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What is average cost/effort to launch CKAN instance and what are operational expenses to maintain it going forward? (Assuming small size government with limited IT resources)

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Figuring out the cost for running CKAN boils down to two different categories: the cost of running the software itself, as well as the cost of building and maintaining your open data catalog going forward.

The cost of the software itself is simpler to answer: CKAN itself is free/open-source, and available as a hosted solution.

  • If you go the open-source route, you'll need to work out the cost of your employee's time, cost of server resources, bandwidth, storage, etc. Your employee time may be minimized by using CKAN's deployment services to get started. As for hardware, the system requirements for CKAN are minimal (it can run on a single server) and probably won't be a significant factor in your costs. This can grow significantly as your data catalog grows, your catalog usage grows, or as the service becomes critical enough to warrant making your CKAN highly-available. You'll need to know your own data size and usage patterns to accurately predict this.
  • If you go the hosted route, this is simpler to figure out. CKAN publishes their hosted pricing online - it runs from from between $400 - $3500 at the time of this writing.

The cost to run an effective open data implementation within your government can vary widely. It could be near-zero for a site that appear to be "abandonware" but if you want a continually updated site with a growing repository of useful content, you'll need to spend time building and curating it. This goes far beyond the scope of IT; having a champion within the organization with a knowledge of the data produced will almost certainly help, rather than making your CKAN instance "yet another tool being forced on me."

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I think this is a very subjective question. What is a small government... a local government with a population of 10,000 or 100,000? How much traffic is there going to be? Are there people already familiar on the workings of CKAN, if not will training be paid for? Is CKAN going to be augmented into an already existing IT department (cheaper) or will a new department have to be created (more expensive)?

All of these questions aside here is some data on the cost of running government websites in general.

based on what I've read and my experience with this kind of thing on the more cost efficient side of things:

  • If you already have adequate people (man power and experience)
  • Your own server to host on

The only real expense would be the employee's time. Assume maintenance takes 4 hours a week and the employee is being paid ~$30/hour then you are looking at around $1500 dollars a year.

One the other end of the spectrum if you need:

  • A server (higher initial cost but cheaper in the long run) or hosting ($750/month)
  • A new hire to run the system (full time $40,000 a year, part time $20,000 a year)
  • Training

Then you are probably looking at $30,000 to $50,000 a year, maybe more.

  • An employee's loaded cost is typically around twice their pay, after you consider benefits, office space, computer equipment, management overhead, etc. And personnel costs are your biggest expense. – Joe May 16 '13 at 3:54
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The minimum cost strictly associated with cloud hosting for a CKAN instance is around US$50 per month. This is based on one of the recommended configurations, an Amazon Web Services EC2 server. Using the current rate in the US East (N. Virginia) region of $0.060/hour for the m1.small instance, and running this instance full-time for 1 month, you can expect to pay $0.060 * 24 hours/day * 31 days/month = $44.64/month.

If you're using Amazon's S3 as a data store, you'll need to account for the costs of that service, but unless you have significant traffic or several terabytes of data, the costs are negligible compared to running the EC2 server.

This figure is only for the costs that directly result from cloud hosting for the CKAN application, and does not factor in the (likely greater) costs of initial site customization, data management, system administration, customer support, and community/organizational education about how to make use of open data.

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For US federal agencies, there are some pilots involved for offering hosted CKAN instances as a free shared service. More to come...

(Disclaimer - I am the Sr. API Strategist for GSA)

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