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High End Solutions With Low End Costs Using Linux

Updated on April 9, 2013
Linux powers some of the biggest corporations in the world. It can work for you too.
Linux powers some of the biggest corporations in the world. It can work for you too.

It's hard to compete

If you're running on a shoestring budget like most SMBs, you don't have the big budgets to build a datacenter. Although leasing space within one is an option, it isn't affordable for some, and others would rather have the security that physical possession brings.

Linux can be used for many computing applications, is relatively easy to learn, and comes with an nice price tag. It is used by Google to power the fastest search engine on the Internet, and also runs devices smaller than a child's hand. Check out this link for my Hub about the history of Linux and how it changed the world.

This article will give examples of using Linux to power high end datacenter applications, but will focus on saving money while doing it.

Have you considered using Linux in your SMB?

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MySQL

The world's most popular open source database
The world's most popular open source database | Source

Database Server

There are about a gazillion database servers that run on Linux, MySQL being the most popular. MySQL is open source, runs on a fraction of the hardware that Oracle runs on, and is absolutely free.

  • Easy to use and learn - Just about half of the Internet is ready and willing to help you with your MySQL issues. There are user forums everywhere, just ask.
  • Fast - The speed of common comparable functions is much faster with MySQL in standard benchmark tests.
  • Low Memory Footprint - As was mentioned earlier, MySQL runs has fewer hardware requirements than any of its commercial competitors.

MySQL is the back-end to more websites than you would imagine, and its free. It can run your applications without even breaking a sweat.

Clear OS is probably the finest network gateway and firewall distribution out there. This award-winning distribution comes as a perfect alternative to Windows Small Business Server.
Clear OS is probably the finest network gateway and firewall distribution out there. This award-winning distribution comes as a perfect alternative to Windows Small Business Server. | Source

Firewall

Firewalls generally come in two flavors. The first is software firewalls that run on your desktop computer watching incoming and outgoing traffic. The second is hardware firewalls. Hardware firewalls are dedicated devices that are in between untrusted networks (the Internet) and trusted networks (your organization's network). This device will either allow or disallow network traffic based upon rules you define.

A Linux firewall can be installed, configured, and left to protect your business in about a half an hour. It can do all the things commercial firewalls can do and more. An added function to this is its ability to act as a router, either as an Internet facing device, or to connect multiple networks within your organization.

Sentinix

A Linux distribution designed for monitoring, intrusion detection, vulnerability assessment, statistics/graphing and anti-spam.
A Linux distribution designed for monitoring, intrusion detection, vulnerability assessment, statistics/graphing and anti-spam. | Source

Intrusion Detection System

Whatever the firewall above doesn't catch, the IDS will get. An IDS, or Intrusion Detection System seeks to find all malicious network traffic (incoming or outgoing) or policy violations.

Don't be fooled by the extremely high price of commercial intrusion detection devices. Linux can perform the same function, at a small fraction of the price. Whether you want a device to block all questionable content, or just a passive filter to know what is going on in your network, a re-purposed computer with a specialized Linux distribution will have you up and running with little or no money invested.

Apache

Apache httpd has been the most popular web server on the Internet since April 1996, and celebrated its 17th birthday as a project this February.
Apache httpd has been the most popular web server on the Internet since April 1996, and celebrated its 17th birthday as a project this February. | Source

Webserver

Linux can run a responsive web server for you on hardware that is over 10 years old. The scalable flexibility of Linux means that you can run a web server (or server farm) on Linux using just about any computer you can get your hands on.

Since databases and web pages go hand in hand, Linux has what is called a LAMP Stack. Lamp is an acronym which stands for Linux Apache MySQL PHP. Apache is the web server of choice in Linux, though there are other to chose from. Apache is the name of the software that powers 90% of the globe's web pages. A large percentage of those are running Apache on Linux.

Many businesses choose to have a hosted web server. Which means paying a datacenter to house the hardware and software required for a web presence. This can pose challenges however as not all web hosts provide the same application features or tools. In addition, an internet network (intranet) many times requires web applications which should not be put on the Internet due to the inherent security risks.

Zoneminder

ZoneMinder is intended for use in single or multi-camera video security applications, including commercial or home CCTV, theft prevention and child, family member or home monitoring and other domestic care scenarios such as nanny cam installations.
ZoneMinder is intended for use in single or multi-camera video security applications, including commercial or home CCTV, theft prevention and child, family member or home monitoring and other domestic care scenarios such as nanny cam installations. | Source

Video Surveillance

Physical security is very important which is why the companies that install surveillance equipment charge a premium. If you have a few web cams lying around along with an old computer, you can setup a CCTV surveillance system. Even if you don't have a few web cams, they sell for around $20-$40 at a minimum.

Surveillance systems allow you to monitor and record video for theft prevention and prosecution. Typical surveillance systems cost thousands of dollars. With Linux, the price is much lower. Many Linux based surveillance systems feature remote access so you can monitor your property even when you are away.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN Access Server is a full featured SSL VPN software solution that integrates OpenVPN server capabilities, enterprise management capabilities, simplified OpenVPN Connect UI, and OpenVPN Client software that accommodate Windows, MAC, and Linux.
OpenVPN Access Server is a full featured SSL VPN software solution that integrates OpenVPN server capabilities, enterprise management capabilities, simplified OpenVPN Connect UI, and OpenVPN Client software that accommodate Windows, MAC, and Linux. | Source

VPN

If you are interested in two or more remote offices connecting securely to each other over the Internet, or individual employees working remotely, Linux has an answer: OpenVPN.

OpenVPN is a powerful and inexpensive way to create a VPN (Virtual Private Network).Using a VPN is a great security feature and provides encrypted network traffic from your internal office network to a remote point. Like every single item on this list, OpenVPN can run on bare minimum hardware which means any old computer can be re-purposed to provide thousands of dollars of savings.

Though setup can be challenging, the financial costs are tremendous.

Support

You're probably curious about support. What to do when things go wrong? There are many options with Linux (though not unique to Linux). Many Linux distributions offer support packages with reasonable prices.

The Internet community is full of answers. The Ubuntu Linux distribution has a very active user base and can help with virtually any issue.

If you don't want to purchase a support contract, and can't get the help you need from the support forums, one option is to hire a freelance Linux expert to help on an "as needed" basis.

Hundreds of Ways to Save Money

These suggestions should get you thinking about how to implement a Linux solution in your environment. There are hundreds of uses for Linux in the SMB world that can save a company thousands of dollars on a recurring basis; this article only touched on a few.

Old, and seemingly "useless" computers pose an environmental hazard when just thrown away. Why not re-purpose them, and save loads of money in the process? From physical security surveillance to digital security Linux has the power and global support to help your business succeed.

Linux and SMBs

Do you use Linux in your organization?

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It is impossible to cover all of the uses of Linux for SMBs. Sound off below, let me know other ways to incorporate the cost savings of Linux for cash strapped businesses.

I realize I didn't cover Linux desktops, as I wanted the focus of this article to be on "set it and forget it" technologies, and desktops just don't fit into that category.

© 2013 davidwhoward

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