Application Analysis: eBox Platform
Basic Description: eBox Platform is a Linux small business server, the open source alternative to Windows Small Business Server. Based on Ubuntu, eBox Platform allows IT professionals and managed service providers to manage all the services of a computer, such as Internet access, security and network infrastructure, shared resources or communications network, through a single platform. All these features are tightly integrated, automating most tasks and saving time on system administration. These features can be deployed on different machines or on a single server, choosing for each case functional and more convenient hardware combination.
Fully integrated network solution
eBox Platform forms a solution for SME's that manages networks very easily and efficiently, and can act as a gateway to the Internet, managing infrastructure, security threats, act office server or mail. These features and many more are integrated to manage them centrally under a single interface and method of use. It is also fully configurable, every eBox can be customized specifically to act in a way (such as a gateway only), or set it to integrate all the services offered by one; thus achieving reduce installation times and management, and automate tasks. The ease of use of the program makes it suitable for any technician with expertise in network management. The application is divided into five major modules that are explained below, and which cover most services it can offer a server.
It is the eBox module that acts as a gateway. With it you can you can control the traffic entering the network to make it safer and optimize bandwidth, giving for example more speed sites that users typically visit frequently. It allows you to restrict access to certain websites, balance the bandwidth and redirect connections available to other users when one of them fails. The firewall allows you to set rules including input and output for the network, and also includes HTTP proxy service. Other features include IP address management, routing, access point Wi-Fi or packet filtering.
The UTM (Unified Threat Management) module is responsible for the security it offers more options than a simple firewall. It includes a filter mail antispam, antivirus and gray lists, and content filtering for mail and the Internet. Implements an IDS (intrusion detection system) based on snort and for more secure networks can create virtual private networks (VPN). The system detects external attacks and intrusions can receive notifications and alerts. This firewall is very simple and intuitive to use, and powerful.
With this module manages and optimizes local network, including own domains or internal Web sites (including the Apache web server). DHCP implements a system that automatically configure the network addresses of the computers, and a DNS service that will allow access machines knowing a single name and not the IP address. It also allows network management by groups, or machine by machine. You can also create digital certificates for internal use emails or websites.
This module is created with the aim of sharing all the resources of the members of an office efficiently. It allows users to manage network and set up profiles with different access rights to resources, and establishes a tool group to share contacts, tasks and calendar. It also allows you to configure a shared regardless of operating system users to use, and configure network printers directory.
This module provides a number of services or applications for members of the network can be connected. You set a mail server and set up a webmail server, and includes the need to implement a network of Jabber instant messaging and Voice over IP system using Asterisk.
eBox offers other features such as an initial input window that lets you view the overall status of the network and modules at a glance, also it offers backup, management and administration of the application packages, security updates, monitoring machine records all events in each service, and notifications to certain events or incidents. eBox works all through the templates and forms offered by your web design, so that if a file is manipulated by hand can be subsequently overwritten through form. The positive side is that eBox change automatically handles all changes on other modules when a related change.
Failures and / or important shortcomings
One aspect to be careful handling the application is saved and configuration changes applied. All changes made in eBox are not effective until you press the box "Save Changes" that appears always on top in the horizontal menu and red when there is something to keep. This must always keep this in mind as it may lead to errors or confusion. Perhaps it is a bit limited and the method should be more flexible and to warn most striking form after each change. Besides the built-in help it is a bit limited, but greatly solved with good documentation of the website which will be seen later. Anyway, some help message, warning or error that appears in English, out of tune with the Castilian available throughout the tool appears.
Other things to consider using eBox is that if you want to manage a network using only this tool must be used exclusively the services it offers. That is, the tool uses Apache server, and can not be integrated with her a Cherokee. Cherokee server could be used as well, but independently and disabling the Apache module in eBox.
One of the most important details is the type of server on which it is based tool, such as Ubuntu. No one denies the quality of this operating system, but for a server type will always be more stable Debian. Another point to make is that the tool is not accessible from Internet Explorer, something more than a failure is a limitation.
To conclude, the biggest drawback or lack of tool is sometimes the little detail in the configuration. There are some actions or rules that can not be edited beyond disable or enable them, there other applications that allow more detail. With eBox these settings are left in the hand of the application.
The design of eBox web application is treated as a navigation precisely like a portal or website were, with a well-organized menu structure on a left side menu. The green and white colors used are well chosen and gives a sense of clarity and cleanliness, while a modern look.
One key distribution is the main application window or dashboard, the home screen. This is designed as an interactive whiteboard with multiple panes that display status information and network statistics, and which can be distributed as you want by moving the mouse, creating a personalized dashboard. These "widgets" or panels can also be removed or added new from a list of available, according to information more interesting show.
Easy to use
The application is very simple to use, anyone with some knowledge of networks could install and set it up, because many tasks are automated or are speeded up thanks to the approach taken, and that other programs are more expensive. Besides ease of use is further enhanced by web design application is very intuitive, as everything can be configured via the web.
There are other advantages that give the user as already mentioned dashboard window, which allows the status of some modules, but also directly start some services; and the button "Save Changes" that is colored red to warn that there are unsaved changes, resulting striking.
eBox Platform is not equipped with features easily accessible for people with accessibility problems of any kind. However the application can be seamlessly integrated with any assistive technology operating system, and any option related to your internet browser.
Portability / fitness
eBox is available as server Linux in particular is a distribution / Ubuntu Server Edition derivative server. It is designed to be installed on a single machine, although this does not prevent from installing other unmanaged services through the interface that must be configured manually. It can also be installed on a virtual machine.
The installation can be performed using the eBox Platform Installer, which consists of an ISO disk image, that allows you to install the program recorded from a CD, in a very similar to the installer for an Ubuntu Live interface. It can also be installed following a Ubuntu Server Edition, adding repositories to install the necessary eBox .deb packages.
A client level, eBox Platform can be accessed from any platform or operating system, because the tool interfaces and protocols used are cross-platform, depending on this more than an internet browser.
eBox has no plugins or extensions as such. What I have to say is that the application has a modular design and can be installed or remove the desired modules. There are about 30 modules and are grouped into categories or profiles. There are 5 profiles that include office, security, gateway, infrastructure and communication.
This is a complete manual and high quality, which begins with an introduction to the tool, to continue with installation tutorial covering all options and making a walk through the interface and all modules explaining every detail. It is updated to the latest version 1.4, but can be found in English and also for previous versions in the documentation section of the page.
Continuing with this link where all official documentation is collected, there is a section dedicated to the development including tutorials that may be of interest to those who want to develop something new or make adjustments. There is also a list of recipes or howto's, that explain specific configuration tasks or installation of certain services, and other relevant documents such as installation in a virtual machine, how to update the application, or how to configure modules Jabber or Asterisk in tool, among many other utilities. It can be concluded that the application has a great documentation the web itself becoming a portal, but can be attributed to the company other than the manual, other documents and interesting tutorials are not in Spanish and yes in English when the company itself is Spanish. In fact all the information on the page is in English.
Since the project started in 2005, many versions that expanded and improved application have appeared. Also in 2007 eBox was included for the first time (and even now) in the Server version of Ubuntu. In July 2009 the stable version 1.2 it was launched in February 2010 and 1.4, being already immersed currently in the testing phase of 1.5 to be included in Ubuntu 10.04.
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