Michael Tremer

Article about IPFire in c't magazine 17/2011
by Michael Tremer, July 31, 2011

c’t Magazin, a German computer magazine, which is available on August 1st 2011 has an article titled Server-Baus├Ątze – Schl├╝sselfertige Linux-Server (server building kits – turn-key linux servers.

In this article, IPFire is featured, among other Linux server distributions like Amahi, ClearOS, SME server and zentyal. However, IPFire is the only distribution which primary task is to be an internet gateway.

All contestants are described in a couple of sentences and their features are introduced to the reader that he or she can get an overview about what to use for his or her own home or business network.

We are very sad, because in the part of the IPFire description are some mistakes, which we want to correct with this little post.

Slight corrections

Virtualization

IPFire seems to be blamed about having a pre-installed Xen image which is intended to be used to test the distribution and some people use it in a productive environment where it runs very well. This image was especially developed for c’t-server, a Xen-based server distribution of that very same magazine. Indeed, virtual appliances can be a risk – that’s up to the user.

Too many addons?

Further down in the article one can read, that there are too many addons that can be installed. How can this be bad when comparing server distributions? It rather seems good to me if I can use the system either as a file server or a firewall.
For the system administrator it is very great if he or she can transfer knowledge form one box to an other. From reading the article one can get the idea, that everything is pre-installed on IPFire and cannot be installed individually. IPFire is not a bloated system but a very flexible firewall distribution which comes with nothing else than a very small set of tools that are essential and adds a package management system to extend them.

Speaking of the addons. Indeed the author is right, that there are addons which have no integration to the IPFire web user interface. Most of them do not need one, because they come with their own user interfaces like CUPS. One can find detailed information about the configuration of these on the IPFire Wiki.

But on a comparison, there are some features missing, that are integrated to IPFire either in the default installation or available as an addon. I corrected that table, to point out what it should have been looking in my opinion.

What’s in it?

Amahi ClearOS IPFire SME Server Zentyal
Server-Backup No No No (but dirvish) Yes No
File services Yes Yes Yes (Samba, NFS, FTP) Yes Yes
RAID Yes No Yes (Soft-RAID) No No
E-Mail No Yes Yes (Openmailadmin) Yes Yes
Anti-virus/spam No Yes Yes (Spamassassin + Clamav) Yes Yes
Firewall No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Groupware No No No No Yes
Streaming Yes No Yes (GnuMP3d) No No
VPN server Yes Yes Yes (IPsec, OpenVPN) Yes Yes

Bold entries are corrected and differ from those in the magazine.

Conclusion

IPFire may not be the best choice for a pure home server which has no connection to the internet, but fair enough, it could have done better.

Altogether, we are very happy about the article in the c’t magazine, but we wished the author would have done more inquiries and invite all authors of future articles to send us a questionnaire. We can answer these questions easily and the author has got less work with a better result.

That’s all my humble opinion.


Posted: July 31, 2011 • 733 views