Take a Swing at Linux for Small Business

With most business-grade Linux distributions, you already have every software package a small business could ever use.

With most business-grade Linux distributions, you already have every software package a small business could ever use. Putting them all together, though, could be tough. If you know Linux well, its not a problem. If you dont, you should consider putting the small-business Linux software suites into the field.

The best known of these is IBMs Small Business Suite for Linux (SBSL). This includes DB2, the WebSphere Application Server and Lotus Domino. These programs are integrated together to provide small businesses with all of the messaging, Web site and data management that they could ever need. Better still, if your customer wants to start play immediately, the packages install program lets you install the entire package, or only part of it, in as clean a manner as weve ever seen a back-office suite go up.

On the user side, SBSL also includes WebSphere design tools for Linux and Windows, and Lotus Notes, SmartSuite and Domino Designer for Windows. At a price of $499 per server and $90 per client with a hard limit of 100 users and full support for the Caldera, Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux distributions, SBSL is as attractive as a well-turned double play.

Say, though, that your customers want simply a "best of breed" Linux server. You could build your own, or you could deploy e-smiths Server and Gateway 4.1. This Red Hat 7.0 distribution-based package takes a simple idea—deploy preconfigured, top-of-the-line open-source programs with an easy-to-use installation and management program—and easily runs and steals second with it.

The e-smith product includes the Apache Web server, the Qmail e-mail server, the Squid proxy server, a Point-to-Point Transfer Protocol (PPTP) VPN, Samba, and all of the other network server/Internet gateway basics. Its an impressive package, and with its preset support for Windows, Mac and Linux clients, it will appeal to even offices that have autographed photos of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on the CEOs wall.

If the technology doesnt do it for you, the price—$595 for an annual subscription that gets you the software, upgrades and unlimited technical support, via toll-free phone, fax or e-mail—is mighty convincing. And, your most cost-conscious customers will love that you actually can run the server on as little as a 60MHz Pentium with acceptable results. On our test system—a 100MHz Pentium thats seen better days—it had no trouble handling the load of a 25-user small office.