Linux: Successful Upgrade – SBS 2003 to Linux

Late in 2010 one of our charitable organization clients, a local church, came to these decisions: 1) The aging XP Professional systems in their office needed to be replaced with new systems. 2) The existing XP Professional systems that were not so old needed to be upgraded to newer operating systems. 3) The existing SBS 2003 system needed to be upgraded to a new OS as well.

We at ERACC made the pitch for Linux on the desktop and the server but the staff at this client thought they “needed” to stay with something “famliiar like Microsoft” and voted for Windows 7 Professional on their new and “upgraded” desktop systems. (I knew they were not going to see fuzzy, cuddly familiarity with  a migration from XP to W7. But I also know when to stop promoting Linux and move on along.) However, the fellows in charge of decision making about their server decided they wanted to try Linux and not spend money  to “upgrade” SBS 2003 to Windows Server 2008. We considered this latter victory enough for our Linux sales pitch and laid out an upgrade plan for their office. Funds were procured and the parts for new systems were ordered from ERACC in late December. The work began the first week in January 2011.

The server was the first system to be upgraded and we chose Mandriva 2010.2 Linux for the server. Why? The primary reason is we know Mandriva has some easy GUI tools for new system administrators to use to get started. The secondary reason is we are most familiar with the Mandriva distribution “under the hood” here at ERACC. So we can provide the “not so easy” administration tasks that may be needed at the CLI. (A recent repair of the Bind / rndc configuration was one thing the GUI tools could not handle.)

One example of administration at the CLI that we will be providing in the future is installation of a  BiblioteQ library managment system. The client has an on-site library that is not “computerized”. The library will get one of the older PC systems that is being retired from daily desktop use. They eventually want library management software and we have recommended BiblioteQ on Mandriva on the retasked PC connected to a database on the Linux server. The setup of and connection to a BiblioteQ database is non-trivial for those unfamilair with the Linux CLI, so we will be doing that for them.

The server hardware is a Dell PowerEdge 2900 with 2 GB RAM, two Xeon dual-core CPUs and a PERC 5/i RAID controller with a pair of 160 GB SATA drives in a RAID1 configuration.Dell PowerEdge 2900 Linux File Server The old 160 GB SATA disks in a RAID1 configuration were backed up to a 1 TB NAS unit using a live PartedMagic Linux CD-RW disc. The server was booted with the PartedMagic disc. The NAS share was then mounted via NFS and the data on the NTFS partitions of the SBS 2003 installation were simply copied to the NAS. A simple copy was good enough as the SBS 2003 system was just used as a file server. Copying NTFS data with PartedMagic Linux Had the system also been a database server then additional steps would have had to be taken. If it had been a vendor lock-in Microsoft SQL Database server, a migration to Linux might have been too costly to do at this time. (Comments on experiences migrating from MS SQL on a MS server to a different database engine on a Linux server are welcome.)

Once the 160 GB RAID1 was copied and verified the system was shut down and a pair of 500 GB SATA drives were installed in the hot swap drive bays. A new RAID1 configuration was initialized on the PERC 5/i controller using the new 500 GB drives. Then the system was rebooted with a Mandriva 2010.2 Linux x86_64 DVD. The installation of Mandriva went smoothly and the system was rebooted once the install completed and the DVD removed.

The Bind 9.7.2 server was installed for mapping IP addresses to local area network (LAN) systems and to forward non-local requests to the router. Each PC is assigned a static IP address and these were mapped to the machine names for each PC under Bind.

All the user accounts from the SBS 2003 installation were recreated as Linux users on the server to create the private directories under /home where we would place their server based “My Documents” directories from the old SBS 2003 setup. Then remote media sources for Mandriva were set up and SAMBA 3.5.3 was installed. SAMBA was configured with the information for the workgroup used on the SBS 2003 setup. The users were added as SAMBA users using Mandriva’s excellent DrakSamba tool. Mandriva Linux Control Center 2010.2 DrakSamba At this point each user’s PC was accessed and the network drive shares were checked and recreated as needed. Then, while logged in to the user’s PC, each user’s server based “My Documents” directory was copied to the user’s /home directory on the Linux / SAMBA server and the Microsoft “shortcut” for that was recreated on the user’s Microsoft desktop.

The old setup and the new setup both required an installation of the PowerChurch church management software (Only available natively for Microsoft systems.) to be accessible from most user’s PC systems. Since the SAMBA server had the same network name as the SBS 2003 server, the PowerChurch software share was recreated under SAMBA to be the same path it had been on SBS 2003. When tested from each user’s PC this “just worked” and the PowerChurch software loaded as if nothing had changed.

At this point the upgrade from SBS 2003 to Linux is done. Some call this a “migration”, but we here at ERACC think of any move from Microsoft to Linux as an upgrade, so that is what we call it. Over the next few weeks each user’s PC will either be replaced with a new PC running W7 Pro or migrated to W7 Pro from XP Pro. To date, two of these are done and we are working on the third one this weekend. In case you are wondering, the W7 Pro installations work just fine with SAMBA 3.5.3 on Mandriva 2010.2 Linux.


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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

21 thoughts on “Linux: Successful Upgrade – SBS 2003 to Linux”

    1. They were not using Exchange server. If they needed groupware features then there are Unix and Linux based solutions for that which we would install on the Linux server.

  1. I know you said in your article that you guys were comfortable with Mandriva, but I was curious to know why a SBSish distro, such as Zentyal or ClearOS, wasn't considered?
    Nice Article by the way and illustrates quite nicely the power of Linux.

    1. AmblestonDack, we did not consider those because we have never looked at them. I will make a point of adding reviewing those distributions to my To Do list. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Re Sql Server to Linux conversion:
    I do a bunch of work using MS Access, with SQL backends. I’ve done a bunch of conversions to MySql. Easiest way is to convert the data back to Access, then use MySql migration toolkit to create/populate the databases in MySql. Piece of cake. Do the initial work in Windows, then data dump from Windows, and import in Linux.
    Check your indexes and Identities/Serial/Autonumber fields after conversion, and you have an opportunity to review indexes, etc with an eye towards optimization.
    Use ODBC to access the MySql databases from Access, and re-create views and/or stored procedures as needed.

    (Web Log Editor: fixed some typographical errors in your comment, 😉 )

    1. Heh, yeah I hear you Ron. But these folks wanted a GUI so they got one. Give the client what they want, even if that is not the "Geek gawd" way. 😉

  3. Conversion of a DB from MSSQL to PostgreSQL is pretty simple. Install the ODBC drivers and the SQL Server tools on a workstation, then use the DTS tool that comes with MSSQL. it is a fairly basic ETL tool, and copies the data easily from one to the other. This allows you to move data bigger than Access can handle. You can use Access with linked tables, and link to both, doing an INSERT INTO SELECT FROM, but DTS tends to be nicer.

    (Web Log Editor: fixed your apparent typographical errors in this comment.) 🙂

    1. That's just the data of course. Don't forget that whatever was accessing the data may need some updates as well, as MSSQL uses a rather unique form of SQL. If whatever is accessing the database supports PostgreSQL and MSSQL, then absolutely, you are good to go, and very lucky. I am stuck using a MSSQL database because the software using it doesn't support anything else until you get to the much more expensive large corporate edition. Then it supports Oracle.

  4. Nice Open Source success story.  It sounds like the server is the same hardware only with new drives.  Did anyone experience a performance increase with the new system?

    1. Hi Ken,

      Yes, you nailed it. The server is exactly the same with new drives. While I did notice the server is more responsive under Linux the end users will not really see a difference.

      The big performance increases for end-users are actually on the desktop side. We are building them AMD Athlon II Quad-core 3.0 GHz systems with 8 GB of RAM, 500 GB SATA II 3.0G/s hard drive, DVDRW LightScribe drive, and 68-in-1 multimedia card reader / writer. The new systems are incredibly "faster" than the old Dell Dimension and Dell Optiplex PC systems they are replacing. So much so, that the financial secretary who had the latest Optiplex PC, which is scheduled for an upgrade instead of replacement, asked for and got one of our new systems. She saw the one we built for the church secretary and Had To Have One. 🙂 Her system is the one we did this past weekend. I understand she is a very happy camper today. 😉

      1. Ken,

        The person that updates the local copy of the church web site said she noticed a large speed increase in DreamWeaver 8 when updating the local files. The local copy is stored on the server and uploaded to the host over FTP. Of course, some of the speed is due to her PC being so darn quick. 🙂 But she noticed a speed increase when saving the files to the server, which is directly related to network and server quickness. It does appear that Linux is noticeably quicker to the end-users on the same hardware that was running SBS 2003 (Of course the new 500 GB RAID drives are probably quicker too and account for some of the speed increase.).

  5. If it had been a vendor lock-in Microsoft SQL Database server, a migration to Linux might have been too costly to do at this time. (Comments on experiences migrating from MS SQL on a MS server to a different database engine on a Linux server are welcome.)
    Migration from MS SQL Server to linux – I would start with Sybase ASE express edition if volume of data is not big.
    Similar architecture, also T-SQL (if you have plenty od stored procedures).

  6. Nice to hear. ive done a few of these although not replaceing sbs 2003 as such but simple file server with dhcp,dns is an easy setup that is really robust.
    Was wondering what you guys did for backup? details etc? I have implemented a local backup using rsnapshot which is great for document retrieval (long retention) and a more DR backup using scripted tar to usb drives (which can be changed to provide further DR offsite recovery.  I found the whole usb drive auto mount and umount difficult to implement but have a script now that does it ok.. this is a lot more dificult in linux than windows. admittadly you do have more control in linux. what was your scheme?
    Did you migrate away from a domain to a workgroup? personally i think a workgroup setup is all small businesses need, its simple and works very well. yes you dont have the convienience of centralised password managemnent (any password change needs to be made on server and client) but small businesses shouldnt be caring about this.
    Ive done a setup like this using ubuntu 10.04 server (nogui) and using zentyal, which has a web based gui for configuration (mentioned earlier in some comments). I found the web gui great for the stuff you could configure but ran accross to many things that i needed to configure but had to resort to the CLI and being outside the intended usage, risked breaking the distros customisations
    as mentioned earlier exchange can be the killer app though that causes companies to choose the sbs solution. people arnt satisfied with just plain robust email anymore.. i dont know why.

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