Server distributions for small businesses tested

Are You Being Served?

Zentyal Server

The last server software to enter the ring is the Ubuntu LTS-based Zentyal Server [6]. This distribution by a Spanish manufacturer mainly sees itself as a replacement for Microsoft Exchange and Outlook infrastructures and offers the kind of directory services common in heterogeneous environments. Additionally, the server is useful as a gateway, DNS, DHCP, and VPN server or as a firewall. The current version 4.2 offers no support for graphical management of the Apache web server in, contrast to earlier versions; the makers also removed the IDS and IPS programs.

Zentyal is available as a free Development Edition, or you can get a 30-day version of the Commercial Edition without any restrictions to the feature set. If you want to carry on using the distribution, you then need to contact the manufacturer to discuss a price. The project website links to the wiki and the forum. Training is available at a price (~EUR500), or you can buy a print (~EUR45) or e-book (~EUR25) version of the Zentyal Server book.

Zentyal Server is exclusively available for 64-bit architectures and comes in the form of a 600MB ISO image. Like the other test candidates, the distribution has a graphical configuration interface and useful wizards. The minimum hardware requirements cited by the vendor are a Pentium 4 CPU, and 1GB of RAM. Because the server is also useful in a RAID array, you might need two or more storage media.


Zentyal Server requires the entire disk as the installation medium, and the boot manager warns you of this. The ncurses-based dialog helps you set up an administrator account and configure the basics of the software. During installation, the commercial version ask for the license issued by the vendor. Without a valid license key, the installer refuses to continue.

After a reboot and installing more packages, the Openbox window manager comes up, automatically opening the administration web interface in Firefox. Alternatively, you can access the interface from any browser on the network after typing the server IP address followed by port number 8443 in the address bar.

You first need to decide on a server role. The choice is Domain controller , Additional domain controller and Use external Active Directory server . Zentyal offers services for DHCP, DNS, firewall, CUPS print server, ClamAV antivirus, SpamAssassin, Amavis mail filter, VPN server, and certification authority, as well.

Once you have installed all the packages, it is time to set up network access. Finally, you see an overview summarizing the most important information on the active system (Figure 11).

Figure 11: The Dashboard supplies an overview of the installed Zentyal Server.


The menu on the left lets system administrators make changes to the server. For account management and account setup, click Users and Computers | Manage . A domain tree displays to the right of the menu showing all the domain members (including those created by Zentyal). Clicking the plus sign in the list beside Computers , Groups , or Users opens a dialog for creating new accounts, where you can then assign the domain members to one or multiple groups for granular, group-specific rights assignments.

To enable more services retroactively, you need to go to the Software Management | Zentyal Components section and select the desired services. Then press Install to access the system. Zentyal automatically completes all the settings after downloading the packages, although you will be able to add users or groups manually for some services. When installing CUPS, the wizard also asks you about any existing network printers.

Zentyal automatically takes care of software updates. If you go to Software Management | System Updates , you will also see the automatically installed updates, and you can check the box to trigger a manual update if needed (Figure 12). This means that the Zentyal Server keeps itself up to date at all times.

Figure 12: If do not want to wait for the automatic updates on Zentyal Server, you can simply trigger updates manually.

The Logs entry in the menu list lets you view the system logs. In addition to viewing the complete logs, you can click the Configure Logs tab to configure the intervals at which the system deletes the logs (default value is one week) as a function of system load and related log sizes.

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