Building a computer for your network
these days use computers for a variety of purposes, whether it be
software to track the accounts, create business documents, or send
emails. If you are looking to add workstations or servers to your
network, or if you are investigating software for the purpose of
building or upgrading your network, you owe it to your bank
statement to investigate Opensource software as an
effective and reliable option, and then call me if you would like
OpenSource Software ?
is best defined as a type of
End User License Agreement which
permits the free distribution of software. There are many many
different kinds of parameters that are defined in different EULAs,
if you would like more information,
this link is a good place to
start. As a rule of thumb, anyone is allowed to download, use and
modify Opensource software, so long as any changes you make are
available for others to use in the same manner as which he
originally received it. The Opensource community has been growing
rapidly over the last several years, and nowadays almost all popular
software has an Opensource equivalent.
You are right, it is to good to be true. The catch
is that you have to set it all up yourself. There is hardly ever a
next button to click, and it almost never just works out of
the box. It takes time to learn an Opensource platform, it takes
time to set up a suitable environment for the software you seek, and
it takes a considerable amount of knowledge as well. This kind of
commitment is more than discouraging to most people, since time
spent learning is often more expensive than time spent playing for
So why consider it at all then
When you pay for
software, it generally comes with a disc and a set of instructions.
For the computer savvy, there is seldom a problem installing
software that has been bought so long as the system is pristine.
However, the more complex your system, the more likely something is
to go wrong. Many companies now charge money for technical support
if it is required, and if they can't help you, you will still need
to bring in an expert to resolve the problem. Over time, as your
system evolves and grows, problems will develop, maintenance
will be required, and it is a certainty that whether you paid
for your software or not, you will pay someone for his time to do
administrative services or you will take the
time to learn to do it yourself.
Administrative Services ?
When you pay for
software, administrative costs are usually low, but programs can
cost hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. When
you use Opensource software, administrative costs are high, either
in time or money, yet the cost savings of software can be
astounding. Compare to constructing a dwelling, you can buy a
pre-fabricated set of equipment and tools (Pay for software), do
most or all of the work yourself, only hiring a carpenter if you run
into problems, and end up with a finished product of predetermined
design. Or, you can hire a carpenter (Pay and Administrator), who
comes with his own equipment and tools, who will solve the problems
as they come up, and who's finished product will be done according
to your specifications and needs. Once the house is constructed,
regardless of which method was used, the house will be reliable, functional, and durable; it is two
different means to the same end.
So which is better ?
That answer depends
entirely on your needs. For common workstations with little or no
specialized needs, time is comparable to install whether it is
windows or Linux. In other words, for windows, pay the tech and the
software, in Linux pay just the tech. If you need a complicated
network service with access granted to some people and not others, Opensource software will probably take longer to set up, but won't
cost anything. It is a matter of weighing the extra time of setting
up Opensource against the cost of software. In most cases, the
Opensource solution will be the more cost
What about my existing system
You may be
investigating upgrading your system instead of setting up a new one.
It can be almost overwhelming to juggle all the factors involved
with this. Migrating to new software can be a headache for users,
and may pose problems in retaining old data, and one must consider
the user-friendliness of new software, whether it will require
hardware upgrades, and if it will provide the functionality you
require. If you buy new software, you will often need to pay an
administrator to come set it up anyway, so Opensource is definitely
something to consider. The key to successful upgrades and migrations
often lies in your administrator's ability to plan and implement,
regardless of where the software
Can Opensource be slowly
implemented into my existing network ?
As a rule, yes.
Workstations can be added and removed, and network services running
on servers can be independently
What are some examples of
Opensource software ?
The Linux operating
system is Opensource. As is a program called openoffice, which
allows for complete integration into a
Microsoft office environment.
For most office workstations, Linux is more than capable of
providing all the functions you are used to with windows, and does
so with an intuitive and easy to understand desktop environment.
This alone will save hundreds of dollars per computer on your
network. I currently have on my network a server that runs
Request Tracker, and
Media Wiki. All of these programs
run through a web browser, meaning any computer that is on my
network and can open a web page can connect to this server and use
the programs. Together, these three programs make a powerful
information management tool suitable to many small or medium sized
businesses. Older computers can be refurbished to run as file and
printer servers, or as highly configurable firewalls, which can
further be enhanced to provide Secure Tunnelling across the internet
and other VPN technologies if you have staff that need to access the
work network remotely. I use another server as a file and back up
server, to assist with disaster prevention and recovery. A project I
am working on at the moment is turning yet another computer into a
call center, which would be capable of routing phone calls across
the local area network to individual workstations or telephones,
handling voice mail for a large group of individuals, and configurable by end users with either
phone menu or a webpage.
Availability of computer techs who can work with Linux
It is a
concern that is a system is set up in a Linux
environment, and something happens to me in that I
decide to leave or worse, I am unable to work, that
there will be not available tech able to maintain and
repair the system. Most computer technicians are at home
in a Windows environment, and are lost in a Linux or Mac
environment. There are only a small percentage of
technicians capable of working on Linux, and finding one
won't be easy in a short run. However, hope is not lost.
Whitehorse does have a handful of Linux savvy
individuals, and many of them do freelance work. Also
around the world, there are a large number of
individuals who are very competent, and so long as a
computer is able to boot and make a network connection,
the location of the technician is not terribly
important. Rest assured however, I like it in the Yukon,
and have no intention of going anywhere, and I intend to
be here at least another decade, if not two or three.
Hardware with Linux
the biggest problems facing Linux is the availability of
drivers for hardware. Where I have seen this as most
evident is with printers. It is important to consider
whether existing hardware will work with Linux, and as
such, not all networks are suitable to run a Linux
Software with Linux
common for specialized businesses to require specialized
software. Specialized software is often written to work
only on windows, and as such is not capable of running
on a Linux system. In these situations, Windows is
required and therefore Linux is not a good solution.
is a cost that must be incurred when switching software.
While many features will be the same, there are bound to
be a few issues here and there where things need to be
relearned, hence costing time. While this cannot be
avoided, most programs are so similar as to not cause
significant problems in this respect.