$30,000 savings. 80% faster. Numbers like that make people take notice in any market. Cost-cutting and productivity have to be front-of-mind for many business managers and owners. There have certainly been a variety of creative approaches to accomplishing these goals. Distributors running on Epicore Eclipse have recently been buzzing about a newer one: switching to Linux.
The idea of converting from Windows-based IBM servers to UNIX platform servers running Linux software isn’t new. Organizations have been talking about and making the switch to open-source (or free) software of all kinds for the last several years. The challenges from the Recession seemed to push Activant to openly support Linux boxes, and create awareness that this was an option. Now, word on the benefits of Linux have spread and users are taking notice.
Are you considering switching? Here are 4 reasons why you should convert!
1. Cost-savings. HGH Hardware Supply, a distributor of kitchen and bath cabinet hardware and woodworking supplies, is a 16-year Eclipse veteran and a recent convert to Linux. The company was halfway through a 5-year, $45,000 maintenance contract with IBM on a seven-year-old server that was beginning to fail. They were able to cancel that contract and spend less than the remaining cost to purchase a brand new, faster, larger-capacity server, and cover their conversion costs.
Similarly, Fastener Solutions in Alabama wanted to convert to Solar Eclipse, but needed to spend $100,000 in IBM hardware to do it. Once they found out about Linux, and realized it would instead cost $20,000 to go Solar (including conversion costs), they were sold.
Mike Winstead, the Controller at Fastener Solutions, said, “Because the box was less expensive, I doubled the specifications required by Eclipse. They wanted me to have two dual core processes, and I got two quad core, plus 32G of RAM versus 16. I didn’t want the processors to become obsolete, so I loaded up on the front end.”
Tim Walker, HGH’s Operations Manager, agreed. He said, “For the price of the server and maintenance compared with IBM, I could buy a whole new additional Linux server as a back-up and still save money.”
Tim also noted, “As inexpensive as technology as gotten over the years, IBM’s prices haven’t changed. So it’s great to finally have some options.” He added, “We didn’t have to do a cost benefit analysis [for converting to Linux] because the outstanding contract made it an easy decision. We traded in our IBM contract and got a brand new Linux server for nothing.”
The savings with Linux are realized in a variety of ways: The actual hardware is considerably less expensive, licensing fees non-existent, and the maintenance savings are compelling. Meanwhile, the conversion costs are minimal, especially when considering the year-over-year savings on maintenance.
Both parties we spoke with mentioned that IBM’s customer service is outstanding, and they aren’t sure how their Dell counterparts will compare. They’ve both been running on their new servers for close to six months and have yet to experience any issues that required assistance.
2. Speed and productivity. Sometimes, waiting for Eclipse reports to run can steal precious time from your day, and server restarts can be a real drain on efficiency. With Linux, it seems that much of this frustration can be reduced, or in some cases even eliminated.
Mike at Fastener Solutions said, “We’ve had fewer printing problems and issues since going Linux. Our print queue used to die every now and then and we’d have to restart it. It’s now 75% less of an issue, happening once for every four times before. It’s been better for us.” He also said, “It [Eclipse] runs quick now. It used to take three to five minutes to run a financial statement and now it’s seconds. It’s 80% faster.”
Tim from HGH has experienced similar increases in efficiency. He said, “Monday first thing everyone noticed was how much faster the machine was. A report that might take a day to run is now taking 10 or 15 minutes. Some screens would take a while to refresh and now we had almost no wait time going through screens. It was so fast we had to get out of its way.”
Tim finds this change to have a big impact on productivity. “People were used to the delay and getting lost in where they were with their keystrokes,” he said. “It was like going from a first generation desktop to a new machine. It’s at least 10 times faster and reports are at least 15 times faster than before.” He added, “I used to start reports and have to come back to it later in the day, but now I don’t have any reports that keep me from continuing work on that particular project.”
3. Easy conversion. The idea of a conversion may seem daunting or risky to some people; but, our sources have experienced seamless transitions with very little work or involvement on their end.
“I came in Sunday afternoon and switched cables and that was it,” said Tim. “When we came in Monday morning, no one knew anything changed except everything was faster.” He added, “ There was hardly an hour into the conversion on the customer side. There’s nothing about the conversion that we wouldn’t do over again tomorrow.”
Likewise, Mike’s conversion was simple and straight-forward. He said, “Eclipse does the whole conversion process. The only pain point I felt was I had to come down and put a DVD in over the weekend. There was no impact to staff or operations, all of the reports run and everything we had set up automatically works.” When asked about any changes his users had to endure, he said, “The learning curve was short. There were no changes made to our network. The only difference our users knew was that it ran faster.”
4. The Future. The companies we interviewed feel like the future is with Linux. Quite notably, it can run Solar. Many Epicore Eclipse software users are moving away from Eterm; yet, the IBM servers they are running on likely aren’t compatible. Mike from Fastener Solutions feels this is an important point to consider. He said, “We have learned more and more of the benefits and neat things in Solar that can’t be done in Eterm. Every week we’re learning two or three more things we can do in Solar and picking up those productivity gains.”
Another facet of Linux’s future potential for companies is that it’s easily and inexpensively expandable. When asked what the most important aspect of his switch was, Tim from HGH said, “The ability to expand with it. And the fact that Eclipse is going to be fitting all new systems on Linux.”
Finally, Linux-based servers are more in line with the ever-decreasing size of technology devices. Tim said, “This server is much smaller and fits in a rack, versus the several hundred pound IBM.“
Like any change, there are always opportunities for improvement. Fortunately, you have others to learn from; and, the Linux conversions we’ve referenced involved very few, and only minor, challenges. Tim noted, “The only problem we’ve had is that we have yet to get our refund from IBM. We’re not sure whose fault that is.”
Mike said, “We only had a few problems initially with add-on products, including the messaging system, VSI-FAX and MITS. It took about three days to fix these with Eclipse, but they weren’t problems that put us dead in the water. “ He added, “I don’t think there is anything we could’ve done different to avoid them because we were sort of a test for Eclipse. I doubt they would be a problem for someone now.”
As always, Zerion is available to be your resource for all of your Eclipse software services, including advice, consulting, training and more.
Tony King is the owner of Zerion Group whose roles include sales, consulting and management of a team of 12 consultants who work directly with customers to help them achieve their business goals.