Chris J Powell

Is there an alternative to MS Small Business Server?

I was thumbing through some articles about new Linux Distributions that claim to be focused on being a replacement for Microsoft’s Small Business Server (SBS) and could not help but think back to the early 2000’s when I stumbled upon one of the most robust Business Server Alternatives out there.  At the time it was called Clark Connect, now it has transformed into ClearOS and it still offers a rock solid alternative to the investment in Microsoft Technologies.


What is ClearOS and why should I care?

At its core ClearOS is a real alternative for any SMB that is looking at trimming cost but not willing to give up on features that allow a company to remain competitive.  With Microsoft’s long time entry level server the Small Business Server that is based on Windows Server 2008R2 there are two flavors available…the Essentials Edition that runs at $572 and is focused on less than 25 users and does not require any CALs (Client Access Licenses) but the Standard Edition starts at $1072 and an additional $72 per user CAL beyond the 25.  This price gives you File and Print Sharing, Active Directory Support and options to add premium  Add on options like MS SQL and Exchange.


ClearOS on the other hand costs well $0.  It includes LDAP connections for User and Group Policies, Local DHCP and DNS Server, Multi WAN capability, DMZ and full NAT Control, Firewall Support, Content Filtering, Bandwidth Monitoring, Endpoint Malware Protection, Integrated Mail Server, Database connection with MySQL, and much more.


Ok, OpenSource is Free but is it really FREE?


This is a common misconception that is portrayed by the Open Source Community and for those truly passionate about Open Source and Free Software there is always a caveat placed with the term FREE.  When the term free is thrown around it is important to note the too major differences…there is FREE as in Gratis and Free as in Libre.  The difference is “for zero price” (gratis) and “with little or no restriction” (libre).


ClearOS does offer a subscription service that provides different levels of support just like Microsoft, Dell, RedHat, Oracle and all other Software Vendors do but having been present on multiple Licensing Contract Reviews with my clients over the past year…they are not small decisions to be made.  The SBS Server may cost $3000+ to license the initial install but the maintenance and support costs of just one server could run as much as an additional $10-15,000 over the lifetime of the server.  TCO for a ClearOS Server over 5 years…$4800 plus the cost of the hardware which can be purchased through Clear OS for between $1200 and $2800.


I have used Clark Connect and ClearOS as a home gateway in the past and was more than just impressed with its stability and function.  I operated a small business off of a reconditioned PC that was running this software, I did all my own maintenance and my cost over a 2 year period was the $4.95 for a second NIC card…not bad ROI if you ask me.


Give it a try…what is there to loose…download the ISO here: ClearOS Enterprise 5.2 Service Pack 1


Well that is it for me…another busy day ahead of me.




Chris J Powell

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