Server distributions for small businesses tested

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Koozali SME Server

SME Server, which has been continuously maintained and developed since 1999, is one of the two completely free tests candidates – NethServer being the other. The Koozali Foundation [3], from the US, has been responsible for the software, which was released under the GPL, since 2013. Weighing in at just 640MB for the 64-bit version and just under 600MB for the 32-bit version, the project offers two extremely lean ISO images. Our test team took a look at version 9.0, which is based on the now obsolete CentOS 6.5. The current version 9.1 is based on CentOS 6.7.

Even support is free from Koozali – users can access the wiki from the support section on the project home page as well as several forums, comprehensive documentation, various how-tos, and a bug tracker. The guide cites a 1.5GHz CPU or better, 512MB of RAM, and 30GB of hard disk space as the minimum requirements. For a small installation for up to 10 users, you could even get away with 256MB if RAM, 20GB of hard disk, and a 400MHz CPU. The Koozali SME Server does not offer a graphical installation wizard. Instead, the setup is based on ncurses (Figure 5). In terms of localization, the routine only asks about partitioning; everything else happens automatically.

Figure 5: The Koozali SME Server installation is very low-key and uses an ncurses interface.

Modus Operandi

After rebooting the server, another visually restrained wizard guides you through basic configuration. You need to enter a password, define the system and domain names, and choose an IP address. Pay attention when selecting the operating mode: the three options Server and gateway , Private server and gateway , and Server-only all have different objectives.

Full functionality, including mail and web servers, is only provided if you choose Server and gateway . Private server and gateway gives clients on the intranet access to the Internet but prevents all incoming requests at the firewall. You need two Ethernet connections for these operating mode because of the gateway functionality.

The Server-only option is designed for life on an intranet (e.g., as a file or print server), with no firewall; you can enable Internet access for clients via an additional server or router that acts as a gateway. Otherwise, DHCP or DNS and directory services are fully implemented. Detailed help is available in several languages thanks to the comprehensive documentation on the website.

You have two options for configuring the Koozali SME Server in more detail: at the command line, which also offers ncurses menu control, and via a web browser. To get to the GUI, you need to enter the server address and add server-manager (e.g., https://192.168.2.2/server-manager ). After logging in, you are taken to a very plain, uncluttered menu.

Well Structured

The left-hand side of the Koozali dashboard groups the most important options and their subcategories. Even though the list is long, administrators should have no trouble finding their way around. To set up Users and Groups , you need to visit the Collaboration section. In addition to the usual setup options, the software lets you limit the storage space available to users by defining Quotas .

The Configuration and Security sections let administrators manage the installed packages and make changes to the network configuration. Configuration | Software installer can be used to extend the functional scope and install add-on modules. Although this candidate does not offer an app store, point-and-click installation is supported.

Automatic software updates are also possible; as the system administrator, you can optionally define intervals for regular updates below Configuration | Software Installer . The Koozali server has many tools that help you analyze and troubleshoot problems. For example, backup routines support backups to USB storage devices at the console. The Administration section of the web interface gives you further options for creating backups on various storage media and viewing logfiles (Figure 6).

Figure 6: In the Koozali SME Server web interface, you can access various system logfiles.

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