The Hidden Costs of Owning Software

By S. Jae Yang  |  Posted 2003-07-01 Print this article Print

When it comes to evaluating software purchases, the cost of the program itself is only the tip of the iceberg.

When it comes to evaluating software purchases, the cost of the program itself is only the tip of the iceberg. Most budgets realistically account for license fees, but they often downplay or even ignore the real money drainers—deployment and maintenance.

According to David Greschler, co-founder of software vendor Softricity, the application management lifecycle includes deployment, updates, support and termination.

Manually deploying applications throughout an enterprise involves more than just the legwork of visiting each desktop to install the program. It also means auditioning the new software on a test system, performing tests to ensure it does not clash with existing programs and troubleshooting systems that did not survive the installation process. Employee downtime while the workstation is unavailable also must be taken into account.

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Once a new application has been installed, frequent updates, such as security patches, often follow. Case in point: Microsoft Windows XP. A company that's diligent about updating its XP Pro systems will have installed about 28 patches since the beginning of 2003.

The worksheet at left organizes the major costs involved in owning software. If you are feeling alarmed after crunching your numbers, it may be worthwhile to look into ways to centralize application management. You might go with an electronic software distribution tool, such as Microsoft SMS or Tivoli NetView. Or you might consolidate all management tasks onto the server using a thin-client system like Citrix MetaFrame XP. And other, unique solutions are emerging. Softricity's SoftGrid, for example, streams a preinstalled copy of an application to a virtual environment on a user's desktop.

Of course, each of these methods requires significant infrastructure investment up front, as well as commitment and patience from employees. But if you make the investment and are able to win over your users, you may be able to achieve significant savings.


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