Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

Previous OS Sunday’s have been focused on desktop replacements or at least competitors for my permanent install of Ubuntu Linux but I thought that it was time to take a step outside of my normal comfort zone and return ton one of my “Roots” and look to SME Servers.  In the past I have worked with Clark Connect which is now known as ClearOS and continues to thrive and survive but I came across an interesting OS that I thought I would give a try called Zentyal.

I first tried my hand at the preconfigured VirtualBox image that Zentyal has on their site and quickly found out that the Wireless Mouse that I use…was not included in the mix when it came to the setup of the image so I took a step back and downloaded the full ISO.  I really should have learned this by now, but the reality is…sometimes one hopes that life will be at least a little easier.

The 64Bit download of Zentyal 3.0 came down fast and as I created a new VirtualBox environment I very quickly became nostalgic for Ubuntu Installs of the past as it started up and started installing like the old Text Based installer from Ubuntu Distros of the past.  This was actually one of the main reasons why I chose to look at Zentyal, because it is built upon the Ubuntu Core, but can serve as a Small to Mid Size Enterprise Server.  The interesting thing about Zentyal is that it is built into a service model of support and while the code is available for free, there are additional plugins and services available that can take the Distro from a free download to a fully functional IT Department…with the click of a few next buttons on the Zentyal site.

For the purposes of the review though, I am going to configure a Gateway, Infrastructure Manager, Office Manager and Communications Manager.  The initial boot took a little while as it configured the core files but then it opened up to a Graphical configuration wizard all within a browser window that would allow me to choose the individual packages that would allow me to set up a Small Office Server.

Within minutes I was moving forward with configurations for a full SOHO setup (that includes a VoIP Gateway, Webmail Server, Antivirus, Content Filtering, File and Printer Sharing and even a Collaboration Suite to share documents and files across the network). The Community Edition allowed me to configure all these for free and with a simple registration at the end, I had a full server built and ready to mess around with.

The documentation for the Zentyal Server is very complete and is clearly designed to assist the Small Office with setup and configuration when there is not a strong IT presence available.  There is even the opportunity to become a Partner with them and get certification in the administration of the Server which is very, very interesting.

While this may not be Enterprise Grade, for an office or branch office that has less than 25 staff, it would effectively enable an IT Department in a Box that could be configured very quickly.

The Web based interface is very easy to configure and because I had most of the information readily at hand (SIP Trunking, Email Information and Virtual Machine Configurations), I was able to configure the entire setup in about 25 minutes this morning (once all the packages were installed).

I was very impressed with the depth of what is included and the speed by which a Server can be deployed.  Rather than Setting up a NAS I think that this might just be how I configure the rest of my home and allowing the multiple computers that reside here be able to access and share information around the home.  This would also enable each computer to have a Telephone attached to it, removing the need to have wireless handsets (as we mostly use our Mobile Phones for communications and there is the ability to connect to the VoIP Gateway as soon as we come home using Linphone).

Overall I am quite impressed and will definitely be building a solution around this distro in the near future and yes I will be repurposing that $5 PC that I got from work a couple of months ago to do this.

Overall, for ease of setup and configuration I would highly recommend the use of this software.

Cheers and Happy Sunday,

Chris J Powell

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