source service providers who, for
a price, will administer, train, and even host open source solutions?"


*         "Realistically, is there any real difference between these
"hidden" costs for Free and Open software and using proprietary


*         "I've seen both sides - OSS that slowly died and was forgotten
and Proprietary (collections) software where the vendor seems to have
gradually lost interesting in actually doing any serious upgrading or
providing support..."


*         "I question whether this debate is best posed by a commercial
entity trying to sell us software." - (from a list member)


*         "...note that commercial advertisements are not welcome." -
(directly from the association)


----------------- original posting sent Mon 23/06/2008


The cost of free software?


In our consulting work with archivists we are asked for numbers that
represent the cost of free software and open source solutions,
especially when comparing them to supported commercial software or
Software as a Service. How do you price the hidden costs for things such

*                     Opportunity loss for the delay of projects while
the professional staff is learning technical skills,

*                     The costs of re-training the archives
professionals in the technical skills,

*                     The cost of redirecting the professionals into
technical tasks and away from professional duties,

*                     The cost of teaching in-house computer programmers
about the requirements of archives applications,

*                     The productivity loss if support is not available
or responsive to software downtime,

*                     The risk cost when support that might be available
today is discontinued; or is free today and may become billable or
discontinued entirely,

*                     The risk-factor cost for the eventuality that in a
couple of years the software product is no longer endorsed by
professional associations and subsidized by various organizations. You
are stuck with it while the current excitement is about a new the
"flavor of the month" technology.


It is easy to find anecdotal stories from the past, but I expect there
has been an academic study reported somewhere. Please forward any
information you might have about such a study. Failing that, even some
general statements of your personal experience would be great if they
could be quoted to my clients.


Thank you,


Merv Richter 
Eloquent Systems Inc. 
Organizing data for eloquent presentation! 
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