Read our other Firewall articles including:
Personal Firewall Configuration
Business Firewall Use
With arms folded and legs
crossed one small business leader asked me bluntly, “so what is the
grand ingredient for good infrastructure?” I was hoping he would ask,
as I stood and wrote these three words on his whiteboard.
Now what in the world do these three things have to do with
getting a small business a stable, operational, cost effective computer
Linux addresses many core factors.
A few factors
include freedom from licensing, infrastructure capabilities that can
expand as the business expands, and stability at a reasonable price.
Linux provides the catalyst for significant cost savings and
maintenance reduction, all while allowing for significant
infrastructure improvements. I’m not only talking about the
ability to do word processing on software that is both free and fully
compatible with the rest of the world (SUN’s OpenOffice for instance).
I’m also including the other breadth of infrastructure tools
that few small offices start out considering including a print server,
a network firewall, an internet connection server, file server and
eventually a Voice over IP server.
The reasonable first step for any small business considering
Linux is to invest in two PCs. These two systems running Linux
can perform tasks that would cost significantly more as independent
Linux becomes key to the first step of making an office
computer infrastructure plan stable, virtually maintenance free, and
highly cost effective. Take $1200 out of your wallet and you can
have two very robust Linux servers that meet all of the above
needs. Why don't you need today's super fastest computer to run
as these servers? Linux performance remains strong even on older
and slower systems. Today's PCs for under $600, running at
over 2GHz with more than 256MB of RAM are more than capable of
supporting your small business as effective servers.
And, the two most fundamentally necessary servers for any
small business are: Firewall/router computer, and an Office
The Firewall/router is a
simple no-nonsense Linux PC running only the bare minimum
Firewall and network connectivity software along with two ethernet
My chapter on Basic Business Firewall will
help give you some more background on this system.
It is a stripped down highly
secure Linux system that is running no extra tools like FTP, Telnet,
It connects to your
business’ internet provider either over cable modem or DSL and acts not
only as the office firewall but also the network router. Sounds
complicated, but all of the necessary ingredients to make this work
come out of the box with almost any of the latest releases of Linux
flavors. Take a glimpse at the Accessing the Internet section
for a few details.
What this Linux system
allows you to do for very little effort and money is to provide a
highly secure and stable office network and internet environment.
The second Linux server your
small business would include would run all of the core services you
need in an office including a print manager, email server, intranet
webhost, staging server for your internet website etc. In other words,
this PC running Linux would provide your office with a very affordable
server for running applications and developing further infrastructure.
"The Linux server is a versatile tool to address needs as your business grows"
One obvious use is an intranet server where all of your
office files, data, can be stored and safely backed up. Depending on
your business needs this server could host a large Oracle database or a
number of simple MySQL databases that help address infrastructure
needs. It could also run your email services to the other office PCs,
help manage print and telephony needs and so on. It is the versatile
Linux tool sitting safely inside of your office firewall and addressing
needs as they come up.
Another phenomenal point of Linux servers, especially if
they are configured well is that they will perform better on slower PCs
than other operating systems ever could have. Take your latest version
of RedHat Linux and install it on a slightly slower model and watch it
easily out perform Windows® XP on even the newer and much faster
systems. Thus, your total number of PCs as servers and the capability
of individual desktop PCs for daily business will be cheaper.
Finally, to put all of these wonderful PCs running Linux
together, you need a reasonable network infrastructure which in today’s
terms can be as simple as a SOHO network kit from any name brand
manufacturer for as little as $100. That’ll include the cables, the
cards, the drivers, hub, and instructions.
The other office PCs can remain non-Linux systems that
simply connect via wireless or physical network to the Office Server
running Linux. As the business expands, the Linux server can easily
accommodate more users and upgrade or expand to meet the needs without
additional licensing costs.
One recommendation I’ve made to small business owners is to
invest in inexpensive but smart computer tools. Obviously, Linux
is one. A little money on battery backup is another. But, one
most often unknown smart tool is to invest in removable frame mounts
for your hard disk drives for the Linux servers.
This allows you to buy off the shelf PCs and still gain the
ability to hot swap new hard disks with Linux configured and running.
In case of failure to either your firewall or office server you can
literally pull out the bad drive and plug in a new already configured
drive within seconds. The only thing it requires is a little extra up
front time installing Linux on two hard disks, then ensuring that the
backup of business data is done automatically to an independent disk
drive, to a CD-R, or to another type of physical storage.
In Linux, the process to make this work automatically can be
as simple as one very basic shell script.
Following these basic tips, your office can operate safely
behind a Linux firewall that can be easily configured and inexpensively
maintained and is far less likely to be troubled with the internet
worms and hacking problems of other operating systems.
You also gain a Linux office server that is highly
versatile. Versatile enough to operate as your email, print, and
application manager or to simply provide your business with a stable
database host. The capabilities are more numerous than you might
It all starts reasonably with the installation of Linux on
two fundamental pieces of equipment to be a small business Firewall/Router
and Server. Total cost, less than $1200. Total setup
time, one to two days.
More details regarding the basic principles for setting up Linux
firewall for your small business are included here.
If you found the information in this
article helpful, you may benefit from our other Linux articles.