ComTech: IT Support Stirling
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How open source software is helping to run my business


Today I will show you the virtues of opensource software and how I am using it to run my business.

So what is Opensource software?

Opensource software is software that is written by developers (either individuals or companies) and then distributed freely to anyone who wants it (i.e no license fees).  You are then able to modify the software to your hearts content so that it does exactly what you want.  The developers get paid by providing support to companies that want it.

So what software do I use?

My main server

The bulk of the processing power behind ComTech is my main server running Ubuntu Server 12.04 with 8Gb of RAM.  Ubuntu is a Linux distribution (think Windows but free) that is easy to use and has virtually no virus problems (very handy that).  It is also very versatile in that it can be fine tuned to provide any service you want without having to pay extra license fees.

Desktops

I run various desktops but not in the traditional sense.  I run them as virtual machines using Oracle Virtualbox.  Virtualbox allows me to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same machine.  For example I do the bulk of my work on a Linux Mint 13 desktop (another Linux distribution which is very easy to use) but I also have Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Vista virtual desktops ready to be fired up when the need arises.  If I need to test a piece of software on Windows 7 I would fire up the Windows 7 virtual machine, test the software and then shut it back down again.  All of this is done on one machine which in this case is my main server.  Virtualbox is a very handy piece of software and guess what it is also free!!

Word Processing (productivity in general)

I use a piece of software called Libreoffice (think Microsoft Office but without the license fee).  It looks and feels (for the most part) like you are using Office and is fully compatible with Office so any document you create in Libreoffice can be opened up and edited in Office itself.

Printing

I have an Edimax MFN print server set up which allows my HP Deskjet F380 printer (old but still going strong) to be shared across the network to any system without the need to be attached to a computer (attaches to the router instead).  It works flawlessly with my Linux operating systems but still has issues with Windows 7 (which I haven’t ironed out yet!!).

Netbook 

I have an Asus Eeepc 701 SD netbook which I bought back in 2008 to use when solving IT issues at clients premises.  The specs on the netbook aren’t great however it runs Lubuntu 12.04 (another Linux distribution – see a pattern?) and has bombproof build quality (it has been dropped multiple times and is kid proof!!).  It is perfect for configuring routers, checking wireless connectivity or browsing the internet.  I am even writing this blog on it while sitting in a coffee shop in Stirling.

Internet

I don’t like Internet Explorer – fact.  I find it has too many configurable items which if configured incorrectly can really bugger up a system.  Don’t like the interface either so instead I use either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.  Now Firefox is fully opensource while Chrome is classed as freeware which is slightly different.  Either way both are superior to Internet Explorer in  my experience.

Backups

I am anal when it comes to backups (it is my job so I have to).  I have an onsite backup server running FreeNAS and also employ online strorage using Dropbox.  FreeNAS is fully opensource and is an operating system specifically designed for backing up data and runs on pretty much any piece of hardware ever made.  I have it running on a Pentium 4 machine with 512 Mb of RAM and it has quite happily been supping electric in the corner for the last two years with no issues.  Dropbox on the other hand is proprietary software where you pay a monthly subscription.  While it is not opensource I have yet to find a product which comes close to it.

Firewall

Every computer needs a firewall and my systems are no different.  I have chosen to go down the Linux Firewall distribution route which basically installs an operating system onto a spare computer and in effect turns it into a hardware firewall.  My firewall of choice at the moment is Smoothwall Express 3.0 which I run in a virtual machine (don’t have any spare computers lying around).  It is even configured to boot whenever the server restarts thereby not leaving my systems unprotected.  By using a Firewall distribution I can protect my entire network rather than only individual systems.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

CyberChimps
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