Small Business Servers – Intro

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Direction

This series of articles is oriented towards the computer professional or novice that is responsible for evaluating, selecting, and implementing servers, server applications, and networks in small businesses of less than 50 employees. The articles will cover a variety of servers applications and hardware that might be of use in small businesses.

There is already a wealth of information, in both print media and online, about how to implement many popular small business server solutions using NetWare and Windows NT. Therefore, many of the articles in this series will explore how to implement FreeBSD-based server solutions as supplements or replacements to existing NT and NetWare-based server systems. The articles that are not focused on FreeBSD will still try to explore interesting solutions that might not be as well known or popular, but still valuable.

Consider these articles as a starting point for your own evaluations and implementations. Some of the information in the articles will be basic and be familiar to the experienced computer professional. The articles themselves won’t provide everything you will need to know about how to be an expert on implementing servers in small businesses. You will need to carefully assess the business needs and requirements and do your own objective research to determine what combination of servers and technologies works best in your small business environment.

For those wondering, the emphasis on FreeBSD instead of Linux is not a slam at Linux; I just have more experience with FreeBSD than with any of the Linux distributions at this time.

A good place to start for information on all things FreeBSD is the FreeBSD Project web site at http://www.freebsd.org.

This article discusses one of the types of servers that a small business might need to implement: the file server. It covers the basics of what a file server is, and looks at various hardware considerations. An upcoming article will describe in detail the steps for implementing a FreeBSD-based file server.

A Word on Operating Systems

Once the undisputed ruler of small business operating systems, Novell NetWare has been, and still is, a popular operating system, due to its good overall performance, stability, and advanced directory services that enable a flexible organization of users, groups, and computer resources. Windows NT Server has cut into NetWare’s once dominant market share over the last few years, due to its large number of applications, ease of integration with existing Windows 3.x/95/NT PCs, and graphical user interface. Linux and FreeBSD are just two of several open-source operating systems that are finding a home along side existing NetWare and Windows NT servers, due to their low cost (free), ability to run on low-end hardware, and outstanding reliability.

Let me get in my two bits worth on this subject now: there is NO single server operating system that is best for all small business environments! Many technical professionals get involved in seemingly endless debates on the merits of one operating system over another. I’ve worked extensively with many of the popular operating systems in use today and in recent years. Practical experience has taught me that each has its own unique strengths and weakness, and may be better suited for certain uses than others.


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