Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

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Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby quartarian on Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:37 am

Hello All,
I'm relatively new to Linux and I wanted to pick some brains about suggested deployment of Linux in a small business environment. I'm used to the ideology of MS small business networking, particularly with a central desktop server that houses users accounts and personal files (My Documents). Is Linux small business networking completely different than this?
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby emorrp1 on Sun Jun 14, 2009 4:56 am

quartarian wrote:particularly with a central desktop server that houses users accounts and personal files

This is exactly what we have set up at home, a linux server which houses all the documents, and set them to automount on user's login. You can go further than this and set it to use a networked /home, so all the users' settings are stored on there as well. Or go even further and use LTSPs. However if you're planning something like this, you'll need to heavily customise Linux Mint to enable these sorts of features, using guides written for Ubuntu or Debian. Also, you probably want something else running the server end, as mint doesn't have a server edition.
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby kwisher on Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:15 pm

quartarian,

Are you planning on replacing a Windows based server with Linux and having Windows clients connecting to it? Or are you planning on switching all your machines to Linux? These are some things to consider and we would need to know to make some recommendations for your situation.
The instructions suggested Windows XP or better, so I installed Linux :)
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby RedWagon on Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:37 pm

Putting /home on a network drive can be rather tough, so what I do is just automount a folder to /media/server and inside the server share have folders like Documents, Pictures, Downloads, etc... then use symbolic links to put them in my home folder. This way you can still boot if the server is down, or reboot it without messing everything up.
I would also recommend setting a static IP for your server, I've always had trouble accessing a server by it's hostname and just setting a static IP and then sending all your clients to that IP is a lot easier than setting up a DNS server.
I would also setup a RAID 0 or 10 array for speed. I'm a network admin at a photography studio where all the photos are stored on a central server and if you do not setup a RAID array, your hard drives will be the bottleneck and you will not get anywhere near the full capacity of you network, escpecially with multiple users pulling files.
You don't need special hardware to run RAID either, I have software RAID running on three computers and it is incredibly easy to setup and doesn't take any extra processing power (that I've noticed.)

Let me know what route you decide to take with this and I can give you more specific instructions/links.
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby quartarian on Wed Jun 17, 2009 4:48 am

Hello Gentlemen,
Thanks for all the great replies. I agree that the RAID array is an absolute must. Not only for speed, but for data redundancy.

As far as whether or not windows machines would be included, I imagine there are three main scenarios:
1. Switch all PCs to run linux and connect to a linux server. This is ideal but it would probably scare most clients.
2. Run windows systems side by side linux desktops that also connect to the main linux server. This would work for business that are setting up their first server.
3. Continue running Windows server and adding adding linux terminals. This would be a great deployment for seasoned windows clients that would like to try linux and not commit to a complete overhall... yet

To clarify, I'm no looking for a solution for myself, but some general solutions for the main scenarios. After experiencing Mint and having a few friends test run it, I came to the realization that this could be deployed within small businesses. Also, If you guys know of good books to check out, Id be happy to take a look at them. I initially started by looking for books on the subject and couldn't find anything.
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby emorrp1 on Wed Jun 17, 2009 6:09 am

Disclaimer: I know nothing about business other than what I obseved while working for a one-person company last summer, so this is just my personal perspective:

Well, talking specifically about small businesses (I'm considering anything up to maybe 20 employees) that do *not* have anything to do with technology (i.e. computer is tool, not platform) I'd suggest option 1. This especially applies to newly forming companies. From what I've read about schools switching to linux, the first month will be hard with lots of questions and complaints (even if you have a company training session/day), and not being completely fine until about 3 months. The only big issue I see is with the accounting department, who often use proprietary software for their jobs. Really I suspect GnuCash is sufficient for their needs as it's well written with tons of features for both home and business use, but that would probably be the biggest learning curve (though no different than switching proprietary accounting software and you can guarantee them they'll never have to learn another system again) so try to get them onto it on windows first, before migrating the whole company.

In fact that goes for everything: convert everyone to the cross-platform FOSS solutions first (e.g. openoffice, firefox) on windows, then it should be a much simpler migration when jumping to linux. This should always be your first step for any planned migration.

For small businesses that are to do with technology, you need to consider if their proprietary technologies (whether software or hardware) will be supported under linux.

2 always sounds like a good idea, but in reality the employees would just boot into windows. A better idea (if your hardware can handle it) would be to provide linux, with a virtual machine for windows, allowing them to jump to their comfort zone if necessary.
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Re: Small Business Networking: From Windows to Linux

Postby AK Dave on Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:13 pm

They're your employees and your computers. You can install what you like, and you pay them to use what you want them to use, and if you're decent about it all they won't just jump ship and run screaming and crying to some other employer. If you want them to use Thunderbird and Firefox, you want your office work to be in a non-proprietary format, you want them to use Linux, then thats what you install. Thats what you give them. Its up to you to make it work.

You can then, as explained previously, put virtual guest services on the computers that need them and load Windows in a virtual machine that is either hosted or stored on a server. You can dedicate a server to this duty and host the virtual machines on it, or just set aside some space to store virtual machines that will be hosted as guests on individual workstations.

Where I work, the OS on my desktop (XP) is largely irrelevant. I run very few applications from my own desktop. The majority of the applications I interact with during a given day are actually running on a virtual machine on a remote server, hosted with Xen (Citrix).

At home, my server lacks the muscle to host virtual guests as a Xen server but with BSD (FreeNAS) it is a very servicable file server. I have it store virtual machines that can be launched as guests on individual workstations. In this manner I am able to use Linux (Mint or Ubuntu) on every desktop/laptop/netbook, but still have access to Windows-centric applications like iTunes and MS Office 2007. One computer maintains dual-boot to XP for the convenience of my wife, but I'm willing to bet I could build a linux user account for her that autolaunches an XP virtual guest and she wouldn't know the difference.
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