SBS vs. Linux: The Response from Email Battles

Linux, SMB
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Brief response to the Email Battles story titled “Why Linux Servers Trump Windows SBS”  which in turn was a response to my earlier story about “Linux vs. SBS: Switch”; Their outright ignorance of what SBS provides not only demonstrates lack of understanding of the SBS platform but also misses the mark on the features that small businesses expect these days. At one point they even state:

“A Linux whitebox running only Postfix, qmail or Sendmail is relatively simple to manage. Need another mailserver? No problem. Just pull out your handy hard disk cloner. You'll be up-and-running in less than an hour. Same goes for firewalls, fileservers, and the rest.”

Sendmail, recently pulled from OpenBSD for perhaps the worst security record of any SMTP server ever written, is offered as an alternative. Sendmail, postfix, qmail, zmail and other Linux alternatives are very well compared with the Microsoft SMTP Service that ships with every Windows server. To turn them into a functional mail server you have to deploy a pop3/imap server, roll out your own webmail package, setup an SSL certificate on Apache, etc. Comparing that to an SBS solution (a 7 step wizard) is not simply a sad joke but the proof that for the most part Linux guys may be as clueless about Windows solutions as Microsoft is clueless about Linux and Open Source. I’m just the middle-man throwing some gasoline onto the fire!  

Here is my comment on the Email Battles post, I’ve talked to those guys a few times and they really are awesome folks but we have a long way to go in educating people just what the difference between the platforms is and what the advantages are:

I think that (many) readers misunderstood my message. It is simply that Microsoft chooses to pick a fight on the merits it cannot justify (stability, security) but never seems to crush the opposition on the qualities that are simply not available anywhere else.

As is evident by many comments on my blog, most Linux people simply do not understand what is in Microsoft Exchange, why anybody would consider SBS instead of a full blown Microsoft Windows 2003 Server + Microsoft Exchange 2003, the author of this response included. Microsoft Exchange + Windows 2003 would come in at over $1600 retail for the 5 users whereas Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS) retails for $599 and comes with an easy way to deploy Exchange in less than 15 minutes. Not even the most seasoned Exchange Administrators are capable of deploying everything SBS does that quickly.

While I agree that commodity whiteboxes with Linux may be cheaper you are trading off functionality and easy configuration. For example, any Windows user can easilly find out how to add the email address, or a user, or a shared drive, or a new web page, etc on SBS. Can they do that on Windows 2003 Server? Not likely. On Linux, even with GUI (which shouldn't be installed on servers IMHO?) – not a chance.

It seems to me that most passionate of zealots also happen to be least informed and most base arguments on what they may have experienced several releases ago. It is as if I based all my arguments against Linux on Redhat 7.1. I will be preparing a lenghty article on SBS vs. Linux in terms of features that the small businesses are asking for:

Mobile device sync
Secure, mobile mail
Fully functional webmail
Intelligent file sharing
Service monitoring with plain English descriptions

Some person today tried to compare Outlook Web Access with Squirrelmail. That shows such utter ignorance of the technology and such poor understanding of competitive solutions that if such a quote came during a job interview he/she would be out the door before they could even say HEY! As IT Professionals, whether we sit on the Linux or Windows side of the bandwagon, we need to be able to evaluate both solutions and not constantly stick to our almost fanatical religious views of operating systems – there is a place for Linux, there is a place for Windows. If we cannot live in that harmony and understanding then perhaps we are no better than Mac users.