Regular readers of this SMB blog would have read about my mention of the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite, as well as other popular open source software such as Mozilla Foundation's Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird e-mail client. While that might seem to be all the open source applications there are for the SMB, there actually are many different such solutions used by businesses large and small.
Certainly, open source software is not restricted to client-side deployments or operating systems. Today, I would like to introduce a couple of uses in networking.
One example would be the case study of Sam Noble, the senior network system administrator for New Mexico Supreme Court's Judicial Information Division. Noble was frustrated by the standard, ISP-supplied DSL modem that lacked the ability to support remote monitoring of local link status. Existing equipment proved inadequate even with upgrading. The new hardware could not provide the full range of capabilities required by the Supreme Court.
In the end, Noble opted for a router solution based on open technologies from vendor Vyatta. The solution provided exactly what he wanted, which ranged from capabilities such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Virtual Private Networking (VPN), filtering of Web URLs as well as packet capture. A trial proved satisfactory, and some 40 to 50 sites around New Mexico will be connected to a centralized case-management system based in Santa Fe within the next year.
If you are considering getting a hardware firewall, but are put off by the cost or limitations of proprietary solutions, then the IPCop firewall might be the solution for you. Created and maintained by volunteers, IPCop is built on a number of open source technologies to serve as a firewall. For ease of setup, IPCop can be installed and configured from a CD onto a dedicated computer. Of course, the hardware, which can be repurposed from old equipment, should have at least two or more network interface cards to be useful as a firewall.
I have used IPCop in an SMB for a couple of years, and the really attractive part is how it slaps an attractive and functional Web interface on top of a hardened Linux kernel for use as a general-purpose firewall that is more than adequate. In fact, you can probably get away with running it on a virtual machine for internal testing or usage. To top it off, there are many add-ons that can be installed directly from the Web interface for instantly expanded capabilities.
Moving ahead, I will be presenting a broad overview of other popular open source packages over the next couple of weeks. If there are open source projects that have helped your small and medium-size business, do feel free to e-mail me about it, or highlight them in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you.