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What about a server Linux box?

  17/11/07 20:00, by admin, Categories: General

If you are a self-employed professional and you are serious about your own computing, you should think about relying on a Linux box to store a copy of your precious data and to access them while you are on a business trip… unless you want to buy yourself a licence for a Windows server configuration.

Linux has done a lot of progress on the end-user side. We may however admit that it will not do for you if you are relying heavily on Microsoft Office suite, particularly if you are using extensively Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and also Access. Besides, most companies use Windows in their client environments, so if you go around with a Linux laptop, you may be on your own.

But upon the other hand, Linux has wonders in store for you on the server side and is a real and reliable operative tool. It can bring a few of the things only corporate environments can provide, and what is more, with no licence cost.

The main use that a Linux box can be put to, is as an advanced file server. If you have a desktop computer, then you can set up a file server with Samba. It works pretty well, so much so, that Apple uses it on their Macs running under OS X. In this way, you can back up your data.

Yet, what is the use of having a computer store data, when a plain hard disk would suffice? None, if you do not do anything else with those data (i.e they remain “dead")! But if you want to make those data accessible to yourself when you are on the go, that is something else!

Linux offers a battery of tools (first of all SFTP) to allow you to access files securely from the Internet. If you know a bit of Unix commands, you can access your computer remotely, simply with ssh. And you have a remote access with VNC.

If you put Unison (a file synchronizer) on top of this, you can go aroung the world with your laptop and whatever change you do to your document files, you can securely synchronize them to your server through the Internet, something that Windows will not do for you unless you buy some third party solution – or you want to embark into some online scheme where you do not know how the safety of your data will be actually protected against the prying eyes of foreign states agencies (or sometimes your own one, for that matter).

Upon the other hand, if you have a Windows desktop at home and it synchronizes too with your Linux box, there you have a system where your laptop and desktop computer contain the same document files - plus you have a third copy on your Linux server, that you can access from anywhere in the world.

And it DOES work, for a daily operation.

True, with a bit of tweaking, you can get your desktop PC under Windows to do the same things, even to run Unison as a server. Here are a few points, which all come under the heading safety (safety of installation, safety of operation, safety of your data):

  1. Linux is a standard professional solution for a server, Windows XP is NOT; if you want a professional solution on Windows, buy the Windows Server (but the premise of this article is that we wanted to make it cheap).
  2. Windows (even Windows Server) does not come out of the box with ssh server and therefore you would have to set it up for this with it, whereas in Linux it is just standard. And anything that is not standard takes time to set up.
  3. A little, but quite important fact is that if your PC is working fine now, you should not charge it with something else that may break this balance. Some of the new facilities you install could conflict with one of the programs already installed on your PC. An actual case is XAMPP (which contains, the web server Apache and the MySQL database) conflicting with Skype.
  4. Linux is reliable as hell. Once you set it up, it takes an ax (or a shortage of power) to take it down. Windows XP is fairly reliable, but not necessarily for weeks on end (remember, your server must be on while you are on a business travel). As regards Vista, I would just skip it for the moment.
  5. Having a physical machine just dedicated to handle your precious data is a safe bet, just in case your other computer(s) go broken.

So, if you want to do some serious work (but not necessarily difficult) to take care of your data, get professional equipment; that means either a Linux server (free) or a Windows Server (paying). For a very small company, where budget is a critical from the outset, I would advise to jump into the Linux bandwagon.

Even if it turns out that it takes time to install it, it WILL work, and keep working with barely any maintenance (no viruses, no crashes, etc), possibly until doomsday, or until you decide to upgrade to a new version.

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