Going to keep this short and sweet. In the past I’ve always run vanilla *NiX boxes. Why? well I’ve been at this a while since I was a kid in the 80’s so there’s that. Command lines are natural to my gen. But in recent years unlike many of the “do everything command line” fanboi’s the reality is that sometimes its nice to have some sort of management UI. If you are argue that you’re doing just that, being argumentative.
So recently I checkout the two SBS flavors for Linux. That being ClearOS and Zentyal. The former runs on CentOS where Zentyal runs on Ubuntu. First I’m a fan of Ubuntu they are doing some nice work and their desktop is one of my favs. With that said I’m not as confident with Ubuntu’s server. Be clear that doesn’t mean its not solid. In fact if you roll the LTS version you should be good for updates/fixes for sometime. What I will say is that although CentOS can be a pain package-wise it is very stable. There’s a reason many third parties bundle with CentOS. It may be slow to the latest and greatest but isn’t as likely to break either.
With Zentyal I have to be honest I like the GUI its pretty cool. The scaled back GUI for the desktop that it boots to automatically is handy. Just remember GUI’s take resources so if you have limited ponies don’t run it, just use the Web UI. I did find the Zentyal GUI on the desktop to be a little clunky at times. It’s cool but…I probably wouldn’t run it. This was tested on an older chip. Quad Core with 16GB of ram. Not a slow box but not Xeon or i7 either.
ClearOS’s GUI is laid out very nice. Its clean and concise. It doesn’t have the fancy fell that Zentyal does but in my opinion that’s not a negative. Might even be a plus actually. Also had better hardware detection with ClearOS, but that’s more about Cent really.
In short there are a couple things to consider. If you want bells and whistles go with Zentyal and Ubuntu. If you want solid stable battle tested go with ClearOS and Cent. I want to be clear Ubuntu is very stable, but CentOS is a true enterprise build with slow strategic and tested updates.
What would I choose
I’d go ClearOS and in fact did for a box just to have it around. I still like to run my own vanilla boxes just so I know there’s not some issue updating a package or something that the GUI management software doesn’t like.