Linux Office Deployment

Hello reader,

New businesses often grapple with office design only after they start doing business on a larger scale. In this article I’ll show a quick and comprehensive deployment solution for small to medium sized businesses who have an immediate need for a functional office.

A small business might only have an office featuring 1-5 computers, a medium sized business in this example might consist of 5-20.

Business types and software needs

Undoubtably there are as many possible software needs as there are businesses so we’ll focus on the general topography and leave the specific “extras” to your IT department.

At a minimum with one computer handling all of your business needs you’ll want tons of extra memory and storage space. Aside from the typical email programs and accounting software you’ll probably want to consider either Multiseat Linux configurations, or arranging your systems to handle many users at different security levels.

As the number of computers increase you’ll be able to devote each to more specified tasks using the various tools available to the Linux system you are on. For example if one machine is primarily devoted to app development, and another is primarily devoted to graphics and design, both can share the loads of office software and email programs with ease as they are light enough systems.

Many businesses are focused on security and there are no shortage of tools available for Linux. Between intrusion detection systems like suricata, snort, and samhain or the built in user checking tools for determining who was on the machine last. (Just to name a few.)

Compatibility and related software concerns

If your business primarily uses another operating system like Windows, you can still enjoy the use of many of the Linux tools that are available for Windows. Or you can even have machines that run both operating systems either in a dual boot configuration or in a virtual environment. Though having dedicated machines offers many advantages over this setup, if you are limited to just a few computers Linux and Windows don’t interfere with one another at all when set up together correctly.

Organization prior to deployment

Knowing the roles of each user and what software will best suit their tasks is the real key to setting up the office. An administrator will most likely benefit from a simpler setup like Libre-Office, Thunderbird-Mail, GNU-Cash, and Skype. A developer will want Eclipse, Codeblocks, possibly Blender, and a half dozen key libraries related to the software they develop. Meanwhile your web service will rely on any number of graphics software advantages like Gimp, Inkscape, or something similar as well as FTP programs and html editors in many cases. I can say with certainty that all of the above mentioned is running on just one of my machines at any time with no sign of bloat or slowdown.

In fact on the Linux side of this machine I am only using 11 Gb of space and have every software mentioned above and quite a bit more beyond. On the Windows side I have a few other development environments and simply use whichever side the job calls for at the time.

If I were arranging an office for 20 machines my lists would be broken down by user tasks and the software needed for each.

  1. Office admin:email-office documents-samba-ftp
  2. Manager:accounting-email-officedocs-skype-ssh
  3. Sales:insightly-skype-email-gimp-etc
  4. Marketing:audacity-kdenlive-vokoscreen-cheese-ftp
  5. ETC

You can easily arrange the installations around the urgency of the tasks. It is entirely possible to deploy an office of 20+ machines in just a few hours with the right installation media. The cost of doing so with Linux is generally free though there are distributions worth purchasing as well if you have highly specialized needs.

I would guess that maybe 80% of what a business might need is available for free on Linux one way or another so it definitely is worth consideration for your business.

Training staff to use Linux

An afternoon on Linux makes a nice training session. It’s very easy to use provided you have some familiarity with computers. If you are used to a specific program and are using an open source alternative you’ll generally notice very little difference in tool layouts. A related article entitled Linux For Buisnesses.

Installing Linux

Selecting a distribution for your business can be confusing until you realize that the main differences are in the intended uses of the distributions. This is arguably true enough as the biggest differences between most Linux distributions are their default configurations of desktops, package managers, and a few other minor differences. This isn’t to say they are all the same, far from it. However if choosing between say Debian, Ubuntu, or Linux Mint for example… The end user will only have a preferrence after some exposure to each.

Installation generally involves the following steps:

  • Download the ISO image of the Linux distribution i.e. LinuxMint-32
  • Burn the image to DVD disk or write a USB installer using Unetbootin or Rufus (Many can be written quickly for mass deployments)
  • Boot the computer from the installation medium (F-10 or F-12 during startup usually)
  • Follow the installer directions after selecting “Install” from the options
  • Add any drivers and update system using included tools

There are many comprehensive lists of how to install Linux and a few were included among the links in the article already.

If you have any questions feel free to ask me out on Twitter (@AlwaysInTao)


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