I've been asked to provide a small business with an infrastructure similar to what you would find in larger companies for a minimum price (i.e. my services and that's it, they do not wish to pay for licensing of any kind).

After doing a bit of research on the subject, I've settled on Ubuntu for both server and client needs.

Speaking of which, here are this business' needs :

  • An e-mail server of some kind with webmail capabilities (like exchange and outlook web access)

  • A no-nonsense IM solution

  • A centralized calendar (which would work in conjunction with e-mail of course)

  • A centralized backup of all machines

  • The ability to deploy/update ubuntu clients easily (1 click would be best) with all chosen applications pre-installed.

Now, given those needs, do you think that ubuntu is a good fit? If it is, could anyone point me to a comprehensive tutorial that I could follow? I have basic networking knowledge, good command line skills. But GUI would be best.

This would be a one-man job.

Thanks in advance.

An e-mail server of some kind with webmail capabilities (like exchange and outlook web access)

We use Google Apps for the Domain.

A no-nonsense IM solution

We use Google Talk (for the domain)

A centralized calendar (which would work in conjunction with e-mail of course)

Google Apps is stunningly good for providing this too.

A centralized backup of all machines

This is easy enough with backuppc.

The ability to deploy/update ubuntu clients easily (1 click would be best) with all chosen applications pre-installed.

For this, you'll wanna look at a combination of a PXE installer, with Preseed, then follow up with Puppet to make the package installations and configurations

Basically, it looks like you'd be best off using off-site hosted groupware (and Google Apps is by far one of the best. Hosted Zimbra might also be a great idea for you too.)

There's no real need or requirement for hosting your own mail, IM server and calendar server. The staff power required to maintain those services quickly becomes more expensive than any hosted SaaS solution.

If you've got further questions about how to PXE boot/Preseed/Puppet your desktops, then ask more specific questions.

I've got an article on my website about how I did the same thing at $dayjob, but it's too wordy to post verbatim here.

  • FWIW, a problem with Google Apps is it's only free for up to 10 users. While on the lower side of 5 users this will work, but his max of 12 will force the company to purchase. – Ryan Gibbons May 26 '12 at 15:08
  • So? It's still a hell of a lot cheaper than it would be to implement the same kind of feature-rich groupware yourself. Don't underestimate the cost of support, development, sysadmin time. Just because the software's free, doesn't mean the implementation cost is zero. – Tom O'Connor May 26 '12 at 15:26
  • I was just thinking I should of clarified. Google apps is a huge +1. The cost of maintenance and support is huge. The free user cap use to be 50, then 30 and is now 10; I just wanted to make sure this was thought about. His requirements of 5-12 already push the capacity. He said his time is paid for, but licensing isn't. I use Google apps on about 2 dozen clients. All this said I've actually upvoted your question. – Ryan Gibbons May 26 '12 at 15:29

I don't have any links or tut's to follow, but can push you in the write direction.

For e-mail, calendaring, im, etc. Look at Zimbra The open source solution will work, it just doesn't provide exchange syncing to outlook and mobile devices using active sync, but it would allow syncing via imap and ical. (Zimbra is free, but for advanced functionality and syncing, The start is 399 per year for 15 users)

Ubuntu has a business section, which talks a bit about the management and other features of using Ubuntu on the desktop for corporate rollouts http://www.ubuntu.com/business/ Their management system is called Landscape (Note: Landscape is not free. $105 - 165 per desktop per year)

If you don't want to go that route, here are some non-Ubuntu software to do management.

For managing Ubuntu, you could look at setting up Puppet to automate administration of all the devices.

For backups you can look at BackupPC while a bit old, it works great. Another one, to look at is Zmanda


Ubuntu on client can be brittle when it comes to hardware support. Either a piece of hardware will work out of the box or it will drive you out of something else. But that is probably the case with all desktop linuxen.

Some applications might be easier to maintain if you run them straight off a file server and maintain one copy there (it CAN be done with almost every application but is not always trivial to implement! Good working knowledge of compiling stuff from source helps.)

Do not use NFS for file service you really understand why someone would advise not to use it unless you understand why somebody would advise...

If your client hardware is reasonably identical (or can be managed as groups of near identical machines), a linux system CAN be cloned off a master installation in multiple ways (tarring everything up and extracting it into a new system from a live cd will work fine if you know how to reinstall the bootloader and deal with some udev issues that will rise, mostly generated rules.)

Also, even if you could stuff all server software into one plain server for now: Consider using a VM environment (Xen, ESXi ... ) from the start so you can stop server sprawl before it begins.


Well, I don't have any tutorial but yep! Ubuntu is a nice OS for this job, you can have a central server handling the email server (Zimbra works great on Ubuntu) and some kind of network storage.

Now in the client side, you can have fun playing with virtual machines, in order to make easy the administration, you assing a VM to every user.

With Zimbra you can have IM solution, Calendar, Some kind of sharing area, so It's pretty good, you can use the community version and it will rock!

May the force be with you!

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