Looking for case studies

5:33 pm General

I hope to be writing a series of articles over the coming months on migrating from being a Windows shop to a free software shop, broken down stage by stage:

  1. Replacing Windows file sharing, web servers and services and email servers by Linux + samba/apache/postfix/bind. Move proprietary applications (SAP, Oracle) which have Linux versions to the new Linux servers. Migrate desktop software to open standards provided by these services (break the Outlook + Exchange habit).
  2. Replace proprietary desktop applications by free software equivalents (low-hanging fruit: Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice.org)
  3. Require use of open formats for company documents where practical (move from .doc to .odf)
  4. Identify desktops with no windows-specific business applications installed, and migrate them to Linux (thin-client, perhaps)
  5. Move from proprietary business applications to web-deployed free alternatives (Alfresco, SugarCRM, …) and start redeveloping vertical apps as web applications
  6. Migrate commercial server applications to free equivalents, where feasible
  7. Migrate remaining desktops & laptops to Linux (with some possible exceptions for task-specific desktops, like graphic design, accounting or CAD?)

My goal is to find people who have braved this storm, and have gone through the stages of migrating from windows to Linux, who can share the pain of each stage, and who can provide insights on making things easy for those coming after.

If you are one of these people, or think you might know one, or you’re just interested in telling me how (great|horrible) the idea is, give me a shout in the comments, or drop me an email at my gnome.org address: dneary.

9 Responses

  1. Thomas Presthus Says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing your articles.

    Migrating a business from Windows to Linux and/or free software is no small task.
    We have helped some of our customers in doing partial migrations, but the biggest show stopper is usually proprietary business applications which has been extended and customized for the customer by 3rd party vendors over decades.

    While I appreciate most of your listed stages, I do however wonder why you think applications should be ported only to web-based alternatives. Lots of tasks done in business applications today really aren’t suited as web content. Or what do you think?

  2. Dave Neary Says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for your comments. Indeed you’re right, some applications can’t be migrated to the web. But lead management, electronic document management, file sharing, and a multitude of those VB applications that have been built for just one client or for a small niche market *can* be migrated to the web.

    There are exceptions – often those that involved hardware in the workflow – but they are few. And I have found that it is easier to make the conceptual sale to move from heavy client on Windows to a cross-platform web application than it is to develop new heavy client versions for Mac and/or Linux.


  3. Paul Cooper Says:

    At OpenAdvantage I worked with a company called Mercian Labels who came to a few of our seminars and training courses. They decided to switch moreor less the whole company to OSS and blog about it at


    that in itself is a great case study. I’m happy to put you in touch if I can dig out Adrian’s email address.

  4. kaeru Says:

    Hope these are useful, they’re government agency/dept case studies, some more detailed then others but answering common questions on migration and adoption.

    Some Malaysian government ones here:


    OpenOffice.org for state government offices:


    Migration to open source desktop:

    There is a bunch more here from EU:

  5. Andy Fitzsimon Says:

    This is a great idea mate

    If you need any help on the feature-feature workflow-workflow of graphic design migration let me know.

    That said, my story is getting a little dated now (6 years I think)

  6. Safe as Milk » Blog Archive » Server migration: the easy stuff Says:

    […] gathering material for my series on migrating to free software, one thing immediately jumps out at […]

  7. gary Says:

    Excellent idea. My own migration from proprietary to free has been a long one. Only in the last year, when I built a new workstation, did I leave out the Windows partition during the install. It’s been a long road because, only recently, the FOSS graphics apps became more usable in my work. Specifically Inkscape and GIMP 2.6.

  8. paolo Says:


    Free Upgrade Southtyrol’s Schools (FUSS) is a project funded by the European Social Fund which has upgraded the computer systems of all the italian schools in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen, removing all the software with a proprietary license used in the school activity with the FUSS GNU/Linux Soledad distribution. The project has developed the software solution and released it under a free software license.
    Complete migration for 3.300 pc and 85 server

  9. Christian Einfeldt Says:

    I have migrated the following to FOSS, and could provide you with detailed stories:

    1. A public middle school in San Francisco: we have built a 30-seat Xubuntu lab. We also have a few free-standing Linux machines here and there in classrooms. The teachers are still using a combination of Microsoft Windows and / or Macs. There is also a mobile Mac cart with 15 creaky Mac notebooks in it, which is not enough for an entire class to use such that each student will be able to have his / her own computer.

    2. my law practice

    3. my home machine which I share with my gf.

    4. A 70 year-old man who likes to follow politics on-line.

    5. a 63 year-old woman who just loves her machine and spends lots of time on it.

    6. The owner of the SF Freecycle list.

    7. A reclusive technophobe who probably would not want to be interviewed. He is just starting his migration to FOSS. He might be writing a book with his computer.

    8. An Arab father and husband who uses his computer in his apartment with his daughter and devout Muslim wife. He is a crepe chef in San Francisco.

    9. An 80-year-old photographer and Mac lover who had purchased a machine to install Linux on. He was not as impressed with the machine as with his Mac. I’m not sure if he still uses it. He loves the idea of freedom with FOSS, and is disdainful of the lack thereof with the Mac, but he has some oddball peripherals that work only with the Mac, and so I’m not sure if he still uses it the Linux machine.

    10. A 14 year-old high school student who got a Ubuntu computer for her room at home. I could tell you her story, but not sure if I could use her name. I would have to ask, as with all of these other stories.

    11. The janitor at the school I mentioned has two computers for her home for her kids, one of whom is in high school, and the other of whom is in middle school.

    Of course, I did not do all of these migrations alone. In fact, I did not do any of these migrations alone. We have a vibrant LUG community in San Francisco at sf-lug.com and I have had lots and lots of contributions from those people.

    I am making a documentary film about these migration stories, and I have video for many of them. All of the video will eventually be loaded onto the Internet Archive’s Digital Tipping Point Video collection:


    Thanks for posting this blog about migration stories!

    Christian Einfeldt,
    Producer, The Digital Tipping Point