Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How do I look up publicly available information about a company?
October 19, 2011 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I need to look up the number of employees, number of computers in use at workstations, what type of operating system is used at the workstations, et cetera of a company for a school project. Specifically, I want to calculate the costs/benefits of switching from the presumably Windows OS a company uses to Ubuntu.

My teacher has said that all of this type of information (or at least the number of employees) is public information for publicly traded companies. However, I can't seem to find it anywhere. The company can be any company, but I'd prefer it to be a place where a lot of white collar work is done because I feel like it would be easiest to tout the advantages of Ubuntu (we're supposed to be advocating some kind of technical idea, product, or service for a company). Anyway, can anyone help me out on this?
posted by bookman117 to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
Morningstar (and probably Hoover's, Yahoo Finance, and others (your local public library might offer access to paid or subscription databases)) has data about the number of employees, but number of computers and type of operating system and stuff like that is not as far as I know public information (I might be wrong), and might be harder to find.
posted by box at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2011


...is public information for publicly traded companies.

The number of employees might be, but you're probably not going to get anything for the number of workstations and type of OS. I'm not aware of any filing requirement that would capture this information. These questions lose meaning in larger deployments, as well, where you're more likely to encounter thin-client deployments where workstation loads are based on server farms, not individual machines.
posted by odinsdream at 8:49 AM on October 19, 2011


The company can be any company, but I'd prefer it to be a place where a lot of white collar work is done because I feel like it would be easiest to tout the advantages of Ubuntu (we're supposed to be advocating some kind of technical idea, product, or service for a company).

I wouldn't make that assumption if I were you. White collar work with computers implies a broad scope of activities with all sorts of entanglements with proprietary applications/data and work processes. Getting that type of worker to change operating systems can be a huge hurdle that wipes out cost savings from software licensing.

With end users that are in a specialized vertical, say front line airline workers at airports, you have a large number of machines running a small number of applications. There the gotchas of switching are more knowable upfront and can be planned for and costed properly.

I agree with the others that you aren't going to find a guaranteed listing of employee, workstations and operating systems for publicly traded companies. You'll also find that as the employee counts go up at a company there loses a tight relationship between employee and PC as many of those employees don't use a computer for many tasks.

What you might find however is case studies of companies performed by groups like Gartner that will give you stats for a particular company. A lot of this data is private for their subscribers but in some cases this data gets quoted publicly.
posted by mmascolino at 9:00 AM on October 19, 2011


What you might find however is case studies of companies performed by groups like Gartner that will give you stats for a particular company. A lot of this data is private for their subscribers but in some cases this data gets quoted publicly.

Yeah, I was going to suggest finding white paper data about different companies with regards to large system upgrades and the like. You'll often find numbers of workstations and OS information in those.

If you're making an argument for switching from Windows to Ubuntu on a large corporate scale, you should definitely consider the underlying costs of a migration like this. Large organizations usually have some form of site-license discounts on Windows along with lots and lots of proprietary code that will likely only run on Windows. In the end, the cost of redeveloping/porting business process software along with the costs of rolling out Ubuntu and training the staff could very easily become more expensive than the status quo.
posted by ndfine at 9:13 AM on October 19, 2011


You could always find a contact number for a company, call them, and ask for this information. If you explain it's for a class project they might give you the info you need.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2011


Also, contact the Ubuntu folks via their site. I'd be willing to bet they could point you to some public studies that might contain useful data.
posted by introp at 9:30 AM on October 19, 2011


Does your school have a business school? If so, find the hours for the business school library reference desk. I bet they can find you tons of information in a very short period of time.
posted by rockindata at 9:36 AM on October 19, 2011


Your teacher is misinformed. Definitely talk to your Business Librarian (and if your school doesn't have one, a nearby university will).
posted by coolguymichael at 12:00 PM on October 19, 2011


I work for a publicly traded company and I can guarantee you that we do not make this information available publicly. Unless you work in our IT department, or are someone above the IT department in the org chart, this information is not immediately available to you. I could potentially walk down to the IT department and ask them for a count of how many machines are currently issued with what OSes on them, and they might be able to give that to me, but these numbers change every day.

Here, anyone can ask for up to three computers, each with windows, linux, or mac OS X on it. On any given day you can turn in an old computer, ask for a new computer, or replace one computer with another. I could have two macs today and three windows machines tomorrow if I wanted. The IT department keeps track of this, but it's not made publicly available anywhere.

Also, at least here, the notion of "switching to linux" is fairly laughable. It doesn't even mean anything. Which computers do you switch? All the people who want linux can already ask for it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a university IT employee (and Ubuntu user / former contributor), if you can't get or guess the data you need for publicly traded companies, you could just target your analysis at universities. You can request informational interviews with people to get this information, if they don't already make it public. Or you could file FOIA.

University IT looks pretty much the same as corporations, but our use case is slightly different. Lots of one-off software deployment requests and not a lot of software facing millions of users. More people sharing computers in "labs."

As far as the feasibility goes, there's making Ubuntu available and there's banning (refusing to pay for) Windows. I gather the latter is your proposal, and would be met in the real world by people using proprietary extra software that has no Linux equivalent. Virtualbox would probably work, except you're still paying for windows at that point.
posted by pwnguin at 1:12 PM on October 19, 2011


« Older I'm designing a university cou...   |  What kind of dog should our fa... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.