In the course of the survey covered by this paper, cost data were collected by visiting eighteen operational computer‐based systems in Europe and the U.S.A., using a structured cost analysis scheme. The sample included database producers and self‐contained systems that both create, and provide services from, a data base. From the data obtained, unit costs have been derived for most operations, and the factors contributing to variations in the figures are discussed. Analysis of the data has shown that costs are affected more significantly by factors such as system management, salary variations, and productivity of staff, than by technical factors such as depth of indexing, data preparation methods, or computer programming. The total operating budgets of most of the systems have also been analysed to show the overall pattern of cost distribution, including overheads.
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