Howdy. I’m writing this open letter because of my shock towards item D on next week’s consent agenda, which spends well over a million dollars for software licensing. I’m not just shocked by the amount, but by the fact that it is completely unnecessary, especially when it comes to ‘upgrading’ to Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus. Every single product offered by Microsoft as a part of the 365 Pro Plus package has free alternatives, as listed below.
Word: LibreOffice Writer, Apache OpenOffice Writer, Google Docs
Excel: LibreOffice Calc, Apache OpenOffice Calc, Google Sheets
Outlook: Thunderbird, K-9 Mail
OneDrive: Nextcloud, Dropbox, Google Drive
OneNote: CherryTree, Zim (Microsoft also has a free version of the product, with most features included)
Skype: Signal, Google Hangouts
Access: LibreOffice Base, OpenOffice Base
If our city wants to look into these and other alternatives, the site alternativeto.net is an excellent resource for finding free alternatives to most commercial software.
I do understand that most of these products aren’t as sleek or fancy looking as Microsoft Office programs. However, the difference in functionality is negligible, and many of the free alternatives actually have features not found in Microsoft’s products. Even more importantly, taxpayer money should not be spent on making software look fancier. According to the Information Technology page on the city website, one of the core values of the Information Technology Department is value, which it defines as "Solutions derived from a balance of quality, cost, and usability." To spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a product with free alternatives violates this value.
I urge item D be discussed separately from the consent agenda and voted down by the council.