Server distributions for small businesses tested

Are You Being Served?

NethServer

The fourth candidate is relatively unknown in the SME server system universe. NethServer [4], by the Italian company of the same name, is released under a free license and is also free of charge for use. Support is provided by the community; in addition to a forum, the project page has links to guides in English and Italian.

The current version 6.7 is based on CentOS 6.7, available as a 500MB ISO image and only available for 64-bit architectures. The makers cite 1GB of RAM and 8GB of free disk space as the minimum requirements.

In addition to an interactive and an automatic installation mode, the GRUB boot manager also offers to set up a legacy CentOS system. Interactive mode launches the Anaconda routine, which is well-known from Red Hat and takes you to a plain ncurses interface. The localization options offer you a choice between Italian and English, and the partitioning wizard always wants to use the entire disk. After setting up the network connection, the installation program creates a root account and password before launching the GUI, which installs the operating system.

All Systems Go

After rebooting, you can either log in at the console or access the management interface in your browser at https://<IP address>:980 . The first tasks in the server manager are to change the root password, the hostname, and domain name. After this you are taken to a plain interface that organizes the configuration options in groups on the left (Figure 7).

Figure 7: The server manager in NethServer is very clear-cut.

When it comes to network configuration, NethServer scores points by additionally detecting WiFi hardware, assuming that this can use nonproprietary firmware. The Software center collects services and apps that users install by clicking ADD in the Available tab (Figure 8). The offerings include the standard network services, supplemented mail and fax servers, databases, monitoring tools, an ownCloud server, and groupware solutions.

Figure 8: The software center offers a point-and-click solution to installing additional software on NethServer.

Various filter systems with blacklists and content filters and an IPS are also available. You can also use the software center to load language packages retroactively if you need to change the locale.

Maintenance

You will not find user and group management. If you want to set up and manage accounts and groups, you first need to install the file server via the software center; then, the Dashboard comes up with a new Management section containing the Groups , Users , and Shared folders entries. User and group management is extremely intuitive and met with the approval of the test team.

NethServer also assists system administrators with installing software updates and maintaining the computer. In the software center, the updates are available in the Updates tab. The distribution also shows a yellow bar in the Dashboard to indicate packages that need updating. Clicking on the DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL button installs the new software.

The logfile viewer is also exemplary – you will find it under Log viewer in the Administration section. In addition to the ability to select and display the logs directly, you will also find a search function that could help when troubleshooting.

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