Best Linux Distro for small business server

Posted on 2006-04-13
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-06
I have a Small business server 2003 running (I know BOOOO MS) but i am trying to prove that every thing it can do can be done on a Linux box and not cost us $1000 per 20 users to do. Now my question is what is the best distro for a small business server of about max 45 users, needs to be able to do mail, file server, SQL, and a intranet. One with autoconfig of drivers would be nice. Any recommendations?
Question by:cyborgcom
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Accepted Solution

nedvis earned 375 total points
ID: 16449898
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Expert Comment

ID: 16450650

For business environment, if you need helpdesk and tech-support from vendor, use the commercial version of Linux, such as Redhat Enterprise, SuSE, Mandriva Corp Server.

All distro can do mail, file server, SQL, and intranet, and can support at least hundreds of users. Driver needed will be auto-detected and auto-installed, auto-loadup, as long as your device is not too new in the market. If your device is new, try to get the latest version of kernel. Redhat Enterprise is slow in new version release, SuSE is more frequent, and Mandriva is more up-to-date with latest drivers and support to new devices.


Expert Comment

ID: 16451486
For best driver support I have to throw my opinion behind Mandriva.  

Some side benefits: Runs samba 3, apache + front page, and has a decent control panel.  
We have used it since version 6 and converted numerous offices to Mandrake/Mandriva.

None of the dists have a rock-solid exchange drop in, (well, mamybe SuSE) So exchange4linux is probably
your best bet, although the MAPI plugin is still ~ 49 Euro

(Dear readers: yes there are great alternatives for exchange, none of them are MAPI compliant, so none of
them support shared contacts, todo lists and the like except through a web interface, and thats just nutty)

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Expert Comment

ID: 16453864
I think FC (Fedora Core) is suitable for you. About mail server, you should use Qmail. Samba is very good for file server. SQL I recommend you to use Firebird. It is very wonderful.

Expert Comment

ID: 16454677
Fedora Core is very good when it comes to server environments. The graphical setup makes it very easy to choose which server applications to install, and X Window, KDE and Gnome desktop environments can be used standard. It also sports the best of Red Hat Linux (native RPM support and security updates).

Best of all, its free to download and install.


Expert Comment

ID: 16454685
perhaps open small business server might be an alternative for you:
(sorry, dunno whether there are english translations available)

LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 16461029
Do not use Fedora Core for a business solution. Although it is a 'good' distribution, it is 'bleeding edge', and used to try out new concepts and ideas for the RedHat disrtibution.

Use the RedHat commercial distribution as it is readily available (as it is open source). You could download the regular RedHat distribution, by creating a free account at:


However, in order to receive the support for this commercial distribution via the rhn, you will have to pay a support fee, or...if you like, you can convert the upgrade process from rhn (up2date) to yum.

Alternatively, you can download one of the redhat clones (already yum ified for automatic updates). You will then benefit from the extended support and release cycle for the RedHAt commercial distribution, rather than having regular updates to you OS when the next release of FC comes out.

Look here for details of  a number of options:


Personally, I recommend CentOS, LEL and White Box.

A word of warning with RHEL4 (and clones) - unless you are really competent, and understand the implications and work required to support it (or have an expert on hand), do not enable Security Enhanced Linux (SEL) as it'll require a reasonable amount of work and knowledge to maintain.

Another warning with RHEL4, is that a number of the drivers for 'legacy' hardware, including the MegaRAID board have been removed, so if you have an old piece of hardware, and unless you want to rebuild yourkernel modules to match your hardware, then stick to the RHEL3 distros and clones.
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Expert Comment

ID: 16461044
It's worth while mentioning that RH is a mainstream Linux Distro, and finding a consultant that has 'formal accreditation' is probably easier than most other distros. What happens if you get run over by a car, or catch blubonic plague? An inportant issue for your management!
LVL 34

Expert Comment

ID: 16469558
I agree with to NOT use Fedora Core for business applications. One of our admins made that mistake, and we're in the middle of cleaning it up by migrating the servers to SLES. FC might be a good distro, but its not a stable business platform (as distinguished from a stable software platform) - its unsupported and its a playground. If you want to use a RH distro for a business application, get RHEL/RHES.

However, I tend to prefer SUSE - seems to have better driver support among the various hardware vendors, and I've had some vendors tell me flat out that they prefer SLES because Novell/SUSE will return their phone calls and work with them, while they can never get ahold of anyone at RH (or they get arrogant responses when they do finally reach someone).2

Expert Comment

ID: 16474789
Either way, I think that you should go with something from Red Hat. They are really good with patching any vulnerabilities that arise. The only thing to remember is to activate the Red Hat Update Agent right away, to ensure that you are receiving updates. As far as I know, this is available on all Red Hat distributions, including Fedora Core, but I know that I had to go through a setup wizard before it would work.

However, its important to keep in mind that RHEL ES and AS is not free software (https://www.redhat.com/rhel/compare/server/). If you want to prove that you can run Linux for 45 users for less than $2500, you can still do it, but your still paying a significant amount of cash. It is true that you will probably receive better support and more features, but it won't hurt to at least TRY Fedora Core before making a commitment, especially if you are just trying to prove a point.

Expert Comment

ID: 16508394
It would be useful to know what hardware you intend to run on and what sort of backup/support you need for the solution.  

Lacking that information, I suggest you evaluate the following SBS-type Linux distros:

SME Server (I would advise the 7.0 pre-release over the 6.x versions) - http://contribs.org/modules/news/
eBox Platform - http://www.ebox-platform.com/

One criteria for choosing one of these over the other is what flavour of distro you are most familiar with.  SME Server is a Red Hat style distro (based on the RHEL-derived Centos) and eBox is Debian-based.

Expert Comment

ID: 16632019
use centos, redhat enterprise linux for free. do not use fedora for business


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