I’m cheap. Given a choice between buying an elaborate, full-featured server requiring expensive technicians and administrators, versus turning an out-of-date PC into a single-purpose Linux server, I’m going to go with the Linux server every time.
It’s not that Linux isn’t expensive. It sometimes is. But if a department or a branch office just needs one or two specific server jobs, there are plenty of obsolete PCs and easy-to-set-up, special-purpose Linux servers that can fill the bill for little or no cost.
Linux answers these needs because companies like Novell, rPath, and network security vendor Vyatta offer dedicated Linux appliances for specific jobs. These Linux distributions, instead of giving you everything, give you just enough to fill a particular need.
Many Linux appliances are free to use. If your needs are particularly simple, or you have in-house expertise, you may not need to spend one penny to get them set up and then to maintain them. If it turns out you do need more help, the ones I selected for this article also offer technical support at reasonable rates.