Linux for Business People is aimed at Business Men and Women primarily within the Small to Medium Business sector. It examines the business case for using Linux based systems within business, highlighting any potential benefits or drawbacks. Although primarily focused on servers much of what is discussed will also apply to workstations. The experience of a number of businesses currently using Linux is also explored in order to highlight the real-life benefits and pitfalls that they have encountered.
Additionally, Linux for Business People also gives the reader some hands-on experience of the tasks a Linux SysAdmin is likely to undertake. Whilst many business men and women may have little interest in this area, the hope is to help demystify some of what the IT department actually does. This section of the book may also prove to be a useful resource for those new to managing Linux based systems. Due to it's simplicity, I doubt that the experienced sysadmin will find much of interest, though it does contain enough detail to allow those in small business to routinely manage a server themselves.
Whilst my writing style is almost certainly not that of a professionally writer, I believe Linux for Business People should be reasonably easy to read and follow. I've tried to keep all jargon to a minimum and have used footnotes extensively to help explain complicated subjects.
Linux for Business People is currently exclusive to the Amazon Kindle, however I do plan on publishing through other mediums at a later date. If there's sufficient demand, I may also consider a short print-run.
I've also made a conscious decision not to use DRM on any works I publish, including this. Please respect my rights as an author by only obtaining through authorised means just as I have respected the rights of readers by opting not to use Digital Restrictions Management to protect my work.
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Chapter 3: Which Type of Linux should you use?
There's a very good chance when provisioning a Linux based system that your IT Department has already selected the Linux Distro that they feel is most suited. This chapter, however, is intended to help you understand how to make these decisions. Whilst all Distros run the Linux kernel, many are built with a specific task in mind. With the wide variety of Distro's in the Linux ecosystem, it would be impossible to advise exactly which flavour is best suited, but it is possible to examine some of the assessments that need to be made before making a selection.
It's important to note that many distros maintain two versions of each release - one for Desktops and one for Servers. Although based on the same underlying software, the differences between the two can often be many. The easiest example is, of course, that many of the server focused systems will not run a GUI by default (although this doesn't stop one from being installed!)
3.1 Common Assessments
There are of course decisions that must be made whether selecting a system to run on a server or on a desktop. Those are listed here in order to avoid unnecessarily duplicating the information!
One reason for selecting a particular distro is familiarity. If your IT department are particularly used to a certain distro (for example Ubuntu) then their experience and familiarity with this system may well contribute to a decision to utilise that distro. So long as other needs are not compromised as a result, this is often a wise choice to make - the experience a SysAdmin has with any given system will help to ensure that they can resolve common issues far more easily.
Of course, the catch with this reason is that you need to be sure that it's not being allowed to override important Business needs.
3.1.2 Security Considerations
A particular distro may be considered on the basis of security. Whilst Linux is not generally considered insecure by default, there are packages that can be installed to harden the security. Some distros already have solutions such as SELinux and AppArmor built into them, saving the SysAdmin from needing to install these himself.
Of course, it's more than possible to add these packages onto systems that do not include them in the base build, and any good SysAdmin will insist on manually configuring the applications themselves, regardless of whether or not they were included in the base build.
3.1.3 Frequency of Upgrades and Length of Support
Updates to each distro's repositories are handled by the distros themselves (although if necessary a SysAdmin can always obtain an upgrade from further up the software development chain.
Most systems receive regular updates, but it is the upgrade cycle that is of particular concern to the SysAdmin. Will the version being installed be obsolete in 6 months, or is it a Long Term Support (LTS) release? Generally speaking, systems deployed in Business will usually only utilise LTS releases to ensure that updates are received for as long as possible. Only once the support life is coming to an end for the installed systems will an actual upgrade be considered (and in some cases a decision will be made not to upgrade - just as in the Windows® world).
Extract: Chapter 3 of Linux for Business People Copyright © 2012 Ben Tasker
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