The ultimate Linux starter kit for small business

Linux machines can save your business cold, hard cash. Here's how to pick the best OS and apps for yourself, your workers and your IT pros.

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Ubuntu Server is perhaps the easiest to deploy. In its Long Term Support (LTS version 12.04) configuration, the OS does not receive any major upgrades during that period. Instead, to ensure minimal service interruptions, it receives only feature backports, bug fixes, and security-related updates.

Ubuntu Server's hardware requirementsA are conservative, with both 32- and 64-bit editions. Out of the box, its security-hardened configuration makes it ideal for setting up public (DMZ) edge servers accessible by the Internet at large.

Both Red Hat and Canonical do an excellent job with documentation, and the level of subscription support you need, if any, will be your other most important consideration. Larger organizations running enterprise-grade applications often choose subscription-based phone support to keep up with the growing demands of the application and underlying platform architecture.

Finally, one additional key consideration is whether to deploy the server infrastructure in-house or in the cloud.A If your risk management process determines that storing data off-site is acceptable, then preprovisioned deployment in the cloud is an excellent opportunity to enjoy significant functionality at pennies per hour in operating expense.

Whichever way you decide, however, be mindful of whether the distro you're looking at can support you for a minimum of five years. That alone could narrow down the number of distros to a handful of candidates.

Best server tools

Systems administrators need the right tools on the server side. Sometimes all it takes is a login via secure shell to make a configuration file tweak, restart a daemon service, or install a needed patch update.

Other times, it takes something more. Most servers should be configured to receive updates manually. This will allow a "change management" process to guide by approval when any update should occur, and to ensure that clear documentation and an audit trail are maintained. In the event of a system failure, for example, change management can help you find the root cause.

For special needs, each system administrator will inevitably use one or more of these server tools, typically found within your distro's trusted software repository.

Recommended Reading

Community forums are always a great place to absorb wisdom about Linux, of course, but so, too, are the many books on the topic.A These titles are worth checking out.

Share your experience

Now your small business is up and running on Linux, and you're free of the malware scares and the upgrade treadmill that plague the proprietary world. You've finally attained software freedom,A Was it worth it? Do you wish you did anything differently along the way? What tips can you pass along to the business users who come along next? Share your own newfound wisdom. After all, that's why the community approach works so well in the Linux world.

This story, "The ultimate Linux starter kit for small business" was originally published by PCWorld.

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