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Old 03-19-2017, 12:16 AM   #1
jmc1987
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Trying to Get HVAC Company to move to Linux


Hello Everyone!

Due to the nature of the HVAC Field, a company targeted to residential HVAC Service and install has gone cut throat in rural Oklahoma, USA. Most residential hvac company's are single self employed individuals here which drives prices down, because they don't run the overhead of an office. I work for an HVAC Company who has an office.

So what I am doing is looking to cut some of the IT Cost the company has by talking the bosses into using Linux & Open source products. Quickbooks is done all online, so on that note, that is not a problem running a browser on a Linux System.

So what are my goals. To redeploy their server in an LDAP configuration on a Debian system & running Ubuntu or Mint Linux as their Desktop systems.

Now things I need to replace.

For our service system we use Bottom Line Service system (http://www.blss.com/) . We use this system to manage our clients, parts directory & stock, and central dispatch & scheduling. Most of us at the company thinks it's bad and not worth having to pay for the support we need. We would like to find an open source alternative to this, perhaps with a commercial backing for support if needed.

I would also like a system that can track warranties. This can be part of the above.

I would like to launch an IM server, so we can have private chat internally behind the firewall. I've started to look at openfire as one, but haven't looked into it.

With all this in mind, I think this would save the company money as it does reduce the overhead on Licenses.

So does anybody know of a good customer management system that would replace our current system?

Can you recommend any commercial grade chat servers & client?

With Ubuntu and Mint being bloated, do you think their are any easier desktops for a novice user to navigate?

Any tips, ideas, or further suggestions is greatly appreciated.

Please do forgive me for my lack of research as I've been to busy. I am hoping I can find similar people here that already do something like this that work in a similar field.

Thank you for reading.
 
Old 03-21-2017, 07:55 AM   #2
TB0ne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmc1987 View Post
Hello Everyone!
Due to the nature of the HVAC Field, a company targeted to residential HVAC Service and install has gone cut throat in rural Oklahoma, USA. Most residential hvac company's are single self employed individuals here which drives prices down, because they don't run the overhead of an office. I work for an HVAC Company who has an office.

So what I am doing is looking to cut some of the IT Cost the company has by talking the bosses into using Linux & Open source products. Quickbooks is done all online, so on that note, that is not a problem running a browser on a Linux System.

So what are my goals. To redeploy their server in an LDAP configuration on a Debian system & running Ubuntu or Mint Linux as their Desktop systems.
First thing I'd ask here is how many PC's are in your office?? If it's mostly field techs, LDAP is going to be overkill. Maintaining 10 or so local accounts shouldn't be too much of a stretch, even if they all have their own PC's.
Quote:
Now things I need to replace.

For our service system we use Bottom Line Service system (http://www.blss.com/) . We use this system to manage our clients, parts directory & stock, and central dispatch & scheduling. Most of us at the company thinks it's bad and not worth having to pay for the support we need. We would like to find an open source alternative to this, perhaps with a commercial backing for support if needed. I would also like a system that can track warranties. This can be part of the above.
If you don't like the software, that makes it easier (some), but something to consider is WHY you don't like it. I hear often about folks who go on about hating this particular piece of software, but when a replacement comes along, it doesn't have x/y/z features that they needed, or they aren't keen on ANYTHING they wind up with. Essentially, get a good picture of what the software REALLY needs to do, and a good list of what they like/don't like/would like to add, to the new software.

On that note, there are a few FOSS/low cost solutions I've come across, but Fiix would get my vote:
https://www.fiixsoftware.com/ Free for a certain number of users, not pricey after that, cloud based (no server/maintenance, just like Quickbooks web), and pretty robust. Worth checking out at least, and see if it meets your needs.
Quote:
I would like to launch an IM server, so we can have private chat internally behind the firewall. I've started to look at openfire as one, but haven't looked into it.
Openfire gets my vote as well. I use it at my company, and have implemented at several clients. Uses a Jabber-protocol base, so any client (kadu, kopete, pidgin) that speaks those will work, as well as many Windows-based and mobile based apps for said protocol. Lots of flexibility.
Quote:
With all this in mind, I think this would save the company money as it does reduce the overhead on Licenses. So does anybody know of a good customer management system that would replace our current system? Can you recommend any commercial grade chat servers & client?
See above
Quote:
With Ubuntu and Mint being bloated, do you think their are any easier desktops for a novice user to navigate? Any tips, ideas, or further suggestions is greatly appreciated. Please do forgive me for my lack of research as I've been to busy. I am hoping I can find similar people here that already do something like this that work in a similar field.
If you're going from Windows to Linux...then Mint is the way to go. That said, the desktops are immaterial with Linux. If you don't like Gnome, then you have choices...KDE works fine, as do other desktop GUI's.

Personally, if I was in your shoes, I'd get ONE Mint desktop set up, get fiix set up, and let one of your users sit down and get their honest opinion of how it works. It's not just a license cost you need to consider, but your users need to get their work done daily...they need to be comfortable with things. Load one up with Gnome and KDE, and let them use both, to see which they like better. Enter some records into fiix to see how it flows, and if it's easy enough to use.
 
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Old 03-21-2017, 03:14 PM   #3
jefro
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TB0ne brings up a lot of good questions and suggestions.

I might consider using CentOS or OpenSuse or Ubuntu server/workstation. Basically they are all linux and you may have to learn a lot to be secure.

You may also wish to look at using something like Turnkey linux for their examples of pre-made virtual machines. https://www.turnkeylinux.org/crm (don't leave default passwords in)

You may have some legal responsibility to securing customers personal data. You may wish to make this server air gapped to the internet except for very limited times.

There is no substitute for backup's. Better still encrypted offsite and or in fireproof vaults.

http://blog.capterra.com/free-and-open-source-crm/
 
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Old 03-24-2017, 12:29 PM   #4
jmc1987
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Thanks for the input. I actually run a web hosting company on the side, so with that being said I use Debian as a desktop as home and CentOS as a server. I prefer Debian in many ways, because I found it far more robust (personal opinion).

As for the LDAP, yes it agree it is a bit of an over kill with the office having a total of 10-15 computers, but we have a 2nd office branching out that is in sync with the server via VPN at the current office, and I feel it might make things a little easier to manage. Of course it all comes down to trial on that subject.

I will probably go with Openfire as an IM server as you stated it works for you Tbone, so hopefully it works for us as well.

The office desktop I want to be Debian based, because that is what I'm used to working with. Yes, I agree mint is bloated and that's why I used a minimal Debian install to build my home desktop, but I think Mint is pretty user friendly for the non technical and has a pretty decent backing.


Thanks for the input again!

Last edited by jmc1987; 03-24-2017 at 12:51 PM.
 
Old 03-24-2017, 04:05 PM   #5
jefro
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If you like Debian then that may be a good place to start.

2X.com has some ways to mimic the windows AD and you ought to peek at their stuff.
 
Old 03-25-2017, 10:17 AM   #6
TB0ne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmc1987 View Post
Thanks for the input. I actually run a web hosting company on the side, so with that being said I use Debian as a desktop as home and CentOS as a server. I prefer Debian in many ways, because I found it far more robust (personal opinion).

As for the LDAP, yes it agree it is a bit of an over kill with the office having a total of 10-15 computers, but we have a 2nd office branching out that is in sync with the server via VPN at the current office, and I feel it might make things a little easier to manage. Of course it all comes down to trial on that subject.

I will probably go with Openfire as an IM server as you stated it works for you Tbone, so hopefully it works for us as well.

The office desktop I want to be Debian based, because that is what I'm used to working with. Yes, I agree mint is bloated and that's why I used a minimal Debian install to build my home desktop, but I think Mint is pretty user friendly for the non technical and has a pretty decent backing.
Mint is also Debian based, and offers 4 different default desktops: https://linuxmint.com/download.php

And for 10-15 computers (even if you double that with a second location), you could still have all of them using local accounts easily. One server at your site with file/print over VPN will still work nicely. And while I shudder to even suggest it....Webmin could let you manage things more easily for such a small environment.

You can do active-directory with Samba directly, but unless you have Windows systems, there's not much point. LDAP is fine, but one thing to consider is the VPN/WAN connection. If that goes down, your second location won't be able to log in if your server isn't available. Local accounts would still let them get things done....
 
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Old 03-26-2017, 04:36 PM   #7
jmc1987
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TB0ne View Post
LDAP is fine, but one thing to consider is the VPN/WAN connection. If that goes down, your second location won't be able to log in if your server isn't available. Local accounts would still let them get things done....
That is a rather good point, but then again not much work they can do without being connect to the main server. Sounds like a more redundant solution maybe needed.
 
Old 03-27-2017, 07:51 AM   #8
sundialsvcs
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Trouble is, this is more than a simple conversion from one operating system to another: it is a project to replace "blss.com," and(!) to move the entire company's records and operations to it – without interruption of business operations.

And that, my friend, is a very risky and necessarily-expensive proposition. Done wrong, it would put the company out of business, and there are plenty of competitors waiting to eat their lunch.
 
  


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