Is Linux viable in the business environment? Surely it is just a bunch of ‘geeks’ writing software with little support? We are going to take a look at the business offerings and settle some mis-preconceptions.
Chances are at the moment you work in an environment where the majority (if not all) of your software requirements are met by Microsoft. What if I could tell you there is another way which would be more secure and cost your company less. Lets take a look.
Business Linux is primarily the realm of three firms: RedHat, Novell and Canonical. All three offer solutions for business. The software is free (ie no licence fee) and you pay for the level of customer support you want through a subscription scheme.
So what sort of software is available? We shall split this into two categories: server and desktop.
1. Linux File and Print Server
This can be set up on any linux distribution using the samba service (this will be covered as a future topic) and allows Windows / Linux clients to access files and print to a networked printer. There is no licence fee for any of the software.
2. Active Directory
Linux has quite a few choices in this area. Two of the best are OpenLDAP and NDS. OpenLDAP allows authentication to Linux clients only but NDS allows cross platform authentication (Windows, Linux, Solaris etc).
3. DHCP and DNS servers
You can set up your own DHCP and DNS servers for your organisation using the dhcp and named daemons (services) on any Linux distribution you want.
The Smoothwall distribution makes a fantastic stand alone firewall. So if you have an old computer just sitting around install this distribution on it and you will have a fully functional and effective firewall between your network and the internet. I use Untangle Gateway for my office it is a wonderful piece of kit.
5. Web Servers
By far and away the most popular Linux web server is Apache. Most of the web servers running on the internet are actually running some version of Apache. Again this can be set up on any distribution you want.
There are literally thousands of packages available for Linux and all are available to the business user. We shall take a look at the packages available for the most common tasks: email, web browser and office suite.
1. Evolution email suite
Evolution is a fast, stable and secure alternative to Microsoft Outlook. It runs on all versions of Linux which use the Gnome desktop. For KDE use Kontact.
2. Web browers
Either use Firefox or Chrome. Chrome is the fastest browser on the planet where Firefox is probably the most stable. Both are good choices for the business environment.
3. Office Suite
Never buy Microsoft Office again. Instead use Libreoffice. Libreoffice has all the functionality of Microsoft Office without the price tag. It is compatible with Microsoft Office too so if user A saves her document in Microsoft Office user B will be able to open it in Libreoffice.
There you have it. This is just a guide to the possibilities Linux can offer the business user. Before you do decide to move over to Linux check that your mission critical software will run in this environment (use virtual software – covered as a future topic) and bear in mind that your end users might need some form of familiarisation with any new software you implement.
About the Author
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