Certified Linux Administrator Installation types and server roles

Installation types and server roles

One of the things that makes Linux special is that it can “play nice” with other operating systems. You can run Linux alongside of other operating systems quite easily. The most popular installation process for installing Linux is to install a “Fresh Installation of Linux” with no other operating system in place. This allows the computer to dedicated 100% of its resources to running Linux. However, it is quite easy to install Linux as a one of a series of operating systems that a computer has available to it. Here are the most popular ways to install/run Linux on your computer

Dual Booting - If you want to keep an existing operating system, and install Linux as well, you will have what is known as a "dual-boot" system. That means that you have a PC that can use two different operating systems, and during the boot process you will need to decide which one you would like to boot into.

Live CD/DVD Booting Linux – If you are just looking to try Linux out to see if you like it, but don't want to commit to wiping out your main operating system, you may want to consider trying Linux from a "Live CD/DVD". Many Linux installations provide the option of downloading and running Linux as a "Live CD", which means that Linux runs as a completely bootable operating system from the CD/DVD. The files are loaded into your computer’s memory, rather than being run for a hard disk drive. In layman's terms, this means that you can run Linux from a CD/DVD, and then when you reboot your PC, and remove the CD/DVD, it will boot back into its old operating system without any difference to your PC. This gives you an easy way to try out several distributions of Linux until you find the one that you like!

Using a "Live CD/DVD" is also a popular method of rescuing files from a corrupted operating system, more on this later...

Linux as a VM inside another Operating System – If you like your current (non-linux) desktop operating system, but would like an easy way to access a Linux desktop or run your favorite open source software, you may want to consider running Linux as a VM inside another operating system. There are a number of ways to do this, but one simple one would be to download and install a Virtual Server application, and then install your Linux distribution under that host software. This topic is covered in the more advanced tutorials on this website… I think that I should pause here and say that everything that you can do with your “other” operating system, you can do with Linux. That means word processing, databases, spreadsheets, Internet browsers, e-mail, photo touch-ups, MP3, CD Players, cameras and then there are a lot of things that Linux has to offer on top of all that that other operating systems don't.

Fresh Install of Linux – This method is by far the most popular installation method available. In this approach, you “take the plunge” and format your computer’s hard drive and install Linux from a CD/DVD. Linux then runs as your computers only operating system.


The following installation methods are available:

  • CD-ROM
  • Hard Drive
  • Network Install (via NFS, FTP, or HTTP)
  • Kickstart
  • PXE

Personal Desktop Installation
If you're new to Linux, the Personal Desktop installation type is the easiest to perform, especially if you currently run Windows. In that case, the procedure will automatically configure your system to dual boot?in other words, whenever you start your system, a Linux utility known as GRUB will give you the choice of starting Windows or Linux. Both operating systems can reside on a single system as long as you have a large enough hard drive. A typical Personal Desktop installation requires at least 2 GB of free disk space. However, 4 GB or more is a better working figure, as optional applications and extra packages can consume significant space beyond the minimum.

Even though the Personal Desktop installation type is generally the easiest, I recommend that you choose the Custom installation type, which is explained later. The Custom installation type is more flexible and therefore better able to help you cope with problems that may arise during installation.

Workstation Installation
The Workstation Installation type is based on the Personal Desktop installation type, to which it adds tools useful to software developers and system administrators. Like the Personal Desktop installation type, the Workstation Installation type requires 2-4 GB of free disk space.

Server Installation
The Server installation type is appropriate for systems that will host a web server or other services. It does not include a GUI, so it's not suitable for desktop use. You shouldn't set up a system using the Server installation type until you've had significant experience with Red Hat Linux. A typical Server installation requires from 1.3 to 2.3 GB or more of free disk space.

The Server installation type destroys all data on your hard drive, including any existing Windows and non-Windows partitions. Do not perform a Server installation if you want to preserve any data on your system.

Custom Installation
The Custom installation type gives you complete control over the installation process. You can specify whether to configure your system for dual booting, which software packages to install, and so on.

To perform a Custom installation, you should have from 400 MB to 4.5 GB of free disk space available. However, 400 MB is an absolute minimum, and 4.5 GB is needed only if you're planning to install everything (including the kitchen sink). More realistically, you should have at least 2 GB of free space available. If you have the expertise and patience, you can omit certain packages that would otherwise be installed during a Custom installation so that your Linux system occupies less disk space.

The default server install will install only the core system to your drive. Since there are so many types of servers an server can be, Linux just installs the essentials so you have plenty of space for any extra packages or files you need to add. That having been said, unless you have set up an server before, it can take some research to know exactly which packages you need to create, for instance, a DNS or a Samba file server. Server has streamlined this process for you by choosing a few common server roles, determining what packages they require, and then presenting you with a list of server types during the install process. You can even choose more than one set of software if, for instance, you want to set up a Samba file server that also runs DNS and an SSH server. After you have partitioned and installed the base system, Linux will present you with the following predefined collections of software:

  • DNS server

    This choice is pretty basic and adds the bind9 and bind9-doc packages to your system. These packages provide the Bind 9 DNS server and its documentation, respectively.

  • LAMP server

    LAMP is an acronym for Linux Apache MySQL PHP (or sometimes Perl or Python). It refers to a recognition that a very common Web server deployment is a combination of Apache using Perl, PHP, or Python for dynamic content with a MySQL database on the back end, all running on Linux. It has become such a common way to set up a Web site under Linux that even server has grouped all of the necessary packages together. If you choose the LAMP server package group, Linux will add the apache2, apache2-mpm-prefork, mysql-server-5.0, mysql-client-5.0, and php5-mysql packages along with all of their libraries and other dependencies. In addition to the extra packages, when you choose this group, the installer will prompt you to choose an optional password for the MySQL root user (a good idea since the default is a blank password).

  • Mail server

    This selection installs the Postfix mail server package. When you enable this option, though, the installer will start the initial Postfix configuration script. This is an interactive script that provides you with a few common mail server configuration types, and depending on what you choose, it will ask you a few more questions so that when you are finished, you should at least have a functional mail server. Keep in mind, though, that even though the mail server will function, you will have to perform extra configuration if you want to add spam checking, greylisting, POP or IMAP servers, or other more advanced options. 

  • OpenSSH server

    This option installs the openssh-server package. Choose this if you would like to remotely manage the server using SSH. Note that even if you don’t choose this option, you can still ssh from the host; you just won’t be able to ssh into the host.

  • PostgreSQL database

    Choose this option if you would like a PostgreSQL database server. It will install the postgresql package along with its documentation and any necessary libraries and dependencies.

  • Print server

    This option will select the cupsys, cupsys-bsd (providing lpr services for cups), defoma, foomatic-db, foomatic-filters, and a number of other printer drives and libraries—everything you need to connect a server to one or more printers (either locally or over the network) and then share them with the rest of your LAN.

  • Samba file server

    This choice adds the samba, samba-doc, smbfs, and winbind packages along with dependencies and libraries. Choose this option if you want to set up a file server to share files with Windows, Linux, and Mac hosts but don’t want to use NFS.


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