Enterprise Software

DIY: Replace Windows Small Business Server with ClearOS

If your small business or non-profit is looking for an inexpensive way to replace Windows Small Business Server, Jack Wallen says ClearOS should be your first choice. Find out what he likes so much about this open source, do-it-all server OS.

I am constantly on the hunt for less expensive tools that will make my admin life easier. I found what I was looking for in the open source operating system ClearOS. It's based on a combination of Red Hat Enterprise and is specifically designed to meet the needs of the small business. Clear offers more than an open source operating system -- it also offers numerous services.

Every administrator who is looking to replace a Microsoft Small Business Server and is on a very tight budget needs ClearOS. Why? Because with Clear OS, you get the following:

What separates ClearOS from the competition?

Administrators know that managing all of the above services can be quite time-consuming. ClearOS solves this problem by using a web interface for all of the server management. The web-based administration panel is incredibly easy to use (Figure A), and everything you need to configure on your sever is at your fingertips. From users to LDAP to security to web server, you name it -- it's in the administration panel. Every service can easily be stopped, started, and configured all in one location. Figure A

Even LDAP is simple to configure using ClearOS. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Installing ClearOS

If you have ever installed an operating system, you should not have any problems installing ClearOS. Although the installation is based on the same installer that CentOS uses (so it is an ncurses installation), it is incredibly simple and can be installed in less than a half hour, (depending on how many services are being installed).

During the installation, you can choose what you want installed. For instance, if LDAP or a print server isn't necessary, you don't have to install those services. Or, you can go all out and install everything, effectively winding up with the equivalent of a Microsoft Small Business Server -- with a few extras.

There are two different types of installations: Gateway and Standalone. If you plan on using ClearOS as a firewall and a gateway for other hosts, you should select the Gateway installation. If you choose this route, the machine must have two network cards (internal and external).

The installation does not offer a live version; however, there is a live demo you can log onto and play around on. If you want to try ClearOS before you install it, hop on over to the ClearOS Demo Server and use the following credentials to log in:

user: get

password: clear

This will allow you to take every service configuration available on ClearOS for a spin. Every service on the machine can be controlled from the same screen by going to System | Resources | Services and then clicking the Configure icon for the service to be configured (Figure B). Figure B

In the demo, you cannot get into all of the configuration options available. (Click the image to enlarge.)

If watching the demo doesn't help you make a decision about whether to deploy ClearOS, I highly recommend downloading the ISO and installing it within a virtual machine (such as VirtualBox). When you do take the installation route, here are the steps you'll follow:

  1. Download and burn the ISO.
  2. Boot the ISO.
  3. Walk through the ncurses based installation.
  4. When installation is complete, reboot.
  5. Walk through the GUI installation last steps.
  6. Log in to the ClearOS install from another machine (via web browser).
  7. Complete configuration.

If you're testing within a virtual machine, it is important to make sure to set the networking adapter up to use Bridged network, or else you won't be able to reach the installation from outside the virtual machine. If you cannot reach the virtual installation, the setup will have to be completed within the virtual machine, which is not always ideal.

Once the installation is complete, the ClearOS installation can be joined to a domain and even become the domain controller (use this with caution because you could cripple a windows network).

Member feedback

If you have installed ClearOS, what are your thoughts about this open source server OS? Share your feedback with the TechRepublic community.

About

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 getjackd.net.

50 comments
monkeyman99
monkeyman99

Sorry to dig up such an old thread. I bookmarked this last year with full intentions of finding time to get into offering linux servers to some of our clients, however, time flies... @todd_dsm - would love to chat with you about linux ala The Zerver, I have tons of questions :)

catchacold
catchacold

Just wondering..........I read all the system requirements. But, I am at a spot to purchase a "server" and configure ClearOS. If someone has went through this already what hardware recommendations would you recommend for a 10 person office? I am going to def use raid 5 and a back up machine. I was looking at Dell Workstations. What do you think? Thanks

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

The truth is that, as a Google Apps re-seller, I can attest that they are killing - even the City of Los Angeles is using it; 30k users (or so, I forget how many). They are robbing MS blind of those clients that just needed an out. Now those clients have it. Google has been plagued with security flaws though, some around the authentication you're so proud of... I know because I have to answer every inane email a client sends me about the solution I've suggested shoveling their data out the back door. Google responds by beefing up offering 2-Factor Auth, way past what any other vendor has created - then they just give it away. Google sales are climbing... http://tek.io/j2QbhR But, strangely enough, old-school small business owners are stuck in their ways. They have their blinders fully secured and keep business rolling as it always has been. SBS 2008 and 2008 R2 sales are climbing. HP, Dell, and IBM are selling more of their lower-end servers than they have any time in the past. As a Dell and HP re-seller they they like to feed us stats like that so we believe more in their product. As if we had much of a choice. Virtualization, on the other had, is the cool new kid on the block. It's been gaining traction since it's inception.... --- But wait, how could all of this possibly be true? If virtualization is so hot then why are The Big 3 selling so much more low-end hardware? Isn't that what virtualization is designed to replace? many low end services virtualized on a single server? Rack density and all that... Why are OS sales down on these new low-end box purchases? They are buying the hardware and opting out of the OS? Are admins cracking a version of Windows or installing Linux- there are only stats for that on your favorite Torrent sites. Is virtualization dying? It really killing the low-end server market? Odd in deed... Google does have a great product - but they ain't killing Microsoft. You won't see them with their pockets out any time soon. I've installed many more WinSBS servers every year (since 1998) than I would like to. --- But to say that Linux admins, or Windows Admins for that matter, are done is ridiculous. Spoken like a real sideline player - get in the game. As I've demonstrated, all that you read on the internet are half-truths - otherwise known as marketing. There is a tremendous amount of time wasted on verifying these rampant lies. I suggest only tracking down those issues that are near and dear to you. Creation is King: Those that create cannot be replaced. Imagine trying to replace Steve Jobs; it may never happen. Technology doesn't cover incompetence - it's but 1 tool used to realize your vision of the future. Fire that man, and a company looses it's vision. Small business owners know this. But, to be fair, ideas don't have borders. Those that provide the lowest level of service will eventually wither: if anyone can do your job then why not pay someone 25% of your salary to do it remotely? oDesk is helping to make this an easy reality for small business. These jobs are trickling away faster and faster every day... Google Docs will eventually hurt Microsoft - just not today. You can't just replicate Microsoft's core applications and give them away for FREE without hurting them a little. The smaller-minded the CTO the longer things will remain as they are. If the decision-makers are more brash, they will quite simply do what the City of Los Angeles has already done. Making a call on a static outcome is absurd. We live in the greatest time in human history, technology changes on a daily basis; and when it's major players have stagnated - an unknown 15 year old Indian prodigy pops out of the abyss with a revolutionary idea and changes the game. The future is un-callable. I suggest you do what I do: 1) Imagine the greatest pain in your personal ass. 2) Get a lawn chair and a six pack - watch the others scramble, learn from them. 3) Quietly figure out a way to resolve that pain. 4) Market your fix properly and sell it till you have all the money you need. 5) Sell it to the highest bidder. 6) Retire as a great Creator and contributor to the social good. 7) Enjoy the rest of your life. Changes are too numerous and organic to conclude an outcome, don't participate; see the wold as you think it should be, regardless of what anyone else is doing - and make your vision a reality.

bsf
bsf

Just thought I would add my opinion. The MS days of controlling everything are over, even the Linux admins are done for (in my opinion) Imagine an office, each PC runs an O/S, they connect via a router to the internet (all secure) , and they use Google Docs for their workload and email. Google docs complies to many security standards - which RHEL and MS could only dream of. Technology has moved away from Admins, support people, it's now available in the cloud and automated.

O & G IT Guy
O & G IT Guy

I have a small group of users (12) that we currently use SBS 2003 to support. We run Exchange, and BES express. This allows them to share calendars, schedule meetings, keep their email in sync, and share contacts. What solution here would allow me to make a (near) transparent switch which would keep all the functionality they already enjoy?

Kelley@HollywoodSteel.com
Kelley@HollywoodSteel.com

I own a small construction company with 8 desktops and an SBS 2003 server. Prior to this, I spent many years in the IT field. As a client, I place a high value on stability and dependability. Down time and consultant fees to fix problems have a very high cost. Once they have matured,Microsoft products offer a lot of stability. I use freeware, shareware and open source for ancillary needs, but not for misson critical processes. Open Source is less expensive initially, I would be concerned that it would be more costly in the end.

Lyman26
Lyman26

I have been using this Server OS for quite long and have faced no challenges. this is the best ever

kmnair
kmnair

COS is free, but last time I checked, the updates were priced. Content filter, antimalware, intrusion detection, antispam ALL. So what I can it use it for free is perhaps only the gateway hardware features. So I ditched it and have been using Untangle for the past one year. Running beautiful. Regards kmn

pmerighi
pmerighi

Downloading now !! looks good. I'll try on a VM, and send you the comments

realvarezm
realvarezm

Sadly this is the only part of clearOS we use in the organization that i work for, but man! it can do almost anything. The level of detail you can set for protection, VPN and routing is almos limitless and the support of the foundation is great! And compare to microsoft or other software they charge pennies for the services that require license or update like the firewall. I highly recommend it. Cheers

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

As a perimeter security gateway and vpn server - for FREE - you can't go wrong with ClearOS. For my clients, I put 2 solutions together: *Network Perimeter: Clear OS *Bullet-Proof Email & File-Sharing, et al: The Zerver http://solutions.ssiresults.com/zerver.html I have clients that have been using both of these solutions in tandem for years - and, here's the best part, they never go down. I get support calls on Desktop problems only, never for the servers; set it and forget it. Then, because supporting poor solutions hasn't sapped the clients dry, we can always discuss new purchases to grow and expand. My Win SBS 2008 clients call me for maintenance on their servers monthly or bi-monthly at a minimum. WinSBS Server cannot compete with these solutions together.

jpb21k
jpb21k

While installing clearOS 5.2 Enterprise and selecting "Install" as the Install Type, a message that ALL of my hard drives including connected USB and Firewire drives will be erased. I have not gone past this point as I wish to keep this information. Jack, did you get this message? If so, were your external drives erased?

ahusmc
ahusmc

The only thing preventing me from really jumping into the Linux World is a robust Directory Services (such as Active Directory DT, UC) and a group policy/ enforcement suite (such as GP and SCCM). I like the direction of the Linux Community, but without AD, GP and an SCCM like applications I will never be able to employ it in a robust small-medium business network environment. (LDAP only goes so far, and without policy and health baseline assessments and enforcement a significant percentage of my potential Clientele is off limits, meaning loss in revenue streams for my business).

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I think one of the primary reasons to have SBS is to use it on a domain. Clearly you don't want to manage 30+ desktop users in a workgroup.

townwebsites
townwebsites

Can anyone comment on replacing SBS services for windows desktop backup and windows desktop installation management using a Linux server? I need to advise a client tonight, thanks!

1DaveN
1DaveN

For anyone looking for an inexpensive SBS replacement, I recommend looking at the newly released SBS 2011 Essentials. It is not only considerably less expensive, there are no client access licenses required. Still running on Windows Server, it gives you all the SBS benefits you've come to rely on, such as group policy, etc. It'll be a much more familiar and easy-to-deploy system for those running older versions of SBS.

pgit
pgit

As someone commented above, (paraphrasing) there is no 'one size fits all' in the network and server biz. ClearOS comes darn close for some of the more core tasks. It wouldn't be my first choice for a gateway or firewall, "overkill" comes to mind, but as a replacement for a windows domain controller, LDAP and email ClearOS is hard to beat in the ease of use department.

BlueCollarGeek
BlueCollarGeek

Using Promox to host virtualized KVM machines, we use ClearOS installed as a KVM machine as a mail server and a seperate KVM machine as a Domain Controller for a network of Windows 7 Pro and Windows XP Pro desktops (with print and file sharing/flexishare). We do not use it as an all-in-one nor do we use any of the firewall / IP / IDS / AV features - we have Untangle for that (Untangle rocks - check it out if you don't know about it). Nice easy to manage mail server with Horde webmail by default, but adding Zafara was quite easy. Getting Samba to function as a DC for Windows 7 Pro was daunting from scratch, but was a piece of cake with ClearOS. I can't say enough good things about ClearOS as a mail server or domain controller.

tbmay
tbmay

I'll tell you though, I have wasted TOO much time on 3rd layer open source projects in my past, so I'm not going to get my hopes up here. They are often darn good, with lots of promise, but they seem to always have a few unfinished things, that the developers who aren't getting paid, either lose interest in finishing, or don't have time. This is no slam against them either. The work they produce for free is astounding. I have simply found the "base" projects are typically the best place to start and stop with your usage of open source. I've deployed quite a few RHEL/CentOS machines, I know they're solid, and I stick with them. I "gave up" on pfsense in it's typical roles in favor of pure OpenBSD. There was always some little nuance about the graphical, pretty project that didn't give me the flexibility. (Yes...I know pfsense is based on freebsd, before anyone chimes in.) Openfiler....not any more....back to Debian Stable or RHEL. Same deal. You break the settings you made on the web interface if you try to do something the web interface doesn't allow. Again, I don't mean to insult, and if you have generic needs all of these projects are super. If you need to do something a little "creative" they may or may not work for you. I'll just stick with the tried and true.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

After reviewing the producer's site and grabbing the ISO, I discovered that this thing has it's roots in ClarkConnect. We happily used another ClarkConnect derivation, SME server, for the longest time until we outgrew it. I am looking forward to seeing what this distro can really do, and I'll report back Monday evening.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

Dunno what happened here... this was supposed to be a reply to aileenmc about Zentyal. Could the moderator please delete the two posts in the main trunk with the title "Used It, Liked It, but..."? Serves me right for posting while hung over.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

It seems that this is becoming the way Linux shops are planning to gain traction in the enterprise. I do believe that these Linux shops get something that Microsoft does not really grasp... Most businesses are small. Small in size, small budgets, and low requirements when it comes to database and file storage size (GB or TB, not XB). This mirrors our market philosophy as well; although we have state and federal contracts / subcontracts, we focus on small deployments. A small deployment can usually be scaled up, while large deployments are generally not as effective when scaled down. Sacrifices are made. This brings me to the only gotcha. For the love of Tunny, don't put an IPv4 firewall on the same stack as your infrastructure services! It's just bad practice. Two machines can be firewalled from each other, allowing only the anticipated traffic in, allows better control in the event of the inevitable breach. I must agree with seanferd... anything that puts a bit of user interface on LDAP would be a good thing.

aileenmc
aileenmc

An other Linux Small Business Server is Zentyal. It's based on Ubuntu server and plays very nicely with all packages you can get from Ubuntu. I like the LDAP master-slave mode to deploy multiple systems using centralized users&groups management, even you can sync with an existing Active Directory! Zentyal also has a Zarafa module (the perfect open source Microsoft Exchange replacement), RADIUS and a couple of this more I couldn't find on ClearOS. Give it a try!

seanferd
seanferd

It's based on a combination of Red Hat Enterprise and And what? CentOS, which is more or less a RH derivative currently? A suite of applications? You're leaving me hanging, here. ;) If ClearOS makes LDAP easier to work with, it probably has a foot in the door right there. edit to clean ??? out of quoted text.

mark
mark

and now support is starting to come back as many people (mostly bean counters) have came to realize that offshoring doesn't save as much $$$ as they thought and makes users less satisfyed with their computing / support expierence. The cloud has its place however if you think Google docs can replace an enterprise system go ahead and we will see you in a couple years trying to unravel the cloud mess like many companies are undoing their "Offshoring mess"

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

@O & G IT Guy Linux via ClearOS or The Zerver (or any other flavor for that matter) will get you very "near" Windows functionality; it's the little things that will get noticed. But, for good reason... Linux is built with Security as primary design goal; in Windows it's a design goal but it's further down the list and therefore not primary. Microsoft's primary design goals include ease of use. While important, usability is to security what oil is to water. The most secure systems are more difficult to use, imagine having to enter a 256-character password. Conversely, the easiest systems to use are generally less secure: no passwords, all users have equal access to everything, therefore you won't hear any complaints. But then, for all the obvious reasons, you open the door to a slew of other problems. So, security is necessary. After deploying the first ClearOS and The Zerver at a client site the phone went dead; at least for that client. It's been almost 18 months now and all I have to talk about with that client is adding new desktop computers, printers, phones, etc. Fixing their servers is not part of ANY invoice in the last 18 months. The way it's laid out in the maintenance contracts is that patching is covered. So, while their IS maintenance - it can be schedule at my leisure and it doesn't cost anything. To answer your question though. Here's the break-down in what gets lost in the Windows to Linux translation: Read Receipts. Zimbra has added this functionality so it's not such a big deal but it was a deal-breaker during Zimbra 5, when read receipts were not included. Zimbra included them in version 6 and they are now on version 7. It's not an issue any more. You won't need BES any more. Zimbra works with BB just fine. You just setup your email connection to the BB phones using IMAP. Zimbra would like you to buy a pay-for version but I can assure you this works as you would hope with the free version of Zimbra. I would suggest making the move to Androids anyway though. They are a snap to setup and they have 1,000s of features that BB will never have due to Androids community-driven application development. http://read.bi/q6o38r Afterwards, you can picture a TCO graph that looks something like this: Linux solution will trend about even with a 3-4% incline. Your windows server will trend, on the same graph with a 20-30% incline. Meaning, with Windows, you will pay less up front but you'll be shoveling money into upgrades for (at least) backup/AV software for the rest of your life. If you use other packages in addition to that you'll be shoveling money into those as well. Also, there are a million reasons to fix your Windows box, even catching a bad patch is enough to bring you in on a Saturday afternoon - it's just silly and avoidable. This will keep you in reactive mode, which only serves to dig into your proactive time and reduce your bosses over-all confidence in the system. On Linux however, you pay a little more up front but you won't be sweating over them when they break down - because they won't break down. Then, you'll be spending your IT days being proactive; things will run smoother, your boss will have greater confidence in your work. I've spent a few days here and there mulling over a network design on the golf course ;) After that I would put my AV & Backup solution against anything Symantec has to offer: rsync is more flexible than backup exec, easier to use and customize and it's free. The AV solution includes Virus Scanning on the ClearOS box (used as a gateway) before emails even hit The Zerver (Zimbra mail server), then once they hit The Zerver, each email has to run the gauntlet: 1) Greylisting, 2) SpamAssassin, 3) ClamAV. Greylisiting is only available on Linux; no Windows box could beat The Zerver with both hands on it's best day. I can simplify the whole process for you from start to happy, and help with selling the idea to your managers. Drop a line and we can discuss it.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

@Kelley I performed 2 deploys last year. 05/2010 - 1 ClearOS /1 Zerver to support 60 users with email, file sharing, VPN, and lots of other stuff: $5,255.20 (hardware & migration). Yearly support for both units: less than $500/year up to 5 years. Never a penny more. The other was a WinSBS2003 --> 2008 migration for a client that just couldn't make the jump. We bought Windows SBS 2008 for $1,800. The migration was painful because his old server was in such bad shape, that was $3,600. I've performed an average of 10 hours per month on that box since it's install date, an average estimate: $1,000 x 6 months. Windows Server 2008 6 month TCO: $14,400.00 ClearOS/The Zerver 12 month TCO: $5,255.20 It shows no performance-related signs of slowing, wear, or system degradation in the logs or otherwise. Based on this The Zerver could potentially go on indefinitely as it's hot-swap RAID5 array has failed drives they can be swapped for new ones while the system is running. No downtime and no loss of in-flight data. Those are real numbers. But, do some searching on your own. Dig though your quick books files for outgoing IT costs total them. You'll start to see a pattern emerge. If your totals are higher than the ones above, email me :-) I'll change your mind about Linux and it's viability.

dlovep
dlovep

As subject, but if you dont need to fix anything and how likely will your clients pay you for maintenance ? Think about perfect system and OS, where the margin we can live like as a system support ? If Cars are perfect those mechanic wont exist.

abylund
abylund

As a server, network, gateway device, ClearOS will use your hard drive in a different way than a desktop OS. This is not an uncommon requirement for server, network, gateway devices. The best way to test ClearOS is on an old pc with 2 NIC cards. You can also just jump over to the ClearFoundation website and take a look at the demo servers: http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/live-demo.html

TG2
TG2

25 users max! CALs *are* required for RDP on the server, as well as add on packages (SQL requires cals) And what exactly did you plan to do with your Email? Exchange certainly isn't included with Essentials.. and why wouldn't you have considered what SBS has meant in the PAST ... comes with Exchange Std (limited 75 users as is the 2011 SBS STD ver) "Create a plan to migrate email that is hosted on Windows Small Business Server 2003 In Windows SBS 2003, email is provided through Exchange Server 2003. [b]However, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials does not provide an inbox email service.[/b] If you are currently using Windows SBS 2003 to host your companys email, you will need to migrate to an alternate on-premise or hosted solution." Considered... F*NO! And you should probably be slapped for simply suggesting something like essentials.. cheap? sure.. replacement? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...(since about version 3 I think) and I'm very happy with it. For the record: ClearOS *IS* Clark Connect, it just grew up. And also for the record, it may based on OSS software, but it's not *purely* free / user supported. Clear's business model is similar to Ubuntu's, i.e. the basic package is free to download and free to use, but there is a choice of paid-for services that you can add to it a la carte style. These give you back-end services and a service level to suit your business (still cheaper than going the M$ route, if you are a small business), or you can stick with the free version which is good enough for most companies I work with. Technical support in this model is via a community forum only, but you often find developers lurking and helping out there. It's a robust and well thought out package that I find more stable in certain applications - e.g. VPN termination - than some of the alternatives (WinXP the notable example). And the biggest bonus is that it will happily run on old hardware that is no longer acceptable as a Windows workstation (speaking for myself, running the Clear box as a gateway / firewall and file / printer sharer only) - for instance, a P4 with 20 GB disc and 512 MB of RAM is pretty much useless for running anything more than Win98, yet COS is ecstatic about all that free space and memory and runs like a dream. Most companies have at least one or two of that sort of computer lying around that no-one wants to throw away - so they can afford to keep a second machine on standby in case of hardware failure, and with regular backups the swap-out can be almost as simple as replacing a DSL modem. Really. All is not completely perfect: Clear's reporting still needs work. Troubleshooting an issue can be quite frustrating if you don't know how Linux reports work (particularly filtering events - never did get the hang of regular expressions). The MRTG-based reports are great, if all you want to look at is graphs of system load or netwrok throughput, but trying to work out why Steve in Cincinatti can't remote connect to the database can take a while.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Small specialized shops are more likely to need to DIY : big shops have a budget, and nonspecialized shops likely know the one thing they need already. Specialized shops need to cut their own dies a lot, right? Which means easy to break is no good.

seanferd
seanferd

You can edit the posts to delete the text (except for one character) ant change the title to "nt". You can also flag the relevant posts as "other", and type "duplicate post" in the text box. A mod is more likely to run across these if alerted. But what the heck, the post has enough information to make it worthy of being posted three times. :D

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

We started out with Citadel, then used Zentyal for most of our in house stuff, but there are a few things we didn't like. Eventually we found that we needed to replace Zentyal with a better, more integrated solution. The first seems to be a common sin... putting an IPv4 firewall and proxy on the same application stack as the infrastructure. C'mon guys, at least virtualize it! Naturally you can disable the firewall part, but it's just begging to get a noob pwned. The second issue I had with Zentyal is another style thing. If you are going to put the system in a rack and make all services administratable from a web interface would you spend the memory and clock cycles in putting a GUI on the distro? have a look at your Zentyal server's CPU load under no load, then drop the runlevel down to kill the GUI. On a P4 2GHz, I was spending half of my computer's time making pretty pictures for no one in particular, unless you count the elf who lives in the rack. Not a good use of my clock cycles since he's a CLI junkie... and those clock cycles and memory represent another couple of users under load. In anticipation of growth we have moved to in in house solution. Our firewall feeds multiple zones. the server segment includes a file server, a communication server which uses Zimbra for email, eJabberd for in office chat, and Asterisk PBX , an application server which supports our CRM / ERP and KB / wiki services as well as an internal Drupal web server. The web interface allows single click access to the other servers services (eg. clicking on the client's phone contact will dial the phone number in the PBX and connect it to the user's extension), or in reverse where the client's caller ID will bring the client data to the screen of the user who is taking the call. When a call is transferred to another user, the first user may type a note in the chat window which will appear on the second user's screen. We have found that most issues can be resolved in this way without even transferring the call. Maybe we were asking a little much from Zentyal, but I believe we should ask as much as possible from or open source vendors so their products become superior to the closed source offerings... and before you ask, we are evaluating the marketability of our solution.

mark
mark

to support ONE SBS windows server I would look for another Admin, not new software. I support BOTH RedHat and Windows and have never had to do 10 hours support per month, month after month. I am now primarily a RedHat Admin however if our Wintel servers each required 10 hours per month support we would have to hire about 10 more admins. We have 5 Windows admins now to support over 300 Wintel servers and 5 admins for about just over 400 Linux/Unix (RedHat/sun) server. I agree with your point that Linux Based is a bit more efficient however I think your anecdotal numbers are severely skewed to prove your point.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

Well, that's a good question. This is the answer: our business model is based on sales - not support. I'll ask a few questions and fill in some reasoning... What would you do with your car if it only ran as often as your Windows Server? You might call it a lemon if you had to return it to the dealer for service work monthly or bi-monthly. There is no reason your technology can't be *as* resilient as your vehicle. In fact, it could be more resilient. As far as support, there is always maintenance to do. Periodic patching, HDDs fail occasionally, etc. For this a simple maintenance contract will cover most things. For us, that yearly cost to the customer is around 11% of the sale. They pay a nominal fee yearly, and if they call us and the conversation begins with: It won't, or I can't, then we just handle it. For us though, that call never comes. The next question you have to ask yourself is: Would I put a Windows Server under the same type of contract? I think we all know the answer. They are too erratic. They break-down for too many different reasons and all of them interesting and exotic who needs that kind of stress. My MCSE instructor told us in class, over 10 years ago, there are 2 types of sysadmin: 1)The kind that runs like mad, reactively fixing many small problems all of the time 2)The type that reads documentation, practices the basics, designs, implements, *then tests*; this admin, he told us, spends the remainder of his time golfing, shopping for boats, and playing internet chess, all on company time. And, for the most part it's true. I think the day of Windows users and admins will come to a close within 10 years. Windows is an operating system built on a swamp of a foundation. It's like the sickly kid in Jr. High who was always sniveling and complaining about how bad his latest cold was; he got beat up occasionally and everyone generally felt sorry for him. Honestly I don't have the time, nor the inclination, to clean up a server with a virus. Another question: Why should your business be affected by people that do not work for you? If you think the answer is correct but the question absurd, you are right no business should be affected by a non-employee. But, every time your server catches another virus that's exactly what's happening. And you have 2 options, spend money on AV software, or don't. It's a silly problem that can be avoided by avoiding Windows. The Zerver handles any request that a Windows XP/Vista/7 Client hands out, further, it's all Zimbra email. If you've used both, you know the difference. Outlook has reached its ceiling of improvement and Zimbra already has 20% more features than Exchange, not counting gay ms-specific features like read-receipts, and it's has no apparent scaling barrier aside from hardware. Besides that it just looks and feels cooler that OWA or Outlook. When Zimbra sees a virus it kills with malice and forethought. When Windows sees a virus it makes a best effort based on the lateness of your virus definitions and a few other factors. God help you if someone has admin rights AND gets a virus now the virus has admin rights! But the simple answer is there's an alternative. Take the alternative and don't look back. There's every reason to do it and no compelling reasons not to. Sure you may have time invested in the platform invest some more in a platform that has tools and utilities that you can use for the rest of your life. Once you have the skills you only add to them but they never go away. And, here's the best part, we don't do our our own lead generation our customers do that for us. Since we don't bleed them dry on service, fixing the same things over and over again, they have more money to grow. After 15 years of working on Windows I can tell you that some people just pay it because that's just the way it is, and some people resent you for having to pay it. They make assumptions about shady business practices, your competence, and a great many other questions that bug them until they come to a single conclusion: they are stealing from me. This is just poor business. But enough about the problem... I can also tell you after 2 years of using Clear OS and The Zerver things couldn't be better. I could be making more money but that will come later. We primarily install new technology and only when there's a need. Customers love that their IT bills are reduced much more than their Windows using counter-parts, and they get to say things like: maybe I should have you talk to my guys... One of my small business friends sells telephone service and equipment. I asked him why he never grew the business past a certain stage. He told me: First, it's irresponsible, to your clients, to take on more work than you can handle. I like the number of problems that I have right now and I don't want to grow them with the business. Second, the phone company is an elephant. I'm just a mouse. I can't kill the elephant so I don't need to bother trying; all I can do is eat up all it's grass. So, there's the problem, the solution, the reasoning, and the philosophy. You can build a business without caving in your clients' businesses with unnecessary service bills. You business will grow slow, but it will grow well. You will leave a trail of trust behind you that everyone can respect. And, if you can't do it all at once, phase 1 model in, and attempt to phase the other model out. Install 1 Clear OS as a Gateway and install 1 Zerver as a small business server. Your relationship with that client will change for the better. You'll be surprised at the results.

1DaveN
1DaveN

CALs are not required for administrative RDP, or for Remote Web Access - are you referring to RDS CALs? I can't imagine that many people are interested in running RDS in an Essentials domain, but Essentials requries those CALs just as previous SBS versions require Terminal Server CALs if you want to run TS. And yes you have to deal with hosted e-mail, but for those who don't want to, there's still SBS Standard. If you can't afford Standard, MS offers Essentials plus hosted e-mail. You can't have everything in a budget-priced product, nor should you expect to. I need a Mercedes but I drive a VW because that's what fits my situation. This ClearOS solution isn't going to be less expensive, it's just trading software cost for IT pro cost - your office manager/in-house guru/receptionist isn't going to be managing this the way they do now with SBS. SBS Standard is $1100 and Essentials is half that - you're not going to get much support for an open source suite like ClearOS for $1100 (they charge $800 a year for a ClearOS support contract).

ed
ed

Including using Clark since so far back I can't remember the version. Most of my use has been as a stand-alone file server, so I haven't done firewall and those items. However, once upon a time I wanted a LAMP server for a very light project, and took a [brand name] personal computer I had gotten in a swap, still with its Win98 sticker on it, and set it to run. I figured it would die of old age, but it ran probably 2006-2010 until I moved and decided I didn't need it, never getting a successful attack. Lots of unsuccessful ones, but none successful. Guess you could say I'm a fanboy.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

It always helps to find out how to fix a screwup! :) Had a little party after work on Friday to celebrate the public release of our firewall product, and for once I was not the designated driver. I don't drink much, so 3 good beers (Plaid Ba$tard stouts) had me feeling pretty good until this morning . I even messed up the Saturday morning backup! I figured "how hard can this be?" For the record, I cannot kick off a backup with my eyes closed. Its finally running now after much caffeine and aspirin. I think I am just gonna stick to being the designated driver... it's a lot more fun.

robo_dev
robo_dev

mine won't even clean up the dropped screws at the bottom of the rack, those little runts.... Note that recently hackers are really hitting Asterix's web interface a lot, as suddenly I see an automated attack hit my logs at least once a day, and I don't have Asterix! I think I will load up a Zentyal or ClearOS on my VMware box and see what it's like.

mark
mark

I am a Linux Admin and have spent my time in Windows admin however YOU are the one who seems to not be able to keep a wintel server running. I have no problems with eitherOS . (I doubt you have much trouble either.) I moved to Linux Admin as I was tired (like others) of the great features that Windows puts into their products and yet fails to address the claring virus issues. HOWEVER I still stand by my point that your'e hatred for Microsoft made you choose an unfair comparison between two servers one that is a good Linux server with good owners and another that is owned by Id10ts. It is either you have not figured out how to make windows run OR you just like to bill and whine. BTW I have picked an enterprise version of Linux. RedHat.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

It's a good thing we have you here to tell us the obvious; apparently you haven't run into the Napoleonic business owner that feels the need to control everything. We all run into them. There's another great article about that here: http://tek.io/mzdkLv If you don't see these people it makes me seriously question your trench time. Yes, it's an extreme example, that is indicative of the MS swamp of an OS. The fact is, on a long enough time line, there is no MS server that can go as long - without administrative intervention - as a Linux server. If this isn't clear to you, it's because you have not figured out the beauty of Linux - OR - you have found a way to make a MS OS work better than anyone else in the world. In the case that you are a super windows admin, you should stop spending so much time blogging and more time conquering the world. The world could use a super admin. So which is it? Pick a flavor, I already have.

mark
mark

to the stable Linux environment next door just to make a point.You should be a politician instead of admin. I still stand by my comments that I would look for a new admin. This server should have been rebuilt from the ground up. I would have completed a fresh install and then do an inplace migration of the user accounts, exchange data and such. (An inplace migration is NOT an upgrade of software versions just a migration of user accounts and exchange data and there fore doesn't carry bad registry infor over or apps etc.) This would have taken a weekend to do and once completed they would have had little or no maintenance for months on end, similar to the other Windows 2003 installs SBS or not. Amusing. In addition why were they allowed to use the server as aworkstation? shouldnt be running spam software or other poorly written programs on the server in the 1st place. Use a workstation for spamming and shareware for crying out loud.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

You'd have to know the client. In the past they had 3 admins on their WinSBS2003 Server before I got to them. Have you ever heard the joke: How many sys-admins does it take to change a light bulb? 5 - 1 to actually change the light bulb and 4 to say they could do a better job. In this case (I'm guessing from experience now) 1 guy built the box up and got fired. A new guy came in and built the box in his way, then fired, and so on. I got it shortly after; by then the box resembled used toilet paper. It had so much poorly written software on it that it barely ran with 8GB RAM; services were running all the time that were better off as "on demand" services to be launched only when you needed them. And an "email marketing" program that essentially made it easy for them to SPAM potential clients; the box was never the same after that. But then then there was the shareware...and of course the registry... WinSBS 2008 was released and the customer wanted a migration. Not a new build (for 5 users) - a Migration: bringing the evils of the old box directly onto the new one. Some servers, once screwed, cannot be unscrewed and mostly because of the registry. This server has been the bane of my existence since the evil spawn darkened my door a few years ago and there's nothing more than can be done about it. Like I say, it's an extreme example but a server should be clean-able. Windows just isn't. You can gingerly go through the registry but no one can say for certain they've "cleaned" the registry all up and it's spotless. The registry is all important AND a big black slice of voodoo. On a Linux box I've only ever had to tune it up here and there, just a bit. And I've never lost a moments sleep over it. 10 hours/month for the first 6 months: yes. It's leveled off now and is quite stable but it shouldn't have been such a headache.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

The very odd part is beating yourself and your client to death for no good reason. Apparently you missed the point: Stability *is* the reason for changing. Viruses are a small but annoying part of that; of course there are: 2) Patches that break the host OS, then patches to patch the patches that break the OS, 3) The expense of (non-free) software, 4) the lack of secure remote command line login (telnet's day has come and is now long gone), 5) Software package customization 6) You can't automate the OS installation (for consistent builds across your client base) 7) Windows Security appears to be an after thought, not a design requirement 8) Inconsistent or lack of interest in QA testing 9) Note to mention Cost & Licensing 10) Complete lack of innovation Here's something you'll find when you start digging. All of the really cool stuff that makes technology *necessary* was built on UNIX or another POSIX-compliant OS; this is the short list: email (smtp/pop/imap), IPv4, TCP/UDP, DNS, dhcp, ftp, ntp, RPC, ldap, tls/ssl, and vpn, just to name a few. I choose to align myself with leaders, and not follow the followers. Microsoft is lately a PR company that happens to sell technology. To be fair, MS did teach the open source community about singularity of vision and usability. For the longest time the Linux OS was a terse and unforgiving landscape because geeks don't much care about GUI's - it's just another (unnecessary) layer of potential defects. Also, when MS does something, they do it as a company, all working in the same direction; I will never understand why Linux projects don't work *more closely* with one another. It's annoying - though not a deal breaker; but, back to the point... I have, in production right now, what I didn't know then would be a precursor to The Zerver... In 2003 we put together a debian server with OpenLDAP (if it's good enough for MS to borrow from why not?), Samba, and Postfix. We deployed it to a company that was low on funds as an experiment; then sat back and waited...no support calls came in. To date, we have on the books: quarterly patching, a few OS upgrades, and a few migrations or minor tune-ups from one version of these apps to newer versions; we added postgrey at some point; there was also 1 critical HDD failure, which logwatch alerted us to early and could not be helped. Only this while, at other sites, the customers' skies were comparatively raining blood. After many years, starting with Mac (1995), Windows (MCSE/2000), and finally Linux (2003), I can authoritatively say: "You can't make a Windows server as resilient as a POSIX-compliant OS." When Clear OS & The Zerver were released it was an answer to the problem of maintainability. You can deny it in your mind all you want. But the fact is, and will probably always remain, the Windows OS just can't stand up like Linux - not even close. If you're really interested in finding out: identify 1 client, put their Windows SBS on a yearly support contract for $500 (our average) and see how fast you go broke. Ah, here comes the internal dialog, fear and cold sweats... If you don't do this, someone in your neighborhood eventually will. As soon as businesses find out about it from their other friends, through the grape vine, or however, these server solutions will begin to spring up around you, slowly surround you, and your business will be slowly choked out. We're doing this now. For 1 simple reason: No small business wants to pay more for anything than they have to. Again, if you had to perform the same maintenance on your vehicle (as you would to a Windows Server) you would deem it a lemon and take it out to the country to shoot it. Clear OS and The Zerver will make your life and your clients life easier. This is all you need to know about a Server OS: http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/downloads http://solutions.ssiresults.com/zerver.html I've thrown down the gauntlet. Are you willing to take the challenge?

terjeb
terjeb

should be fired on the spot, irrespective of what operating system he is running. Honestly, using virii as the yardstick for which OS to run on your server is ridiculous. IMnsHO. Other than that, there are many - stability for one - reasons to go with another server OS than Windows. Virii should not be one of them though, making your rather lengthy argument a little odd.

Alpha_Dog
Alpha_Dog

You understand that I'm gonna steal the term "dizzy-naked driver"... with proper attributions of course. :)

seanferd
seanferd

It's good to not have to be the dizzynaked driver sometimes. Congratulations on the release of your firewall!

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