This past week I was troubleshooting an issue a client had. This issue had been haunting the client for some time and no one could figure out what was going on. Here's the scenario.
- Client worked with businesses and banks using various MS Word templates.
- When templates were finished they had to be printed.
- Half of the employees could print correctly and the other half had serious printing issues.
- All employees used terminal server and ran the templates from MS Office 2003.
- The employees that had trouble printing had MS Office 2007 installed locally.
- The employees that didn't have trouble printing had MS Office 2003 (or no MS Office at all) installed.
There were two possible solutions for this client:
- Upgrade MS Office on terminal server.
- Downgrade all employees to MS Office 2003.
There was a third choice, of course...since I had been tagged to solve the problem. We'll get to that solution in a moment.
Because of the number of employees in the company, the cost of upgrading the MS Office on terminal server was going to be in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars. If you gasped and made a face, that is the exact reaction the client had. Immediately following that gasp, the client pulled the plug on any possible upgrade. That left us with downgrading to MS Office 2003. Or....installing OpenOffice on the terminal server.
The reaction when I mentioned this possible, FREE (software cost that is), solution? An emphatic, "Let's try that!"
And we did. Of course my biggest concern was if OpenOffice would work with SBA templates. I downloaded a template to my personal machine (Ubuntu 10.04 with the latest OpenOffice) and the template worked just fine. There were small differences (but those differences were mostly in the startup and save process). I also knew the end users might need a little bit of hand-holding as they were not the most tech-savvy users (they knew the business of business like the back of their hands - just nothing about tech). I was okay with that, because their point-woman was savvy and I could simply feed her the support, which would then get dispersed to the users.
The installation is painless...now the true test will be time. If the end-users can get used to a different office suite to handle their templates. But ultimately what this little experience taught me was that as much as people like to claim how cheap the TCO of MS products are to business, there is always a situation that begs to smack that assumption upside the face. This was one of those. Not many business have 10,000 dollars to drop on a software update - especially one that will only serve to solve a printing issue. Yes the printing was a critical aspect of the users' jobs, but not enough to force the hand to upgrading to Office 2007 on terminal server.
There are always options...especially when open source software is a possibility. I would hope that all IT admins, consultants, and students would keep their minds open to such avenues. After all, the most important aspect of our jobs is client satisfaction...and few clients are going to be satisfied when the only option given to them has a price tag large enough to cause cardiac arrest.
Of course, in this situation, there was another option - to downgrade all users of Office 2007 to Office 2003. But in the spirit of finding the most expedient solution, OpenOffice came through like a champ.
Have you come across a similar situation where a piece of open source software helped save a client a lot of money? If so, share it with your fellow Techrepublic readers.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.