Server distributions for small businesses tested

Are You Being Served?

Univention Corporate Server

The next candidate comes from software vendors Univention GmbH from Bremen, Germany. The Corporate Server [5] is based on Debian; we had access to version 4.0 for our lab. If you visit the project website, you will also find a 4.1 release candidate.

Univention Corporate Server (UCS) is available in a number of editions. The free UCS Core Edition is accompanied by three subscription versions (Base, Standard, and Premium), for which the vendor asks for between $349 and $2,049 per year [9]. The vendor has different support packages for the three editions.

An ISO image of UCS is available from the download section and as a preinstalled virtual machine image for VMware and VirtualBox. Both variants are designed exclusively for 64-bit architectures. The vendor cites 512MB of RAM and 8GB of free disk space as the minimum hardware requirements.

A GUI-based wizard guides you through an uncomplicated approach to installing the distribution on your mass storage medium. After rebooting, a setup wizard asks for your language preferences and helps set up the network. In another dialog, you can decide which services to install (Figure 9). A summary shows the selected settings; clicking on Configure system in the bottom right then installs the services; this can take a while depending on your choice of packages.

Figure 9: The UCS Setup wizard helps you select the required services.

Ready for Operation

Admins can use a web interface to manage the server, which is accessible in the browser via the previously defined IP address. The connection uses HTTPS. In the Administration tab, open the Management Console by clicking System and domain settings . After authenticating, you will see a plain overview with colorful icons for managing the server.

The management console organizes the system settings in subgroups. In the App Center, you can select additional services and programs; the choices here mainly consist of groupware solutions and backup programs. On the left side in the window, categories help you search for specific applications.

The Groups and Users tiles give you access to account and group management. It makes sense to set up your users first because they can be assigned to their respective groups in the Groups dialog later on. Note that the administrative password must comprise at least eight characters. The Options item on the left lets you decide which services to enable for your users. You can also share directories under Account .

Univention Corporate Server comes with a number of default groups; you can add more by pressing the Add button. You can also incorporate existing groups into new groups.

Comprehensive

UCS Server is the test candidate with the largest number of third-party groupware solutions, typically commercial. Administrators will find countless packages for handling email (servers, archiving), backup solutions, document management systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, CMS programs for websites, customer relationship management (CRM) packages, cloud services, and even project management software in the App Center.

The distribution also makes it easy for system administrators to handle software updates. Directly after logging in, a Software update tile appears in the Dash, showing you whether updates are available in the various program groups. You can then click a button to trigger the upgrade in question.

The distribution scores points with its many diagnostics and monitoring tools that facilitate server management (Figure 10). One feature worthy of particular note is the System diagnostic tile, which searches for known problems. Usage statistics, and several overviews of running processes and services facilitate system management. Administrators can easily kill rogue processes in the clear-cut performance monitor.

Figure 10: Univention Corporate Server impresses with a variety of diagnostics and maintenance tools.

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