SMBs

Free Nethserver might be the small business server you're looking for

If your small business needs a server platform that won't break the bank, Nethserver might be the right fit. It's free, as well as easy to deploy and manage.

nethserverhero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

You need to improve the workflow at your small business without breaking the budget. Chances are, you might be looking to Linux to fulfill those needs...and with good reason—Linux offers flexibility and reliability that is unmatched on many levels.

To that end, you might be considering a way to deploy a small business server on standard, off-the-shelf hardware. One way to go is Nethserver. This free server platform offers plenty of features that can be easily deployed and managed. I'll walk you through some of Nethserver's features, and show how to work with its web-based admin interface.

SEE: 10 ways to shrink your IT budget without killing progress

Installing Nethserver

The installation of Nethserver is handled like any Linux distribution: Download the ISO image, burn the image onto a disk or as a bootable USB drive, and install. Note: The installation is completely NCURSES (text) based. However, the installation is incredibly simple and shouldn't throw any IT pro for a loop.

Once the installation is complete, you need to find your server's IP address (which can be done using the ifconfig command) and then log into Nethserver (using the admin user created during installation) by pointing your browser to https://IP_OF_SERVER:980 (IP_OF_SERVER is the IP address of your Nethserver).

An issue you'll need to fix immediately

Upon installation and login, you'll want to immediately start installing new packages to expand the server's capabilities. From the admin dashboard, click Software Center in the left navigation. You'll probably run into an issue right away—the yum package manager will most likely toss a warning about the cache. Because of this, you won't be able to install or update anything. The fix for this issue lies in DNS.

Out of the box, Nethserver sets its only DNS entry to 127.0.0.1. You'll need to add a secondary DNS server to get around this. To do that, follow these steps.

  1. Go to the Admin dashboard.
  2. Click Network (under Configuration).
  3. Click the DNS Servers tab.
  4. Enter your Secondary DNS server (Figure A).
  5. Click Submit.

Figure A

Figure A
Image: Jack Wallen
Setting an external DNS server for Nethserver.

Installing applications

Click Software Center (under Administration). In this new window (Figure B), scroll through the list of software to locate what you want to install. If you see a notification about software updates available, be sure to click the Updates button and run that prior to installing new software.

Figure B

Figure B
Image: Jack Wallen
The Nethserver application installation window.

After the updates complete, click the Available tab, locate the package(s) you want to install, click to select it, scroll down, and click ADD. In the next window, review your changes, and then click APPLY CHANGES. What you do next will depend upon the package you've installed.

If you're not using Nethserver on an Active Directory-driven network, install the LDAP package from the Available Packages. Once that is installed, you can go to Users And Groups (under Management) and start adding users and groups. Until you install LDAP and add users, no one will be able to connect to any of the packages/services you've installed.

From within the Nethserver package installation tool, you can add the likes of:

  • LDAP
  • Backup
  • Email server
  • Fax server
  • File server
  • FTP server
  • Instant messaging
  • Intrusion detection
  • Nextcloud
  • OpenVPN
  • Print server
  • Roundcube webmail
  • Virtual Machines Manager
  • Web server
  • SOGo groupware (which I highly recommend)

SEE: Power checklist: Managing and troubleshooting servers (Tech Pro Research)

A budget server with plenty of power

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better small business server for the price you'll pay for Nethserver. Not only does Nethserver offer quite a bit of expandability, it's incredibly easy to install and manage. In no time you can have your company's one-stop-server-shop up and running so your workflow can grow beyond your imagination...all on the cheap.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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