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Just a few words in the form of introduction.
I have just purchased an older server to use on my home LAN.
I understand that the use of Linux or Unix as an operating system will be effective in detering the gathering of viruses from the internet.
I am totally unfamiliar with either system, but if this is the case, that's about to change.
Asking folks in a Linux forum whether UNIX/Linux is worth the trouble is like asking a skydiver whether jumping out of planes makes sense. Either you like it or you don't
UNIX/Linux has many benefits mainly from a control standpoint. If you live only for GUI you may get frustrated by Linux. If you like learning things and having a lot of control you'll love Linux. Also of course Linux is essentially free unlike M$ products.
Linux is not necessarily less susceptible to viruses - it is simply there are less that are targeted for it. It is a little harder to compromise so long as you take basic security precautions (e.g. don't run everything as root, don't open all the ports, use ssh instead of telnet) but there are exploits out in the wild. However, there is also a very good system of reporting such hacks and most of the distros are on top of releasing security fixes fairly rapidly once a new exploit is found.
Question is, is what exactly worth the trouble? Leaning to use Linux well enough to admin your home LAN server, or simply using Linux on your server?
My answer to both is of course, yes - they are worth doing, if you want a stable, reliable, well-supported OS to run on your server. As this is a Linux forum, many replies to this sort of question will be biased in a Linux-like direction.
But really, we must be looking at two popular choices here (two in my mind anyhow, for the sake of this discussion):
1) Run Windows Server on your machine. Or
2), Run Linux on it.
Given the prevalence, stability, & popularity of GNU/Linux on servers across the internet & around the world, I again go with #2.
Is it worth the trouble and/or time it will take you to learn enough of Linux to do this? Depends on you. Do you already know how to admin using Windows Server? If not, then there will be comparable time consumed learning either; but GNU/Linux is free of $$$ cost. I haven't a clue what you'd pay for a Windows Server package.
If you do already know Windows Server fairly well, then the question becomes, "Do you want to re-learn a lot of stuff?", and if you do not know Windows Server, then the question becomes, "Which are you more interested in investing your time into?".
And finally, if you have the idea from the outset, that it will be 'a bunch of trouble and hassle' to learn an OS and learn to admin your server, then maybe neither option is right for you. What will be the purpose of this LAN anyways? Family computers hooked up? Internet connection sharing? Centralized file storage? Music server? A hobby? Something to do?
GNU/Linux is a UNIX-like operating system, though we primarily focus on "Linux" as opposed to "UNIX" around here.
As for viruses, well.. The GNU/Linux OS is pretty trouble-free when it comes to picking up viruses. There are security issues to be aware of, as with any OS, and there are proper security practices that will keep you as safe as possible; but viruses are not a problem you will need to concern yourself much with, unless there will be Windows machines connected to your LAN. Those Windows machines will be as virus-prone as they ever were, and you will need measures in place to protect them.
Maybe this isn't the answer you're looking for, but perhaps you can ask some more specific questions, and give some more specific details of your intended project, and we can try to guide you in the right direction.
As much as I would want to bash Windows, I am a firm believer in the right tool for the right job. Am I going to be running a small office and need a file and print server, with perhaps a domain controller for single sign on? The answer for that is Windows hands down. Can it be done on a Linux server? Sure it can, but I can setup and manage this in Windows with far less time and effort. Trying to get the same thing done on Linux would take hours for what can be done in minutes on Windows. Granted there is a ton of politics about this, such as Samba for Linux making a point about NTFS Security, which in turn proves a point but makes actual administration a pain. Microsoft not willing to adopt non Microsoft industry standards. Both sides not playing nicely.
On the other hand if I am going to have an internet server such as a web, e-mail, database and so on, this is going to be Linux. I simply would not trust Windows to do the job with out security problems. Can Windows be setup as a stand alone server that is not behind a firewall and be secure? If you have about a week to go through and tweak the registry, remove dangerous executable files, change the entire configuration of almost every service.
As I said, it is simply a matter of the right tool for the right job.