"ClearOS" Linux Small Business Servers
Why Linux ?
Take advantage of low cost/no cost software in the "Open Source" realm. Linux is the flagship product of the Open Source revolution and the base upon which many Open Source products run on. Furthermore with its efficient and highly self-tuning resource usage, there is no need to invest in a new computer in order start off using a Linux server. With as little as a dual core PC with 1Gb RAM and dual 160Gb drives you can be up and running a small business server. Of course the more services and features you use, and the more PC's use this server, a more powerful server is mandated. However, rarely does one need to go beyond 4Gb of RAM and a 2Ghz CPU even when utilizing a server to its fullest potential and running up to 10 PC's or more.
Why ClearOS ?
Based on the solid Centos 5.3 release ClearOS packages together a cohesive set of features much sought after by small businesses. Its unique "Webconfig" administration system allows for a relative newcomer to Linux to administer the server with ease through a unified web interface.
What does it do for me ?
- Centralized file storage. One or more PC's can share a central file storage which is not dependent on leaving a PC turned on in order to operate. This file storage may be accessed remotely if needed over the internet by a secure and encrypted VPN facility. In addition, with the recommended mirrored drive configuration, you are protected against a single drive failure. NOTE: Drive mirroring is no substitute for a backup, it is still recommended that regular backups be done.
- Email Server/Storage. Share emails among multiple PC's. Run your own POP3 server. Using the shared email service you are protected against failure of your desktop PC as all emails are stored on the server. In addition the following benefits apply:
- As the server is able to receive emails 24x7 your mailbox will never overflow even if your desktop PC is not utilized for a long period of time and because they are already on the server when you turn on your PC any new emails will be instantly available due to having already been received at the server - no more waiting for overnight emails to download !!
- When using "shared" emails more than one PC can access the same email storage. And it is fully synchronized. If one person reads an email others will also see that it has been read. If it is moved to another folder, the same action will occur at other PC's. If anyone sends an email, it is possible to synchronize this to a shared "Sent Items" folder. No more guessing if someone has already replied to an email.
- Limitations are removed. The amount of email storage is only limited by the amount of disk storage available on the server. It is also possible to read these emails remotely via a "webmail" web interface and even send emails via this and all sent emails are kept at the server !!
- Enhanced Security. When a ClearOS server is setup in "Gateway" mode (the recommended configuration) it operates not only as a full firewall but also provides the following extra security benefits:
- Runs an intrusion prevention system. All attempts to access the server and/or the network beyond it are scanned by an advanced packet analysis system and if anything suspicious occurs, the source of the intrusion is completely blocked for 24 hours by the server, and the details logged.
- All emails received at the server have to negotiate a graylisting system, an OCR scanner, a virus scanner and a SPAM filter rules system before being accepted. Different options are available as to how to handle suspected SPAM.
- The server will automatically download and apply critical security updates to itself at regular intervals. Unlike the Microsoft Windows security updates, it never needs to restart in order to activate these.
- Enhanced Internet Experience. In "gateway" mode a ClearOS server can run a full "transparent" proxy. What this means is that all pages accessed from web sites are kept in a quick access storage on the server called a "proxy cache". This will make accessing many web sites seem faster than without using a proxy. In addition, this can decrease the internet bandwidth usage and allow for all web site accesses to be logged at the server, should an organization need to analyse their internet usage. In addition, defined "time wasting" sites can be blocked within an organization, removing temptation to staff and the attendant productivity implications. In addition rules can be defined to give particular functions and/or PC's more priority on the internet speed than others. One example of this is any VO/IP service, as heavy internet usage can degrade VO/IP quality without having bandwidth allocation.
- Hosting a web site and/or emails. Why pay for limited, slow, unreliable hosting services when you can host your own website and emails at your ClearOS server. For a small yearly cost in addition to your domain registration you can "park" your domain AT your server and host your own website and emails. This provides the following benefits:
- No hosting fees.
- Storage for emails and website is only limited by the size of the disk on the server.
- You have your own "dedicated" server for this purpose. Often with hosting services you are sharing your server with many other individuals and organizations.
- Eliminates the middle man and gives you more control over your email limits.
- Enhanced security. The intrusion prevention and other hardened features in Clarkconnect are much more likely to keep the hackers at bay.
- Unlimited email addresses for your domain. You control what you allocate and to whom. No need to contact the hosting service to arrange this - you are the hosting service !!
- Web sites are setup as standard to use acceleration and compression for their content in order to load as quickly as possible for anyone accessing it. Not all hosting services do this.
NOTE: Some internet service providers block the necessary services to support hosting your own emails and/or websites. Fortunately these are in the minority. One example of this is Optus cable, however Optus ADSL is fine for this purpose. Fortunately when hosting your own domain and emails you are not tied to any ISP or Hosting service, you can change and your website and emails stay with you. It is not recommended to self-host if you have a particularly unreliable internet connection. For this reason I recommend that self-hosting not be setup initially when a ClearOS server is initially installed until it has bedded in after a period of time.