This article has been just updated:
ClearOS is an operating system based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is designed to be used in small to medium business implementations as well as by home users. ClearOS offers a cost-effective, Linux alternative to Windows Small Business Server.
The History of ClarkConnect and ClearOS
This Linux distribution was developed by the software engineers at Point Clark Networks. ClarkConnect was the original name of the operating system which was first released to the public in November 2000, according to the company overview at clearos.com. The initial release of ClarkConnect featured a dynamic DNS service and a basic software update service.
Point Clark Networks and the ClarkConnect Linux distribution were acquired by ClearCenter in 2009. ClarkConnect was relaunched as ClearOS in September of that year, according to linux.com.
The operating system is free to use with paid subscriptions available that enhance services and support. Software maintenance will be the responsibility of the ClearFoundation whose members are open source proponents.
What is ClearOS?
ClearOS is an all-in-one Linux server solution that can be obtained in a number of different configurations. The current version of the software is ClearOS 7.
There are free and paid software distributions available. You can also obtain appliances that have ClearOS preinstalled for a complete hardware and software solution.
Let’s take a closer look at what these options provide. The philosophy behind ClearOS is to provide a streamlined operating system that can easily be extended. This is done by obtaining apps in the ClearOS Marketplace. Many of the apps are free components that are part of all distribution editions. Others can be purchased to add specific functionality to your server.
ClearOS is available in three different editions. Here are some of the features furnished as apps that are common to all of them.
Here is a breakdown of the three different ClearOS editions.
ClearOS Community Edition – This edition is designed for Linux developers and those who desire to be on the bleeding edge of OS development. It is free to download and is not supported. The Community Edition has a six-month lifecycle and patches, bug fixes, and new updates are tested on live servers. This OS is great for hobbyists or Linux experts but is not designed to be used in a production environment.
ClearOS Home Edition – The Home Edition is more full-featured than the Community Edition and is also more stable. You pay a small subscription fee for this edition which offers quality tested code and lifecycle support for five years. This edition of ClearOS is an excellent choice in a Smart Home server.
ClearOS Business and Professional Editions – Reliability and functionality are the hallmarks of these ClearOS Editions. They are designed to be used in a production environment and are quality tested and optimized to achieve peak performance. The monthly subscription is more expensive for these high-quality operating systems.
Further information regarding pricing can be found at ClearOS.com. ClearVM is another flavor of the OS that is designed to be used in virtualized environments.
ClearCenter offers a line of hybrid appliances that are designed to serve a variety of needs. The ClearBOX series is currently comprised of two models, the ClearBOX 100 Hybrid Gateway Appliance and the ClearBOX 300 Hybrid Network Appliance.
They both include a one-year ClearOS Business subscription and are well-equipped with Intel processors and plenty of memory.
The appliances have optional wireless capability and can be used to fill a number of critical IT roles. A ClearBOX appliance can be implemented as a network file server, mail server, applications server or Internet security appliance.
The company has plans to roll out a 500 and 700 model that extend the device’s functionality. These appliances are ideal for home and small office settings where the consolidation of hardware and software can fill a specific requirement.
ClearOS Usage Scenarios
There are many instances where ClearOS will serve you well. Here are some implementations where ClearOS is a great choice if you are looking for a Linux solution for your commuting needs.
✔ Constructing a Firewall – One of the distinguishing features of ClearOS is its intuitive interface. According to techradar.com, it is one of the best free Linux firewalls currently available. Installation and configuration are simple and you can quickly have your firewall running to protect your network.
✔ Running a small business server – Small businesses are often looking for ways to cut expenses. Using a Linux based operating system to run their business server is one way to accomplish this goal. It provides functionality that is critical to a business server such as:
All of your services can be managed from a web-interface, simplifying system administration. Everything can be started, halted, and configured from one location.
✔ Network Gateway – Using ClearOS with a broadband network connection allows you to use it as a gateway to your ISP. Share Internet access and protect all network attached computers with the tools included in the distribution. Wireless capability is easily added and fully supported by ClearOS.
Three Alternatives to ClearOS
Now we will take a quick look at three alternative Linux distros that can be used for network and firewall applications.
This Linux distribution is Ubuntu-based and provides extensive functionality for a small business server implementation.
Email capabilities, domain and directory management, file sharing, and Active Directory support are all features of this OS. It also provides networking and firewall support and is controlled with a desktop GUI known as the Zentyal Dashboard.
You can also access your Zentyal server by way of a web interface. It is available as a free development download or as a paid commercial edition.
CentOS is a free operating system that is built on top of the RedHat Linux Server OS. It can be used for small businesses and for home networks.
You can obtain the distribution in a number of formats including a DVD ISO and live editions that you can test without modification to your local disk before installation. CentOS is the result of a community striving to expand the possibilities of open source, free software development.
This Linux distro combines the full functionality of a home server with an easy to use interface. They refer to their servers as HDAs for Home Digital Assistants.
The functionality of a base Amahi HDA lets you back up network attached computers, share files across your network, and set up shared calendars among other applications. Set up a VPN so you can access your network securely from any location. Storage flexibility is provided by enabling disk pooling. Amahi is a free Linux distribution that is based on Ubuntu.
If you are looking for a small business or home server operating system that is not named Windows, a Linux distribution is your best bet. ClearOS clearly has the power to provide your network with the functionality that you require. For those willing to take a detour down Linux lane, it offers an inexpensive way to run your critical business infrastructure.