[CS-FSLUG] Recommended Start Server

Tim Young Tim.Young at LightSys.org
Thu May 7 09:06:25 CDT 2009

Hi there,
I have not seen anyone answer your request, so I will jump in with some 
more questions.

First of all, do you already have hardware that you are planning to 
install Linux on?
What sort of things would you like to do on your "server?"  Fairly 
standard places to start are:
    Email Server
    File Server
    Web Server
    Virtualization Server
    Linux Terminal Server

Of course, there are many other services you can start with.  But based 
on your choice we may have different suggestions for you.

Some basic information:
About me and my opinions:  I am a missionary tech consultant, so my 
opinions should always be prepended with "In the missions world..."  
This gets old adding it to every sentence, but you may need to balance 
my opinions out with other opinions on the list at times.  Part of my 
specialty is Linux servers and free software for mission organizations.  
Most mission directors would prefer that their IT department did not 
spend any money, and so the missionary IT people have a heavy interest 
in free software.

In the missions world, there are two main server distros that people 
use.  Centos and (oddly enough) Ubuntu.  Centos is a Red Hat derivative 
on which most purchased programs will run, but which does not have the 
price-tag of the Red Hat systems.  People use Ubuntu as a server because 
they are used to Ubuntu clients and want to use an OS that they are 
familiar with.

Linux is a funny OS in that, there is usually little distinction on the 
"service" side of things between a server operating system and a desktop 
operating system.  Ubuntu, for example, is a very desktop-orientated 
operating system.  When you install off the CD, not all the services 
come installed with it, but you can still install a web-server, email 
server, file-server, etc. very easily.

The main distinction between a server OS and a desktop OS is the 
lifetime of the operating system.  Ubuntu comes out with a new version 
every 6 months or so, with those versions being supported for 18 
months.  That means that every 18 months, you need to upgrade your 
systems.  Ubuntu does have a special server version that comes out every 
2 years, which is supported for 5 years.  That is a server version.  
Centos has a 7-year support-cycle.

The reason for this difference is that services on which hundreds of 
people depend, are not things that you want to reinstall every 18 
months.  When you reinstall the operating system, you often get new 
packages that have different configurations, and the old config files do 
not work with them.  With every version of the OS, consultants often 
need to go in for Linux training (at roughly $1000 per day).  So a 
longer life-cycle is really appreciated.

So, while most any Linux distro would work as something to play with as 
a server, usually there are a limited number of ones that will be used 
in the workforce.  Suse, Mandrake, and Debian are other distros that are 
used fairly regularly.

Server hardware is vastly different from a home PC.  When you purchase a 
$12,000 server, it comes with different features that a $500 PC does 
not.  Multiple hot-swappable power-supplies, hot-swappable hard-drives, 
hot-swappable motherboard fans, etc.  These things have drivers which 
allow you to monitor the status of them individually, and with extra 
drivers come extra reports and stuff.  This server hardware often adds a 
much higher level of complexity to a Linux system-administrator.  Most 
small organizations just use a $500 PC to run Linux on, so for small 
organizations, playing around with a PC gives you plenty of options.  
But just be aware that "home servers" are very different than a Linux 
server running on real server hardware.

With that all that as background, I would probably recommend the Centos 
(centos.org) distro as one to start playing with.  If you do not know 
what you want to get out of your playing with a server, then try setting 
up basic services for your home.  File-sharing first as that does not 
need connections from the outside.  Maybe Internet content filtering 
(which can be somewhat complex to set up).  But then a web-page and 
possibly email (email has a number of odd issues with it because ISPs 
sometimes block it)  With something to pursue, setting up a server is 
usually a lot more fun.

    - Tim Young, Field Consultant, LightSys Technology Services

Tyler Garland wrote:
> Hello, I had a question as to which server system I should start out 
> with? I am wanting to just experiment with a server, but have shy a 
> clue where to start.
> ______________________________
> ------------------Tyler Garland---------------|
> -------------------706-669-2077--------------|
> ______________________________|

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