Spent a good part of my weekend building a box out of parts cobbled together in my garage for a ClearOS server. Thought I’d post some first thoughts on the process and why.
What’s it for?
I’d been thinking I needed a small business server for a while to help me manage some projects and as a testing and development platform. I need to be able to develop web applications locally, invoice some consulting projects and other uses.
Normally I’d use Ubuntu Server or Windows Server for projects like this. Ubuntu is my preferred Linux flavor, and it’s rare to find something that doesn’t work with it. A friend of mine pointed me to ClearOS, however. I really like the idea of a web-based interface for interacting with the server. For rolling out features quickly, I think this is the way to go for most deployments assuming your security is tight enough. So I thought I’d give it a try.
Pros and Cons
I am looking at the Community Edition. They have paid Home and Business editions as well as pre-built appliances you can order. It’s a subscription model and pricing is fairly reasonable at every level.
First the bad.
- Their website and documentation is good but either lacking or not updated often. I was trying to install MySQL from the Marketplace. I could not find it no matter what I did. Everything I found indicated you should just be able to search for “MySQL” and click install. It did not show up. Eventually I figured out, as far as I can tell you install “MariaDB” and that installs MySQL and phpMyAdmin. At least for the Community Edition this seems to be a recurring problem.
- Manually installing apps is confusing. It’s basically just the yum app in CentOS/Redhat, so no big deal. However, because of the documentation issue when I tried to just install MySQL manually I wasn’t even sure it worked. The manual installation instructions were confusing and had screenshots of things that just didn’t seem to exist. This could just be because I am using the Community Edition and some things are turned off. This is one of those things that would make it sort of hard to consider upgrading.
- The setup process makes you register the server even if you are just using the Community Edition. Not a huge deal, as you get some Dynamic DNS stuff and a few other things. This is likely why their apps are so easy to work with. If you care about your privacy, this might be an issue. Installing these for clients, this is actually a pro, in my opinion.
- It seemed like it turned on its DHCP server for some reason. I’m not sure if it was really on or if the GUI was just indicating it was on. I set it up as a private server and didn’t have it act as a DNS server. This could be bad if it turns a DHCP server on by default.
- It was incredibly easy to install. The entire install process took no more than about twenty minutes. Initial configuration made sense and it didn’t need too many unnecessary steps.
- The Marketplace makes it very easy to set your server up to do whatever you need. Do you want to build a firewall? You can choose the apps you need for that really easily. Do you need just a basic web server and nothing else? Easy to do that. A couple of clicks and you have it done.
- There are templates for Public, Private and Gateway servers as well as other functions. This lets you deploy things much more quickly than setting up a server entirely from scratch.
Overall I’m pleased and look forward to using it. There are bugs for sure but I think that something like this could potentially shave off significant amounts of time in deployment. It is not good for all situations but for small to mid-size businesses it has a lot of potential.