by January 1, 2009 0 comments



In this article, we are going to do a one-on-one comparison of two products
which let you manage your IT infrastructure from a single box: one is totally
free and open source (eBox), and the other is Microsoft SBS 2008.

Both products are meant to be deployed in a new environment, where deployment
is being done for the first time. Both share some common features like user
management, sharing resources like, printer, fax, network gateway, email,
instant messaging and backup tools. Now let’s see the capabilities of both.

Direct Hit!

Applies To: Small businesses
Price: SBS 2008: $1,089, eBox: free
USP: Nill
Primary Link: www. ebox-platform.com,
www.microsoft .com/sbs/
Keyword: eBox, SBS

Base OS and hardware requirement
eBox is based on Ubuntu Server with 2.6 kernel, whereas the SBS is a MS product
having base OS Windows Server 2008 Standard. The difference between the two is
that eBox has a striped down version of Ubuntu server, hence you will not get
any visual interface on the host machine. So for accessing the GUI (for
management), you require a second machine which should be able to connect to
eBox. In case of SBS 2008, you will get a complete GUI on the host machine
itself.

SBS 2008 requires atleast 2 GHz processor in case its single core processor
whereas 1.5 G Hz or higher for multi-core, atleast 4 GB RAM, 60 GB HDD and fax
channel. The clients supported by SBS are: Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Edition SP2 or later, Windows Vista Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate, Windows
Mobile 5.0 or later. There is no specified hardware requirement for eBox, and so
it depends upon the number of users you will be handling. There is no
restriction to what client OS you use with eBox, but this is for sure that what
SBS can do with its clients, eBox does only some part of it.

Messaging and collaboration
Messaging is a must have for any business especially today. SBS 2008 provides
you messaging with Exchange 2007 which is indeed considered to be the best. It
includes much more than just mailing. For example, if you need to access your
mail, you can check not only from your desktop’s mail client but also from
mobile device and even from a ordinary phone. Exchange also provides you an
integrated support of anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-phishing. eBox also
provides you with Postfix for email, but does not provide unified communication
like SBS. For anti-spam and anti-virus, eBox integrated with spam-assassin and
clamAV. Moreover, eBox also has built-in instant messaging tool Jabber for your
corporate environment , helping your employees interact and collaborate right
from their desk.

For collaboration, SBS 2008 has MS Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 included,
which helps in increasing the efficiency and productivity of your organization.
It helps in sharing internal document, calenders, manage issues and held
discussion even you are away from office securely. With its easy-to-use GUI,
managing users and deploying access rights to the resources depending upon the
designation became easy and fast. Whereas in case of eBox, there is no such
feature available similar to SharePoint, but it provides you with a web server
which allows you to share content or file publicly via HTTP or samba. But you
can deploy anyopen source and free solution like Alfressco as a substitute to
SharePoint on eBox.

The dashboard of eBox
provides you a comprehensive view of all the services that are
runningincluding information about the system and the network.

Keeping systems up-to-date
This feature is of course useful even if you have more than 10 systems on your
network. When the number of systems increases on your network, it becomes very
difficult to monitor each and every computer and keep it up-to-date. Moreover,
if there are say 20 computers on your network and each of them updates itself
via Internet, it results in a lot of bandwidth consumption. SBS 2008 is equipped
with a nice feature called network updates powered by MS Windows Server Updates
services. Take for example, whenever an update is made available, SBS downloads
and saves it, and after the confirmation by the administrator, all the systems
on the network get updated from SBS system and not via Internet, thus saving
lots of bandwidth. Supposing SP1 of Vista is released and it has some bugs
(suppose) then the update can be postponed for all the system until a stable
version is released. eBox doesn’t have a update server out-of-the box, if you
want, you have to configure it on your own.

Network management
If you are looking for a perfect network server, then both solutions offer you
almost everything. Both SBS and eBox facilitates you with remote access, DHCP
server, DNS server and Web server. But still there are differences between the
two. SBS 2008 allows users to connect directly to their desktop from anywhere
(via Internet), plus the user will see only the files or folder which are
associated with him or which he has proper access to. Whereas in case of eBox,
(uses OpenVPN) first you need to get into the corporate network of the
organization and then you have to manually connect to your system. A certificate
authority is also integrated with eBox which makes the VPN connections more
secure.

eBox also provides the option
of checking the installed version of different components.

Security
Both SBS and eBox can serve as a network gateway, providing gateway level
security. The administration tool of both solutions let you manage firewall and
other tools with ease. eBox is powered by Squid for bandwidth management,
DansGaurdian for content filtering, iptables for firewall and iproute for
controlling TCP/IP networking and traffic control. SBS 2008 is powered by
Windows Live OneCare Server edition which protects against viruses, spyware,
hackers, and other unwanted intruders. But Live OneCare that is included with
SBS 2008 comes as a trial of 120 days, after which you have to subscribe .

SBS also provides you lots of
information in detail about what is running in the system.

Online
You won’t find this in eBox. SBS 2008 gets integrated with Office Live small
business, which helps you in creating your online presence. It lets you create
web pages without knowing HTML codes or any scripting language. It also helps in
promoting your business online via email marketing and keyword advertising in
case of products or even solutions. It also lets you manage documents, contacts,
projects and workspace online. It also lets you collaborate online easily.

Unlike eBox, SBS provides you
single view for all the shared folders and website that are hosted.

Backup and restore
In case there is data loss on the server or the OS gets corrupted, it is always
necessary to have backups. Both the solutions provide backup solutions. SBS 2008
provides very extensive backup solution, apart from file and folder backup it
also allows backup of system state, exchange, WSS (SharePoint), SQL 2005
instance, MSDE instance. All these backups in case of SBS 2008 is done via a
simple and easy wizard, hence worry free backup. You can also schedule the
backup time, so that the machine automatically backs up everything, reducing
your work. eBox on the other hand, provides you the similar kind of backup
solution. It gives you two backup options. One is configuration backup, which
backs up only the configuration of eBox including managed services and other is
Full backup which backs up configuration file including such stored files from
shared directories, log messages and hence takes up huge amount of space.

Under the security tab, SBS
provides status of each component, e.g virus protection for email, anti-malware,
etc.

Conclusion
But before concluding, it’s important to understand two more critical aspects,
cost and support. While SBS 2008 comes at a price which includes support, eBox
is free and you have to rely on community support. So before deciding which one
to choose, you have to compare these two aspects. If you don’t have inhouse
expertise on Linux, then you will have to spend time and money building them.
Even if you do, you have to judge whether you can trust your business on a
platform like eBox that doesn’t have any company you can hold accountable if
something goes wrong.
If you can’t, then you’re better off getting MS SBS.

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