The price is right

My head is reeling. I’ve been trying to put together a Windows 2000 upgrade budget, and I’m lost in options. I’ve checked out Microsoft’s official price sheet for the Professional and Server versions of Windows, which seem to suggest that I’ll have to spend $319 for each new copy of Windows 2000 Professional, or $219 to upgrade from Windows 95 or 98, or $149 (after rebate) for an upgrade from any earlier version of NT. Plus, I would need to spend anywhere from $499 to $1,199 for each copy of Windows 2000 Server.
When it’s time to gear up for a Win2K upgrade, how do you negotiate the best deal? This March installment of Ed Bott’s Microsoft Challenge reviews the most economical options. Ed will return from vacation with a new Challenge in two weeks.
After the initial sticker shock wore off, I did a little comparison-shopping. Full-service Web vendors like CDW and NECX can ease the pain substantially: Their prices for full versions and upgrades of Windows 2000 Professional were $30—$50 less than Microsoft suggested. By going to no-frills deep discounters like and, I was able to trim the price even more—under $250 for the full version and under $100 per seat for upgrades from NT4 (after a $70 mail-in rebate from Microsoft). I found equally good deals on the Server family.

But is that the best an IT pro can do? I asked TechRepublic members to share their upgrade suggestions. What’s the most cost-effective strategy for upgrading an entire office to Windows 2000?

One member helpfully suggested, “If I have 40+ machines, I'd start looking at becoming a Select customer.” Nice idea, but the Select license program is actually designed for enterprises with a minimum of 1,000 seats. A better option, as rshcred pointed out, is the Microsoft Open license program . “For quantity buying for 10 or more,” he wrote, “I would buy a MOLP. The savings aren't great, but you can get a copy that doesn't have the pesky serial/CD-key, and you have licenses for each station. Then as you add more, you just buy more licenses.” He also pointed out that Microsoft’s HOT (Hands-On Training) Kit is a smokin’ deal; if you’re a consultant or reseller. You can get a package that includes not-for-resale copies of Windows 2000 Professional, Server, and Advanced Server for a mere $129. An excellent suggestion, and well worth 500 TechPoints. (Update: Unfortunately, the HOT kit is no longer available. According to Microsoft's Web site, it's currently being "reevaluated.")

TechRepublic member gktod filled in the rest of the missing pieces with this well-reasoned reply:

“In looking at cost-effectiveness, make sure not only to look at the software or licensing options, but also how much it is going to cost in time and manpower. As far as the software goes, I would recommend purchasing Windows 2000 Server. Advanced Server is not really worth the extra cost [for fewer than 50 seats].

“For your workstations, the Professional 2000 upgrade pack is obvious. As far as licensing goes, I would recommend selecting a per-server option, against Microsoft's recommendation. In a relatively small network, you’re not going to find many servers, so it’s definitely the path I would choose. As soon as you start going over 40 users, or three servers, per seat would be the selected option.

“As far as deploying it all, well, Windows 2000 now comes with all those simple ways of creating answer files and UDFs, which will make your deployment quick and easy. Incorporate some MSI files for any additional apps.”

Excellent ideas, and deserving of 500 TechPoints.

Oh, and don’t forget to study the competitive upgrade list carefully. I found an old copy of Artisoft LANtastic hanging around my office. Believe it or not, that qualifies for a reduced cost upgrade to Windows 2000 Server, for a savings of as much as $700!

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