A Mullet Deployment

Windows in the front, Linux in the back.

I’ve been working on a pretty interesting environment and I thought you guys might like to hear about it, I would also love to hear what you have to think in the comments! I’m contracting with a non-profit charity organization that is just getting started. Currently there are three users including the founder, they each have their own personal laptops 2 of them running Windows 7 and one of them running Windows 8.1 . They have the pretty standard office needs and they contacted me from a referral to see what I could do for them on their budget (which is tight).

After meeting with the founder already we hit our first snag, she’s very cloudphobic, borderline fanatical about the fact that she want’s to control all of the organizations data in house. That struck me as odd, but hey, every office is different right? Our only other challenges are that the budget really does not allow for nice hardware, and they are still pending for 501c status. What that translates to is we are going to have a hard time getting equipment.

From the discovery meeting I learned that this organization requires:

  • Active Directory
  • Network storage
  • Business class email and calendar
  • VPN access
  • Web server
  • WordPress website

I also learned that our challenges are:

  • We do not have 501c status yet (this could take months) which means we do not benefit from companies non-profit pricing schedules, and it will be harder to receive donated equipment.
  • The founder requires that everything is stored locally, she wants nothing in the cloud.

We couldn’t use Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials because of the email requirement and we certainly could not afford full Server 2012 and Exchange. I ended up going with Zentyal 3.3 which is a linux based small business server that gives *close enough* products that I thought would be a good fit considering all of our needs versus all of our challenges. (Added bonus, it’s free!) I purchased a HP ProLiant G7 N54L MicroServer an additional 500gb HDD and 4 GB of RAM. Which put us around $500 total for costs of server hardware. For networking I just went with the router/built it switch that the ISP provided.

Surprisingly It all went pretty well.

Everything was very simple to set up, it reminded me of Small Business 2008 is a lot of ways, the Zentyal GUI just walks you through it all and the entire build out took me maybe 4 hours of billable time. The only custom thing I had to do was install wordpress, which is a simple thing to do on linux, but this required me to change the management interface to listen on port 444 instead of 443. The entire build cost the client just under $3000.00 included the website I built out for them.

So what’s the catch?

Zentyal is not all there, yet. The domain acts like a Server 2000 domain, which is not necessarily a bad thing but if you get into a situation where you need to scale up, or add a windows server it could become a problem. OpenChange is still being proven and I’m genuinely un-sure of how it will perform over the long haul, Outlook 2010 seemed to think it was an exchange server so I have high hopes! Samba4 is not a Windows file server which could limit our ability to use Windows native network applications (Access, Quickbooks, Etc.). There is also the obvious red flags, the primary web server is also the primary domain controller, and mail server. All of the eggs are in one basket with no redundancy, maybe as funding increases and they receive their 501c we can revisit this project.

How would you have handled it?

I would love to hear about some other approaches from other geeks. What would you have changed? Would you have taken this project at all?