Last updated September 27, 2014.

Our costs in migrating to Koha are typical compared to other OSS projects we have implemented. The development costs for OSS are similar to the purchase of proprietary solutions. However, the ongoing expense for OSS is only for hardware updates, so costs are easily predictable and lower than commercial solutions. In addition, OSS costs show a large savings from the fourth through the seventh years of operation, as there is no large “upgrade” or new version costs. The real savings in OSS is not the acquisition cost, but the yearly operating savings, which can be significant over a ten-10-year period.

The costs for Koha came within our expectations. We did spend as much for Koha as we would have implementing a proprietary product. The cost of the upgrade to the Koha software was more than $35,000. We also spent slightly more than $15,000 on new servers and other hardware equipment. So the overall direct “acquisition” cost was slightly above $50,000. Since we support the system ourselves, we have no ongoing licensing fees or support fees. Every few years we budget for two servers, one of which serves as a live backup as well as a host for running MySQL-intensive reports. The upgrades cost us between $7,500 and $10,000 every three years total. Overall, over the last eight years, our total direct costs have been $77,000 or roughly $7,700 a year. Considering we have more than nine libraries using our Koha ILS, this is less than $1,000 a year per library. Of course if you add indirect costs, the total becomes somewhat higher; however, our IT Department staff is the same size now as it was when we started this project (2.5 FTEs). It is easy to conclude we would have spent the same amount of staff time managing a closed source ILS, making indirect costs a wash. Additionally, the funds spent toward integrating the Zebra index into Koha paved the way for other libraries our size and larger to be able to adopt Koha, leveraging our investment in a way that cannot be done using closed source software. Libraries our size adopting Koha today would not have the expenses we did in migrating, unless they were to sponsor major development as we did.

Instead of expending funds on licensing or commercial support, CCFLS has prioritized investing in staff that is capable of implementing, developing, and supporting multiple OSS projects (not just Koha, but other programs like Libki), so that we get more “bang for our buck” from our IT staff.