System Considerations

Ubuntu is flexible enough to cope with a wide range of computing needs, but with any switch of operating system you need to be aware of some of the issues that switching might cause. Some of them are listed in Table 2.1. For example, how you choose to use Ubuntu could affect your choice of computer hardware, might affect your network configuration, and could dictate software policy issues (such as access, security, and allowable protocols).

Linux-based operating systems can be used to provide many different services. For example, one server might be boot management for a thin-client network in which workstations boot to a desktop by drawing a kernel and remotely mounted file systems over a network. This mechanism is not supported out of the box, so some effort can be expended if such a system is required. Other services more easily implemented (literally in an hour or less) could be centralized server environments for file serving, web hosting for a company intranet, or bridging of networks and routing services.

Linux supports nearly every network protocol, which enables it to be used to good effect even in mixed operating system environments. The security features of the Linux kernel and companion security software also make Linux a good choice when security is a top priority. Although no operating system or software package is perfect, the benefit of open source of the kernel and other software for Linux allows peer review of pertinent code and rapid implementation of any necessary fixes. Even with the secure features of Linux, some effort will have to be made in designing and implementing gateways, firewalls, or secure network routers.

Ubuntu can serve as a development platform for applications, e-commerce sites, new operating systems, foreign hardware systems, or design of new network devices using Linux as an embedded operating system. Setting up workstations, required servers, source code control systems, and industrial security will require additional effort.

Hardware compatibility can be an issue to consider when setting up a Linux server or building a Linux-based network. Fortunately, most of the larger server manufacturers such as IBM, HP, and even Dell realize that Linux-based operating systems (like other open source operating systems such as BSD) are increasingly popular, support open standards, and offer technologies that can help rapid introduction of products into the market (through third-party developer communities).

Ubuntu can help ease system administration issues during migration. The latest suite of Ubuntu's configuration utilities provides intuitive and easy to use graphical interfaces for system administration of many common services, such as networking, printing, and Windows-based file sharing. Ubuntu can also be used to support a legacy application environment, such as DOS, if required.

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