Upgrades are a necessary evil of the modern, technology-enhanced business. Sometimes they provide a nice productivity boost that is easily recognized in the bottom line; other times, upgrades are demanded by a new piece of software or a new business process.

Currently, many organizations—in the hopes of keeping their technology current and maximizing the productivity of their workers—are tasked with upgrading their enterprises to Microsoft’s flagship business desktop operating system: Windows 2000 Professional.

In this article, we’ll outline some speculative costs based on a fictitious, midsize company, and we’ll examine some of the requirements and costs associated with deploying Windows 2000 Professional in your enterprise.

Joe’s Widgetwares
Our fictitious company, Joe’s Widgetwares, has 250 PCs that are currently running Windows 95. All 250 machines are 120-MHz Pentiums with 16 MB of RAM and 1.2-GB hard drives. Because Joe’s can’t upgrade these machines to meet the minimum requirements, the company has chosen to replace all 250 machines in batches of 50.

Joe’s will be able to reuse their existing monitors but will be purchasing all new machines for just under $1,000 each, bringing the total hardware cost to about $250,000. (This includes the Windows 2000 Professional license for each machine.) To make it easier for the company to absorb the cost, Joe’s plans to purchase 50 new machines for five quarters. Joe’s also will donate the 250 old machines to charity or sell them to employees who want to buy a home computer.

Joe’s technicians will assemble and load one machine and then use Norton Ghost (a disk-duplication product) to clone that machine onto the other new machines. Joe’s was able to purchase licenses for Norton Ghost from an online retailer for $11.41 per user. Total cost: $2,852.50.

Software dependencies
Depending on what platform you’re on and what software you use, you might need to purchase one or more software upgrades. Some software companies license their software differently for Windows 2000 Professional than they do for other platforms, such as Windows 95. Additionally, your business-dependent software might not even run under Windows 2000 Professional (yet).

If you’re planning on using a disk-duplication utility—such as Norton Ghost, used in our example—you will need to consider the cost for that software as well. You may also want to include the cost to train your staff on this tool.

Joe’s software
Joe’s has been fairly lucky, because most of the software it uses will run just fine on Windows 2000 Professional and won’t require any additional licenses. However, five graphic designers have discovered that they’ll need to upgrade their graphics program to run under Windows 2000 Professional—and the upgrade will run only if the machine has at least a 20-GB hard drive, 256 MB of RAM, a 16-MB video card, and a 20-inch monitor.

The new graphics software will cost $895 per user. The additional hardware will cost about $1,500 per user. Total additional cost is $11,975.

Few deployments occur without technical problems. So consider support a valid cost.

Generally, a support contract with a set number of issues is a better solution than a case-by-case scenario. Your technicians may be very good, but they will inevitably run into some problems that they are unable to solve as quickly as a specialized contractor can.

Remember, support includes not just Windows 2000 Professional but any critical software and hardware elements that will need to be supported on the Windows 2000 Professional machines. Even if you don’t use the support during the initial deployment, chances are you’ll rely on it throughout the year following the deployment. Think of support as your insurance for a successful deployment.

Joe’s support
Joe’s is fairly confident of its technical staff. It decided to take advantage of a support special being offered by its Microsoft support partner and purchased a 10-incident support package for $650, or $65 per incident. That’s a deal compared to the vendor’s normal rate of $100 per incident.

You’ll also want everyone using Windows 2000 Professional to be comfortable with the desktop environment. While some of your users will take to the system easily, others will flounder for weeks. Your technicians may do the same.

Training is generally an overlooked cost in many organizations. Eventually, just about everyone will become comfortable using Windows 2000 Professional. Your technicians and support staff should have a good idea who will need training and who will not. You can easily budget your end-user training needs using a forecast from your support staff.

Your technicians and support staff, on the other hand, need a different type of training. They need to know the more technical aspects of Windows 2000 Professional, including best practices for deploying desktops and solutions to known technical problems.

You may need to send all of your technicians to training. However, because of the expense of technical training, some companies send only a few (or maybe only one) users to training and expect them to pass on their knowledge to the rest of the staff. This may work for your company, but it’s not necessarily the best approach, since not everyone has the best memory or attention span. If you have a large technical and support staff, it’s a good idea to send at least two or three people to training. That way, they can recap together, share information, and come to consensual conclusions about confusing issues.

If your organization has an internal training department, your costs may differ from the above scenarios. In that case, you should send only one person to desktop training and one to technical training and have them conduct on-site classes for your users and technical staff.

Joe’s training
Joe’s has a good staff of users who know their way around a computer. Therefore, Joe’s has decided not to invest in additional training for its users. It did, however, send all four of its technicians to Microsoft training and had all of them certified on Windows 2000 Professional and Server. The cost per technician for training and certification was $10,000. Total additional training cost is $40,000.

In a perfect world, your technical staff will easily find the time to deploy Windows 2000 Professional. But if you’re like most organizations, this process can put a strain on your staff and bottleneck your support processes.

If your support team simply can’t handle its current load and the deployment, you may need to consider augmenting your staff. Options include adding more user support staff so that your existing staff can carry out the deployment or bringing in some hired guns to roll out your Windows 2000 Professional initiative, allowing your existing staff to do its job.

Joe’s staff
By investing in a solid technical staff and building up its talents with Microsoft training and certification, Joe’s eliminated the need for any additional staff.

Licensing Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional represents a major cost of deployment. Microsoft provides several licensing programs that you may want to take advantage of. The Microsoft Open License Program (MOLP) allows eligible organizations discounts between 22 and 28 percent off the retail software price. Table A shows the current retail prices for Windows 2000 Professional.

Table A
Windows 2000 Professional pricing options

Joe’s licensing
Purchasing new machines helped Joe’s eliminate desktop license worries. Every new machine came preloaded with Windows 2000 Professional and therefore also included a license.

A sometimes-hidden cost in deploying Windows 2000 Professional is the cost of the time to accomplish the project. Using a disk-duplication tool, the actual hardware/software deployment can be reduced to about 20 minutes plus the time to move the computer from office to technician and back to the office. You might also want to add the support time for the initial rollout and the time to select, order, and receive new hardware and software.

Joe’s time
As we mentioned, Joe’s decided to use Norton Ghost, which will enable the staff to create workstation clones in about 20 minutes. Some machines will need additional software loaded. Rather than load each of these machines individually, Joe’s has created four workstation setups that can be cloned. Initial setup of these systems took about three hours each, for a total of 12 hours.

The remaining 246 machines will take 20 minutes to load, plus 20 minutes for teardown and setup between office and technician. That makes 164 hours of system installation. Joe’s estimated that 20 users each needed about 15 minutes to get their systems running correctly, and another two users used up an hour each. Total time: 183 hours. Joe’s technicians make about $55,000 a year, thus the direct cost to Joe’s for these hours is $4,838.52.

Joe’s total
Table B recaps Joe’s accumulated expenses.

Table B
Total expenses

As you can see, the cost of the new computers represents the largest investment. In fact, about 80 percent of the cost is from the new machines. Joe’s will realize some tax write-off advantage from the charitable PCs and from selling any PCs to its employees.
Have you deployed Windows 2000 Professional in your organization? What similarities did you find in our example? What was different? Send us an e-mail or start a discussion.