Zentyal Server 3.5

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Copyright (c) 2007 Redaktion Linux New Media

Copyright (c) 2007 Redaktion Linux New Media

Control Center

Some users may struggle when setting up various services, such as web servers, email servers, firewalls, and the like. Zentyal simplifies configuration of all those things, thanks to its intuitive user interface.

The use of a dedicated server, even at home with a few computers or in a small home office, definitely makes good sense. However, many users shy away from the complicated installation and configuration of individual services via the command line.

The Zentyal server, however, offers a much easier way to get things set up, and a free community variant is available [1]. With the help of Zentyal's web-based interface, you can get your server configuration up and running in almost no time.

On the Hard Disk

The Zentyal server, which originated in Spain, has been around for many years and is no stranger to the Ubuntu realm. In fact, the system began as a graphical interface on the Ubuntu server. The company has since been offering the server as a standalone product and in both 32- and 64-bit variants.

The current version (3.5) is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, which has support for five years of updates by Canonical. Zentyal is suitable as a server and gateway for small to medium businesses as well as SOHO users, and the software supports explicitly heterogeneous environments.

Thanks to Samba 4, the distribution can act as a domain controller within a Windows-based network. The system also comes with a replacement for the Exchange Server.

Users can choose between different options on the boot menu of the system. The system itself is largely automatically installed while in normal mode, but Expert Mode allows for better control of the installation. In both cases, users are assisted by somewhat outdated-looking, but functional dialogs through the setup.

Because of the limited storage capacity of a CD-ROM, the installer may try to connect to the Internet. When doing so, Zentyal downloads several additional packets and installs them automatically. The ISO image already contains proprietary firmware drivers, which should ensure that even closed WiFi cards manage to establish a connection to the Internet. The base system will be ready for use after just a few minutes, a single soft boot, and an automatic configuration of the core components.


After login, Zentyal opens up an Openbox desktop with minimal software configuration and starts Firefox with an authentication screen to begin the server administration. After login, a graphical configuration page appears. In the upper part of the window, you will find four icons with the names Gateway , Infrastructure , Office , and Communications .

Each of these categories contain a summary of services. Click below the More Info link to understand which individual modules are contained within. Zentyal lists individual services under the server groups in Modules. One click on the group symbols found in the top pane changes the color of the group associated with each service in the lower segment. The buttons highlighted in green indicate that they are intended for installation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Zentyal arranges the different services as modules into a clear layout. Potential dependencies with other services will be dealt with independently.

In addition to the presets of the server groups, users can select on or off for each service with just one click. Along with basic modules such as the firewall, DHCP servers, and print and/or file servers, Zentyal offers special services typically only used within large-scale IT infrastructures. These include an intrusion prevention system, a RADIUS server for secure authentication, and a module for management of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

To increase network security, Zentyal provides various security services such as a filter for web content and an antivirus module. To seamlessly integrate a Windows machine (PC) into an existing infrastructure, for example, the distribution rolls out a Samba server. It establishes a domain for Windows clients and allows for trouble-free data exchange between various system environments. Last but not least, Zentyal comes with a backup module that facilitates easy data backups.

After selecting the desired modules, click the lower right corner of the Install button. The system will then switch to a confirmation screen that again lists all of the services that are intended for installation. Here, you will find services that are simultaneously installed as prerequisites (Figure 2). Even with the installation of new services, the distribution assists users with a graphical interface.

Figure 2: Zentyal tells you which modules will be installed by default.

Confirm your selection by clicking OK (bottom right). During the installation of the desired applications, a progress bar will keep you informed of how things are going. After a correct installation, the system automatically configures the new services. During this time, the browser window is disabled so that no navigation in the settings window is possible.

After completing the configuration, users will find the newly available services and modules compartmentalized into the different server groups to the left of the browser window in the menu column (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Zentyal lists the services that are installed during setup in a bar right next to the main window.

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