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zentyal_logoZentyal, formerly known as eBox Platform, is a multi-purpose Linux distribution based on Ubuntu server. It can function as a network gateway, unified threat manager, office server, infrastructure manager, and a unified communications server. It is developed and maintained by Zentyal, a software solutions provider based in Spain.

Zentyal 2.0 is the first stable release under the Zentyal name, and this article is the first review of this server distribution under its new name.

Installation: Zenyal is based on Ubuntu 10.04 server, and it uses the same installation program. The installation process is a two-stage one. In the first stage, the base system is installed, and in the second, the modules are installed. LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, is the default disk partitioning scheme. RAID and iSCSI installations are supported. Full disk encryption is also supported though the process of configuring disk encryption is not as simple as Fedora’s or even that of PC-BSD. You may read how to install Zentyal on an encrypted LVM.

The module installation (during the second stage) is very flexible. You may choose to install all or some of the modules. Each module offers a set of features. You may view a short video of how to install Zentyal’s modules below. A couple of screenshots are available on the last page.

Administration: Administration of Zentyal is via a secure (https), browser-based interface and locally via a desktop interface: Local administration is via the same browser-based interface running atop the Lightweight Desktop Environment (LXDE). You may also launch a terminal and install any number of packages that you need using apt-get.

Zentyal’s default desktop

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Zentyal desktop

The user account created during the first installation stage is used for all administrative tasks. However, the user account installation step (shown below) incorrectly states that the user account will be used for “non-administrative activities.” The same (user) account that is created at this step is the same that is required (by default) for both remote and local administrative tasks. It is the admin account.

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User account creation during installation

Free Features (Modules): Zentyal is free to download and use, no charge. Features are delivered via modules. The module and the features they deliver are:

  • Zentyal Gateway –
    • Load balancing and WAN fail-over
    • Traffic shaping (QoS)
    • Wired and wireless interface configuration. VLAN support.
    • Firewall with stateful packet inspection
    • RADIUS authentication server
    • HTTP proxy with cache, content filtering, anti-virus, anti-spam, and mail filter
  • Zentyal UTM –
    • VPN (OpenVPN)
    • Intrusion detection and prevention (Snort)
  • Zentyal Infrastructure –
    • DHCP server
    • DNS server
    • Web (Apache) server
    • FTP (vsftp) server
    • NTP server
  • Zentyal Office –
    • File and printer server with Samba and CUPS
    • Backup and restore. Encrypted, bandwidth-efficient data backup using Duplicity
    • Calendar, contacts and tasks sharing with Zarafa groupware
    • LDAP server with Active Directory synchronization (AD) and Roaming Profiles
  • Zentyal Unified Communications –
    • Asterisk VoIP with support for calls to mobile phones and landlines
    • Jabberd2-powered Instant Messaging (IM)
    • SMTP and POP3/IMAP4 with SSL/TLS
Related Post:  Linux Deepin 12.12 review

With these modules, Zentyal allows you can build any type of server that you need. It is worth noting that this is not unique to Zentyal. Most of the distributions in the Firewall/Router category are similarly designed.

Fee-based Services: Under Zentyal’s Professional and Enterprise Subscription services, additional capabilities (services and addons) may be added to the default Zentyal installation. The services, which includes Quality Assured Software Updates, Virtual MSP, Advanced Security Updates, Virtual CIO, Disaster Recovery, and VoIP Calls, are available via Zentyal Cloud and addons. A review of the services and capabilities available under the Professional Subscription service will be published here early next week. Subscribe via RSS or email to have it delivered automatically to your Feed Reader or Inbox.

Related Post:  Mageia 1.0 review

Final Thoughts: While I am not yet in a position to comment on Zentyal’s fee-based services, the free features delivered via the modules will satisfy the requirements for a server distribution for most users. The complaints I have are with the (manual) installation and the administrative interface.

The installer is the same used on Ubuntu server, the Linux distribution it is based on, and the manual or advanced installation process could be better. A true graphical interface will make a world of difference. An installation task that requires, say, three steps or less on Fedora, Debian and PC-BSD could take more than a dozen steps to accomplish under Zentyal.

With regards to the administrative interface, one aspect of it that could use a bit of tweaking are the widgets (the administrative interface is widgetized). While you can move them around, you cannot collapse a widget. This is not a show-stopper, but all good widgetized interfaces tend to have collapsible widgets.

Resources: A free installation image (460 MB CD image) of Zentyal may be downloaded from here. The installation image is a 32-bit image and it runs on both 32- and 64-bit platforms. You may also access basic documentation, an installation guide, and developer resources.

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48 Responses

  1. I’m pretty sure that the ‘Please make sure your computer is plugged into a power source’ is for laptop users.

  2. Been a while since this review was posted, however there don’t seem to be any comments about to your power supply query.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I immediately thought that the instruction referred to people installing on laptops where the battery could run out halfway through an install with the possibility of corrupted file systems or, maybe, damaged drives.

    At the least you’d have to plug in, or recharge the battery, and start again.

    See ya
    Ken

  3. This is a way old topic but OMG. So quick to point a finger at Ubuntu. And seriously how hard is it to google “distro” it takes all of 30 seconds. No big deal. By the way, learning how to use terminal. You can’t just open it and expect to know how to use it and another by the way, the su (super user) function is used for things that only an admin would deal with. In addition it wants the ROOT password!!!! not yours! I’m sorry but that was such a dumbass remark… anyway. It’s simple, but it takes a whole lot of learning and practice. And installing an OS is not a guess. Linux based distros are a crapload more stable than any Windows distro. I don’t even have an anti-spyware on my Mac home computer. And I have been using it for a good 3 years. Never had a virus. On a Windows machine that would be like saying come over and get comfy! Ever heard of a Windows server that didn’t have a big expensive firewall in front of it? Guess what OS most firewalls are based off of. LINUX. My linux server has just a firewall program running. nothing else. And dual booting is no simple task that is done in a routine way. there are different ways of doing it and if it is your first time no duh you have to learn some stuff.

  4. I tried to install Ubuntu on a separate partition after Win 7 64. The problem is that Grub overwrites BCD which I want to maintain. I tried to use EasyBCD 2 to change the MBR, but that failed to find the Linux boot file. Yes Grub gives me the option of booting Win 7, but I want Windows as the primary operating system. Does anyone know how? Thanks…

    1. This link and this one should be what you are looking for.

      The key to what you want to accomplish is to install GRUB in the boot partition of Ubuntu, rather than in the MBR, where it overwrites its Windows equivalent. Keep me posted. Better yet, jump on the forum and let’s discuss this.

      1. finid, tried to register but I keep getting a server error. At any rate, I tried installing inside of Windows and that doesn’t produce a boot item on the BCD menu. I tried to use the Grub 2 setting and it returned “grub>” dos screen with a bunch of command possibilities.

        1. What is the size of HD and what partitions (how many) did you create on the Windows side and on the Ubuntu side?

          I’ll try and fix the forum registration asap. Thanks for the tip.

          Update: Forum registration has been fixed. You may now register. A forum for this topic has also been started

        2. I finally got a boot item on BCD – don’t have any answers. I have 500gb HD with 4 partitions. 0 is Win7, 1 & 2 (basically) for anything at 100gb each and 3 is my data back up. My attempt is for partition 2 for Ubuntu. My machine is faily fast running Duo 2.53 so I don’t think it is a problem running “inside Windows”.

  5. I put ubuntu 10.10 on a separate partition just to try Linux and I am extremely unhappy with it. You have to study volumes of data to find out how to even install a printer driver. I tried loading addons and you can’t even find the after they are installed. You have to trace down how to get to a terminal window and then read many, many volumes more on how to use it. Example: type in su – and it asks you for a password. Type in your pass word and nothing happens. Now start googleing to find out that it doesn’t want a password. They took Thunderbird and stripped it to make some kind of a junior email program. In the long of it. ubuntu may start getting in the race with windows in another 10.10 years.

    1. I always find it mildly amusing when people who have *clearly* never even attempted to use a Linus distro start trying to guess what their criticisms of it should be.

      For the record, I installed Ubuntu back in 2007 – dual booting with Windows XP – and even though I had no idea what I was doing, I managed to get everything up and running within the space of a single evening.

      Although I have since shifted to a different distro, Ubuntu does deserve a lot of credit for providing a very easy way in for people who have absolutely no Linux experience.

      1. First I had to look up “distro” to find out what it was – another Linux term for distribution.

        There is nothing amusing about trying to get a system to run when the entire operation is nothing but a guess. I also got ubuntu running in a few hours, but that put a kink into me with what I had to go through to get it done.

        1. There is always a learning curve to anything that you are using for the first time. I struggle with Windows because I know very little about it. I’ve had to google just to get something done on Windows – because I am not familiar with it.

          If you just learned today that “distro” is short for distribution, then you are very new to our world. Welcome, by the way. This site is here to help people like you along the way. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

  6. October 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm
    finid

    I speak, read & write normal English. When will *ix not tell me that my directories “data” & “Data” are different?

    Case-sensitivity has nothing to do with proficiency in English.
    =============================
    English has nothing_to_do_with_*.ix._In_English_,_’english’_is_different_from’Enlish’.

    But *.ix does not know that. Look at the many *.x utilities the replace “_” with ” “, and replace ” ” with “_”.

    If you copy you folder directory with all the sub-directories, you can see that “data”, “DATA” and “Data” are three different directories. M$ windows know English better than *.ix.

    One day, Ms Macboy (or M$ Wintoy), you might try Ubuntu. Then you will see how wrong you are.

    Retired IT Consultant
    Australian Capital Territory

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