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Old 02-04-2010, 03:00 AM   #1
badger_fruit
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We're considering migrating to Linux and need advice please!


Good morning
As per the subject, the company I work for is considering moving our desktops and servers to Linux but would like to hear from others who have done this already and what their experiences are and any advice they may have for which flavours of *nix they're using and why.

I have a small home network which runs OpenSuse on the servers and Fedora on the "client" PCs and so am familiar with the two OSes but they're only used in a Workgroup, not a Domain, there are no printers and shared files are shared freely to any LAN user. For our business purposes, we're going to need as many Active Directory and Exchange features so considering OpenLDAP and OpenExchange but of course, this is something else I need advice with.

Many thanks for reading this and I appreciate any replies that are left.
Kind regards
 
Old 02-04-2010, 03:45 AM   #2
zordrak
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The simple answer is the entire server side of this organisation is based on Slackware Linux between v12.0 and -current and it has massively reduced costs and increased flexibility. Some desktops are WinXP, some are Linux. The main barrier to going Linux only is Microsoft Office interoperability and the handling of legacy documents. If the company can agree to ALL go to OpenOffice simultaneously, the problem pretty much goes away.

If Windows is needed for any particular task, then VirtualBox can give you simultaneous seamless integration of XP into a Linux virtual desktop.

If your entire business goes Linux, you DON'T need Active Directory features, all you need is LDAP. With regard to mail, get as far away from Exchange as you can as soon as you possibly can. The things it does are evil and teach users to expect features of an e-mail server that ONLY Exchange does. e.g. Can you pull back that mail for me, it was an accident and even worse, TNEF encoding standards.
 
Old 02-04-2010, 05:34 AM   #3
badger_fruit
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Thanks for the reply Z; would still like to hear of any others that are using Linux as their primary desktop and server OS
 
Old 02-04-2010, 05:54 AM   #4
AngTheo789
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My suggestion is to move the servers to Linux. This should be pretty straightforward for your intranet. Use Samba to connect client PC's and share printers. This part will give no significant problems.
Migrating the Desktop PC's to Linux is a different case and should be done very carefully. Technically Linux is perfectly capable to handle all the desktop and office tasks, but usually people are extremely reluctant to make the switch. Some will even blame the change of the desktop system for their decreasing productivity. You will need to be prepared like never before with all kinds of trainings, and give access to test client PC's during training. A selected department of a few chosen employees should make the switch, and choose people with technical experience - not because of Linux, but simply because such people are not scared to make the change. Make sure to identify key issues and processes in the workflow, that MUST work, and make sure that they work on the test environment already. Gather feedback from the new Linux users before migrating other desktop PC's. Do NOT think that all this will be easy!
 
Old 02-04-2010, 06:20 AM   #5
badger_fruit
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Haha, I didn't think for one moment it would be easy! Having "forced" linux on my wife a few years ago, she had no choice but to accept the change and she sure has! She's as fluent with Linux now as she ever was with XP. I presume that the users here at work will be the same - in time.

Anyway, I ask again if anyone has any advice on which flavours of linux to use for the back/front ends? Personally, I was thinking Suse for the servers, maybe fedora for the desktop PCs but SELinux is an obsticle that we'd have to work around, I think that from my experience with my home network, I would prefer to go with Suse again or perhaps (K)Ubuntu.
 
Old 02-04-2010, 06:22 AM   #6
zordrak
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Slackware for Servers.
Slackware for Desktops.
Slackware for Laptops.

Works very well here.


A salient point to remember.. in an office environment only the administrator needs to know how to configure things and set things up. The user just has to be able to point and click at an application and have it work. The OS only needs to be easy for the administrator to administer, not the user.

Last edited by zordrak; 02-04-2010 at 06:24 AM.
 
Old 02-04-2010, 07:13 AM   #7
badger_fruit
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Apsolutely agree Z; this was something I was saying myself, especially as linux desktops have come on leaps and bounds, they rival Windows for ease of use but bring a whole world of extras which poor windows users don't see (multiple desktops for a start!)

So, slackware ... interesting, any particular reason? Is it just because you're more familiar with it or is there a reason why you promote this so?
 
Old 02-04-2010, 07:24 AM   #8
zordrak
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There are so many reasons I couldn't even begin to count, but from an administration point of view, it's very very simple. It does what it says on the tin, what you see is what you get etc. There's very little you need to know that is Slackware-specific. It's vanilla Linux with software that's unmodified from upstream. With RHEL, SLES, *buntu and all their variants there's so much you need to learn about the specific distro before you can start being productive when administering them.

If someone were to say they preferred Debian for the server tasks, I would disagree but respect their opinion. Anyone suggesting anything other than Debian or Slackware needs to re-examine their career
 
Old 02-04-2010, 07:40 AM   #9
pixellany
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zordrak View Post
Anyone suggesting anything other than Debian or Slackware needs to re-examine their career
Of course that's nonsense---presumably the little happy face means you already know that.

The "long tent pole" is being glossed over: The users. Getting any operation to function on any kind of new system can be difficult---it depends very much on what kind of work is done with the computers, and on the willingness of the employees to learn new things. The important thing is make the employees/users part of the decision process.

If your typical user functions mostly by being told to click on an icon to get their e-mail, then converting will be pretty easy.

Quote:
Having "forced" linux on my wife a few years ago
We use Linux exclusively at home, but I did not "force" anyone. Other users are quite aware that they have choices---including setting up Windows on another computer. They also know that the resident sysadmin--if asked to do such a thing for them---might take a very long time to get around to it. So far, everyone just uses Linux......
 
Old 02-04-2010, 07:44 AM   #10
zordrak
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pixellany View Post
The important thing is make the employees/users part of the decision process.
That approach really depends on what kind of staff and organisational ethos you're dealing with. In some cases this may be an appropriate way to proceed.. but often, for example with Software Engineers that have been with a company for ten years, involving them is the shortest path to having the whole plan crushed or completely morphed into some pointless bastardisation of a plan.

When people with power are scared of change, don't warn them it's coming!
 
Old 02-04-2010, 08:06 AM   #11
badger_fruit
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We're obviously consulting users, finding out what they use their PC for, we have the process and are aware of pitfalls/objections etc that we might come over in this process. I'm mearly after DISTRIBUTION recommendations and your reasons for the choice.

I know that the best and worst thing about linux is the variety, as zordrak writes, he favours slack/deb as they're as close to "native" as possible, Suse etc are all built on or founded upon these distributions originally.

Perhaps my question may be too broad; the servers will be doing standard domain functions,

Authentication, security - Active Directory
Email - Exchange
File and print server - Native WS2003

The users mainly work with the typical office suite - can easily be replaced with OpenOffice - with a little help of course. But i'm not interested in the human impact, my boss is looking at how we can reduce costs and one thing that stuck out in the IT budget was the operating systems, how much Windows was costing us!!

Naturally, like most places, we have bespoke software, we can build a Windows term server and use RDP to share those horrible Windows-only apps (of which it's most of them but hey, whatever!).

Oh and as for "forcing" my wife, my home network has 4 client pcs, one for each room - eg living room, the two bedrooms and a laptop. She was used to using XP but I was sick of viri and the usual crap that comes with it when all we really do is browse the web and play movie/audio files!

I swapped to Linux but didn't give her a choice, my god, had I done that, I'd have needed to justify things. She would learn, she has a brain and it's capable naturally of learning new things. Sure, the names of the apps changed but ultimately, when she wanted to watch something, she wouldn't click Start > All Programs > Windows Media Player > Open > Select file .. she would click the "Movies" icon on the desktop, and click the movie she wanted to watch. The app that opened it, well, WHO CARES?! just as long as it opened it.

And so, our users here will click on "BoringCrap.doc" and OpenOffice will open it, "LotsOfFigures.xls" and again, OO will open it. They will adapt. OMG, I sound like the borg ...
 
Old 02-04-2010, 08:18 AM   #12
pixellany
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It sounds like you are way ahead of most of us......

One concern:
The most recent version of Exchange/Outlook does not play nice with Linux. (Evolution is supposed to catch up someday, but when?) We have this at work and I am forced to use "Outlook Web Access-light", which is pretty limited. Also, with the latest Exchange, there are issues even with Windows boxes that don't have Outlook 07. (MS strikes again). For an all-Linux shop, why would you want Exchange at all???
 
Old 02-04-2010, 08:26 AM   #13
catkin
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Definitely a full application software audit with identification of Linux equivalents' suitability along with training needs and assessment of extra system and user support load during the changeover.

Regards MS Office documents, identify any VisualBasic scripts used. OOo Basic is not identical to VisualBasic so conversion programming may be required, quite a lot if the scripts are complex. While OOo can write files in MS Office formats, there are significant differences and only the simplest of documents may be freely converted between the two for collaborative working. Also beware that OOo takes a lot longer to start up than MS Office and this may annoy heavy MS Office users.

Wherever Linux equivalent applications also run on Windows, consider migrating to those before changing the OS. It would allow the users to familiarise themselves with the new applications and reduce the steepness of the learning curve.

Identify any benefits for the users.

Last edited by catkin; 02-04-2010 at 08:28 AM. Reason: Clarity
 
Old 02-04-2010, 08:30 AM   #14
zordrak
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catkin View Post
Definitely a full application software audit with identification of Linux equivalents' suitability along with training needs and assessment of extra system and user support load during the changeover.
Way to spend the savings..
 
Old 02-04-2010, 08:34 AM   #15
badger_fruit
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(In reply to pixellany)

Ah, perhaps you mis-understood .. the list above is what we use NOW. They will be replaced with Linux alternatives LDAP, OpenExchange (perhaps) and the clients will use linux software (Evolution perhas?) to access their inboxes etc.

It's a whole heap of changes and is sure going to be fun!!
You see I am not by any means a linux expert, although I come from a time when computers were just coming into their own, BBC micros, Acorn etc ... so I am prepared to get behind the konsole and type things, unlike poor windows users who are born/bred point/click.

Anyway, I digress, when it comes to installing *nix, I prefer a GUI as it's not something I've done but not afraid to get hands dirty and learn!

Last edited by badger_fruit; 02-04-2010 at 08:37 AM. Reason: Clarify who I was replying to ...
 
  


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