Let’s be clear: Linux powers pretty much everything you use. Cloud? Linux. Social media? Linux. Google? Linux. It’s also in your fridge, thermostats, Android phones, robots, remotes, smart speakers…just about everything.
You cannot escape it. Without Linux and open-source software, businesses across the globe wouldn’t be nearly as competitive. This is a fact, not an opinion.
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What is an opinion, however, is that Linux isn’t viable for consumers or home users.
I would argue that opinion is shortsighted because the current state of Linux not only makes for an ideal operating system for your home computers, but also can bring you considerable value as a server OS on your home network.
Don’t stop reading yet. I know you’re probably thinking, “I don’t know how to set up a server!” What you might not know is that it’s far easier than you might think.
Most Linux operating systems are as easy to install as an app. With GUI installers, just about anyone can point and click their way to a full-blown server operating system on their home network. In fact, I’ve written a guide that walks you through the steps of installing Ubuntu Server in less than 30 minutes.
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And beyond that, there’s a world of possibility to unleash when you allow Linux and open-source software into your home.
And it’s not just about cost. Yes, Linux is a free operating system. You can download a single ISO image, burn it to a USB drive, and install Linux on as many computers as you like. More than anything, Linux is about freedom. Instead of having to do things the Apple or Microsoft way, you can do it your way.
It’s the Burger King of operating systems.
Anyway, what I’m talking about is the freedom to use it how you need it, where you need it, and when you need it. It’s also about security. Although Linux is one of the most secure operating systems on the market, that’s not exactly the kind of security I’m talking about.
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Let me explain.
You probably use Google Workspace, Office 365, or iCloud. I consider myself a Google Workspace power user because I’ve used it for hours every day and have been doing so for a very long time. I use Google Workspace knowing that everything I create or save to that service is available to a third party. For most of what I create, that’s fine. However, there are certain sensitive documents I create that I’m not okay with sharing or saving via a third-party hosted solution. For that, I would much rather keep things in-house.
That’s where Linux and open-source come in for me and should be considered for you as well.
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On my home network, I have a number of Linux servers deployed that I use as in-house cloud systems, invoicing and billing platforms, project management tools, and more. Beyond the operating system, the software I use for these purposes includes the following:
- Nextcloud: As my in-house cloud service (for storing, sharing, editing, and creating documents).
- InvoicePlane: For billing and invoicing clients.
- OpenProject: For project management.
- Portainer: For container deployments.
I also employ Samba on all of my Linux machines for file sharing across systems.
I’m not saying that just anyone can get the likes of Nextcloud up and running, but it’s not nearly as hard as you think. In fact, with simple instructions (see those here), you’d be surprised that yes, you can successfully install those platforms and make use of some powerful and flexible applications without leaving your home network.
The privacy and security of your information
That’s power. And the security you get by not saving sensitive data on a third-party, public service cannot be overstated.
You could effectively replace all of those third-party services (some of which you pay for) with free, open-source tools on your network. By doing this, you’re not relying on Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Slack, or Apple to keep the security of your data as a top priority. Although the chances of Google getting hacked are slim, it’s not impossible. But more than that, one of the issues that’s causing me great concern is AI.
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Consider this: In order to be effective, artificial intelligence must be trained. With Google, Microsoft, and who knows who else using more and more AI, they need content to train their systems. Who’s to say they are not using documents saved to their systems as fodder for training?
Personally, I don’t want my novels being used for such purposes. Because of that, I’m seriously considering migrating from Google Docs to an in-house Nextcloud instance. Nextcloud includes all the features I need to develop and write fiction, without having to worry those books are being used to train AI.
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That may not be a make-or-break reason for you, but it is for me. I write for a living and do not want my work to be used for anything other than its original purpose. Along with that level of assurance, I also prefer bringing those needs in-house because I am in complete control. On top of that, should I lose my internet connection, I can still reach the servers on my network, so I can continue to work.
Don’t forget the desktop
I’m not saying you must use Linux on the desktop if you plan on using Linux as a server OS for your network. That’s not the case, because most of those services you deploy with Linux would be used via a web browser. But the thing about Linux on the desktop is that it removes a number of frustrations you’ve probably experienced with other operating systems. As I said earlier, with Linux you get to do things your way. If you don’t like the way a Linux distribution works, you can change it. You won’t find that level of freedom with MacOS or Windows.
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There are also tons of software titles you can install and use for free, some of which are even proprietary. You can install Spotify, Slack, and more… so you’re not really missing out on anything. And if you like games, there’s Steam.
Yes, once upon a time, there were glaring holes in the available software options for Linux. Given nearly everything today is handled by way of a web browser, those glaring holes are far fewer. Plus, with the rise in popularity of Snap, Flatpak, and AppImages, even a number of proprietary apps have made their way to the operating system.
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Not only do you have all the apps you need, but you can also deploy numerous different services, and keep all of your important data in-house. Doing that with proprietary OSes isn’t nearly as easy as it is with Linux and open source.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get Linux installed and start deploying those services you want to run within the confines of your LAN. It’s secure, reliable, and as flexible as you want.