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In the office I work for, the situation is as follows:

  • There are ~20 PCs running Windows 7 (mostly) and Windows XP. No domain.
  • There are four network-capable Ricoh printers, currently shared over a Windows 2000 Server machine. It will be retired.
  • There is Lotus Domino running on a virtualized Windows Server 2003.

Now, it's time to move Lotus Domino to a real server, which is why we will buy a new machine. The main problem is deciding which software to buy.

Given that there is no real need for a domain, and we only share printers and host Lotus Domino, is there really any reason for buying Windows Server? We obviously don't need Client Access Licenses, since the PCs operate without server interaction, and we don't need any Exchange or Domain functionality.

Are there any possible disadvantages from not using Windows Server in such a scenario? What kind of services/applications would we not be able to run? Would a normal Windows installation suffice? Would some Linux server installation also do the job here?

I am more experienced in managing Linux than Windows, so therefore, using Linux wouldn't be the issue.

share|improve this question
Another question "Do I really need MS Active Directory" has some interesting discussion regarding the dis/advantages of using a domain, even in a small environment. Honestly I think shops refusing to run AD because it has some relatively minor initial costs are drastically underestimating the amount of time wasted by IT and other employees because of the lack of coordination, standardization, and manageability in their environment. That's just my ¢2. – Chris S Oct 6 '11 at 12:40
Uhm. You already have a (hopefully licensed) server (and hopefully CALs for it). So why change if you don't miss anything? – mailq Oct 6 '11 at 12:43
@mailq The printer server is Windows 2000. The hardware it is running on is EOL. The virtualized Domino server is beginning to outgrow the available resources in terms of performance. – slhck Oct 6 '11 at 12:44
@slhck Yes I understood. Changing from virtual to hardware and discarding useless print-server is a good idea. But if you don't think your (domain) setup is bad then you don't have to change this. It is absolutely fine to live without AD when you see no need for it. – mailq Oct 6 '11 at 12:50

You need DNS, and probably DHCP running somewhere - preferably not on the same hardware as your Domino server. You could use Linux or Windows for that.

It depends on what you are familiar with, and what your goals are. If you know how to do the essentials in Linux then fine. If you only know how on Windows, then you may make any cost saving using Linux as you will need to learn those aspects of it.

But maybe you want to learn Linux :-)

share|improve this answer
We don't necessarily need DNS. Why would running DHCP on the same machine be a problem? I forgot to mention I'm more experienced with Linux than Windows anyway :) – slhck Oct 6 '11 at 12:40
You need DNS somewhere, unless no-one ever access the internet, and/or you really really like maintaining host files accross multiple machines. Maybe you just use your ISPs DNS. In terms of running on a different machine - you don't have to, but it is good to keep your core network services separate from other things. – dunxd Oct 6 '11 at 12:57
At the moment, the DNS addresses are forwarded through DHCP, so we wouldn't need to host one. – slhck Oct 6 '11 at 12:58
I'd recommend having internal DNS if you have 20 PCs accessing the internet. It will speed things up. – dunxd Oct 6 '11 at 13:00

The non-server versions of MSWindows are limited in the number of concurrent socket connections / number of listening sockets they will allow - sorry I don't know what that limit is nor whether it will affect a network of your size.

You shouldn't need any server for printers directly attached to the network (unless you want to implement accounting / quotas / authentication).

Having a dedicated server available presents the opportunity of sharing a lot more functionality (file sharing, backups, internet access, authentication) but it doesn't have to be MSWindows. Indeed it doesn't actually have to cost you anything for licencing. Linux is a very obvious choice - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't spend anything on it - if you get the machine properly set up from day one, it will save you a lot of problems later - and if you've not got good Linux skills in house, then I'd recommend considering getting some some help with this or going for a re-packaged Linux solution.

A lot of Linux rollouts fail because they are badly thought out. Linux will save you a lot of money in the long run - but not if you don't invest in the change upfront.

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Be careful assuming linux is going to cost less. For example, for 20 workstations, total Windows licensing costs for both server and CALs is less than $1500. According to (first average salary result in google), the average linux administrator makes $89,000/yr, and the average Windows administrator makes $85,000/yr. If you assume a full-time admin, those numbers actually have Windows as the cheaper option. That said, for 20 workstations you should consider ditching a full-time admin for a managed-IT consultancy, which likely charges the same per-hour rate for Windows or Linux. – Joel Coel Oct 6 '11 at 15:48
This is a somewhat trivial analysis of the reality. TCO goes way beyond the cost of licences - yes, cost of staff is an important consideration - but this interpretation may be skewed due to the context in which the different skillsets operate. – symcbean Oct 7 '11 at 7:56
That's exactly my point. You were awfully quick to jump to the idea that "linux will save you lots of money", but I don't see anything backing it up aside from licensing, and licensing is far from the driving expense here. – Joel Coel Oct 7 '11 at 13:05

I am more experienced in managing Linux than Windows

I think that's the most important sentence in your question. I also think you underestimate the benefits a Windows domain will give you for your Windows PCs, but you should go with what you know and can administer well.

it's time to move Lotus Domino to a real server

Why? Virtualization isn't a crutch you use because you can't get real hardware. It has some real benefits, such as better management, easier high availability, better continuity during hardware refreshes, reduced cumulative hardware costs, etc. If you're trying to run that VM under hardware that was intended for and shared with your Windows 2000 server I could understand, but a decent real server should have no problem hosting your VM. This will also make your migration much easier... if you use the same VM platform you should be able to jsut about shut the machine down on the old host, move a few files over, and start it up again as if nothing ever changed.

share|improve this answer
As for the first part: I won't be there forever – whoever takes care of the infrastructure in the future should probably know more about Windows than I do. Rgd. virtualization: I don't think we want to stay with Windows 2003 Server. We'd have to reinstall, reconfigure. I can definitely see the benefits of virtualization, and given the fact that we need new hardware, it might be worth keeping this as an option (even virtualizing Linux on Linux, why not). – slhck Oct 6 '11 at 14:11

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