ClearOS: Linux Server for Small Business
ClearOS (formerly ClarkConnect) is a Linux distribution, with the aim of transforming any standard PC into a dedicated firewall and Internet server / gateway. The software is a solution for small businesses, home offices and networked homes. ClearOS is based on CentOS and offers a very robust set of tools organized in easy to navigate administration pages.
Small business and servers
Small business data centers often rely on one-size-fits-all solutions for standard problems. Because’? They save on costs. Within the Linux world, there are a number of exceptional server software that can help power a business in ways that aren’t always considered.
The problem with small businesses that use Linux can often come in the form of distribution complexity. While Linux has come a long way in terms of ease of use, there can sometimes be an additional level of complexity when it comes to server software. This additional learning curve is very often easily overcome by anyone with a moderate level of computer skills. Note that for anyone who has used Linux before, this is generally a breeze.
But then, who needs a data center solution, without the burden of a high-level IT expert on hand, who could they turn to? One solution is ClearOS.
What is ClearOS
According to the presentation material of the distribution:
“ClearOS is a simple, open and affordable operating system, with an intuitive web-based graphical user interface and a marketplace with over 100 applications to choose from, with more being added every day. By leveraging open source software, you decide which apps you need and only pay for the apps and support you want. “
To verify that these statements respect reality and check that ClearOS is indeed an interesting solution, let’s see the details together.
First, you need to choose between the versions of the operating system. In fact, ClearOS offers three different platform distributions:
– Community: the free edition of ClearOS
– Home: Ideal for home offices
– Business: Ideal for small businesses, thanks to the inclusion of paid support
To find out the differences of each edition, you can consult the ClearOS function matrix here. There are also the prices on the page which, after all, are contained for the proposed service.
There is really no need to talk about the ClearOS installation process, as it is incredibly simple. If you’ve ever installed Linux, you won’t have any problems with ClearOS.
I wanted to test it with a VirtualBox on my personal computer, and in just 20 minutes I had a working virtual machine with ClearOS ready. The installation time includes the post-installation wizard and the first updates.
Once you have completed the basic installation, post-installation wizard and updates, all done from within an incredibly well-designed web interface, you are ready to start adding applications from the ClearOS Marketplace, which is ‘where the platform really shines.
Taking a look at the process of adding applications to the ClearOS server, it is evident how easy this ecosystem is to use. Once we are done with the initial setup, we are on the “ClearOS Marketplace Getting Started” page. From this screen it is possible to manage the application selection and installation process.
The operating system also comes with a couple of preconfigurations to choose from. In any case, you will have the possibility to choose through the selection of applications / services to be installed on the ClearOS server.
Available features include:
– Firewall, Networking and Security:
– Network: the firewall restricts access to systems and provides advanced features, including DMZ, NAT 1 to 1 and Port Forwarding
– Protocol: Peer-to-Peer discovery system allows you to manage the use of peer-to-peer file sharing
– Application: Intrusion Detection and Intrusion Prevention systems provide an additional layer of defense against threats to your network.
– Virtual Private Networking
– Web Proxy and Content Filter
– Email, including Webmail
– Database and Web Server
– File and print services
Some of the apps are free, while others have a cost. You have to consult the list of available apps to see if any of these apps / services meet your needs and fit your budget. Once you have selected all the applications you want to install, you can proceed with the installation.
At this point you are ready to configure the custom dashboard. If you don’t want to worry about customizing the dashboard, you can use the default one. The dashboard allows you to select what you want to view through practical drop-down menus. It is also possible to immediately start configuring newly installed applications.
One remarkable thing is that ClearOS has made configuring the LDAP service extremely easy. Normally this process can be quite a headache, but ClearOS has found a way to make it as painless as possible.
The function of ClearOS
One thing not found on ClearOS is a tool for creating a server environment like that of a Microsoft Small Business Server or its successor Windows Server. So, using applications like MS Office, via Terminal Server, will not work. But you can always install the Dropbox app for free and use their Paper Server. This, of course, is not a real alternative for a full office suite, but it is still a partial solution.
However, this is not the point of ClearOS, as the intent is more to serve a business-class server that can help protect and expand a small business network. In other words, if you are looking for an incredibly simple firewall to set up and manage, VPN, DNS, DHCP, and a well-rounded general network appliance, ClearOS is exactly what you need. If you are looking for something to replace a Samba server, ClearOS is not the solution.
ClearOS can be found among the standard SOD templates and you can then install your own VPS with ClearOS in a few seconds.
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