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Database + Internet Developers

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Open Source

We use and support open source software

Options and Alternatives

Open source platforms offer major cost savings for medium-scale businesses on the server. Linux is a highly cost-effective platform for the file serving, database serving and web serving that most businesses do most of the time. On the workstation the situtation is less clear cut and you will need to consider carefully just what the users’ requirements are before ditching your Windows or Mac workstations.

File Server Alternatives - What you can Expect to Save

The majority of small and medium-sized businesses the world over use Microsoft software on the servers in the network. These servers spend almost all of their time serving files and checking logons and security. For this you purchase the Microsoft operating system on the server, on each of the workstations which connect to it, and, in addition you have to purchase a client license for each workstation which connects.

It is perfectly feasible to use open source Linux in place of Microsoft server software in such situations. There are debates about which is the quicker but in truth there is little to choose between them. Nothing much either in terms of server security in all normal business environments. It may be that Linux has the edge in terms of stability however, but where it really scores is in terms of cost. You can obtain Linux and all needed server software for free or at relatively low cost. When you have it you can install it on as many server systems as you choose and, even more importantly, as many workstations as you like can connect to it without the need to pay any license fees.

The principal cost in the case of Linux is the cost of support for installation, configuration and training. But many companies installing Windows server operating systems choose to pay fees for similar services.

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Web Server Options

Linux and Apache run well over half the internet. There is absolutely no questioning their capabilities. They are the obvious choice for any organisation wanting to run an intranet or even a public facing web server.

The reason they are chosen by so many internet companies is probably because they are highly stable, fast, reliable and prone to far fewer security threats than Windows alternatives. They can be obtained for free. The costs of installation and configuration are probably lower than Windows equivalents in almost all situations.

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Database Server Options

Open source Linux is regarded as a perfect platform for most of the common enterprise class database servers. Two out of the three leading proprietary enterprise class databases, Oracle and IBM run on Linux (Microsoft’s SQL Server does not). What is more the two most powerful mid-range database servers are open source: MySQL and PostgreSQL.

Whether your database server is proprietary or open source, workstations running Windows can connect. The increasingly common web applications which use database backends can run on a workstation running Windows or open source operating systems.

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Should you Switch to Open Source on the Desktop?

The choice of operating system on the desktop is not nearly so clear cut as it is on the server. Even though open source has undoubted cost advantages, many desktop applications which currently run on open source do not have the range or depth of functionality that Windows applications do.

Your choice depends entirely on what your workstations are used for. The following can readily run on workstations running open source Linux

  • web browsing;
  • web applications - however complex or specialised;
  • email;
  • straightforward word processing;
  • straightforward spreadsheets;
  • straightforward presentations.

You can even expect to exchange files between your open source wordprocessor and those running Microsoft Word (though they will need to help you out by not using the latest file version as encouraged by Microsoft).

Currently there are no open source equivalents of the two most common desktop / workgroup database management systems and users of Microsoft Access and FileMakerPro will need to stick with their Windows (or Mac) platforms. Desktop publishing too remains an activity which in almost all cases is best run on Mac and Windows. The same could probably be said of small business accounting applications though medium to larger business do have open source options.

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Making the Transition

Making the transition from Windows servers to open source Linux servers can readily be done in simple stages without posing any undue threat to the viability or security of the network.

A typical workgroup or small enterprise set up has one powerful Windows server which controls domain security, stores and serves files, and handles data backups. It may also act as a webserver, mailserver and database server, although any of these functions may be shared across more than 1 machine.

Typically, when a new Linux server is introduced into such a network, the first and simplest thing to be transferred is the file serving function. The existing Windows server can be left in place but have the workgroup or enterprise data files transferred to the Linux machine. The Windows machine can continue to control security and authenticate log ons - the Linux machine is quite happy with this. The next step is probably to make the Linux machine the backup server. In a simple set up it is then straightforward to make the Linux machine the domain and security controller. Making this same machine the web or mail or database server are probably all matters to be considered on their merits. By this stage however the process of transferring server responsibilities to open source will be well advanced and cost savings should be starting to accrue. 

Database synchronisation over mixed Networks

It is quite possible to have databases running across more than 1 database server or to have 2 versions of the same data, one on a "master" database server and the other on a synchronised "slave." A typical situation is one in which existing desktop databases - typically Windows - have to be synchronised with open source databases running on a public facing web server.

Call us on 01363 82923 or contact us now.
28th February 2008