Zentyal vs Nethserver vs FreeBSD vs Windows which way now?

Sorry for the long post but it’s a long story with a simple question.

We were a happy 7-person reseller for MS selling, installing and supporting Windows Small business server. When MS decided to kill it to make more money on the cloud and take it away from people like us we looked for an alternative for clients being in a bad broadband area.

We looked at everything and we opted for FreeBSD going back to our Unix roots with CLI. We decided against a GUI after playing with Zentyal as it was too, slow and clunky as was Gnome and KME.

After a disaster with a FreeBSD / lamp / SOGO /SAMBA installation we settled on MS Server Essetials with Msaemon for email and a FreeBSD in a VM. Which has been good.

I now what to go all Linux server and no MS as a cloud alternative for clients so with Zentyal latest with AD and usable interfaces it was our next go-to-play-with choice.

I came across Nethserver so any ex-Zentyal admins here from a commercial environment have any views / advice to save me time on an evaluation is NS vs Zentyal. We need AD, Samba, RDP ( internal and from outside), SQL, ActiveSync, Bare metal backup. Hot-swap drives for backup , AV, although we use ESET, Advanced IPscanner, Wireshark. We use Draytek so firewall and VPN isnt an issue.

Although we are CLI capable a GUI with tools makes life quicker and easier.

I’m looking for a simple all in one low cost box for SME’ <25 users.

Advice please?



Hello Fiona!

And welcome to the NethServer Community!

As you can see from my Profile, I’m pretty much in the same business as you - only that I’ve always used open source with Linux. It’s now 35+ years, and I have about 25-30 clients, all using a NethServer, running virtualized on Proxmox to provide services like AD, File, Print, Mail, NextCloud, Zabbix Monitoring and much more!

I do have clients, who need an App (Programm) running on a Windows box, these are also virtualized, and are members of the NethServer AD…
Examples would be eg.:

  • Hotel Hospitality Program, running on MS Server 2008R2 with MS-SQL.
  • A Doctors Programm, running on MS-Windows10 (as a virtual, member server in AD) with MS-SQL Server.
  • ERP Programm, also running on MS-Win10 as server with SQL-Server.

The virtualization layer underneath provides peace of mind with snapshots, live backups (including MS Windows!), fast migration up to a full HA High Availability Cluster.
Between two Proxmox in the same cluster and using shared storage, a live Migration takes 90 seconds - all the while the machine remaining up and connected, even with RDP!

See here for some ideas, it’s still WIP (Work in Progress), but there’s plenty of ideas there already:

Here are some recent “Converts”, from SBS to now running NethServer - more stable, faster tham before, with much more features…

I have Clients like Doctors, Hotels, a state Trade Institution (3 sites, Total of 70 users, one NethServer!) and financial institutions, architects…

I used to use SME Server before, although I can easily handle OpenBSD, Solaris, Novell Netware
and almost anything network capable. It doesn’t even have to be TCP/IP. But since 5+ years, I’ve been using NethServer, migrated all my clients. This is my form of giving back to a great forum, one of the best in OpenSource I’ve seen or used in 35+ years!

Neither NethServer, nor Proxmox have ever let me down since using them! (5y+)
Zental is more known for crappy updates. I wouldn’t touch it with a long pole! The community there doesn’t come close to our NethServer Community here!

If you have any questions, don’t hesiate to ask!

My 2 cents

PS: As you may have noticed, in all examples a Raspberry PI 3 handles all UPS needs for the network… :slight_smile:
Saves my clients nearly a thou for eg APC SNMP Box, and my earning ratio is better too!


Hi Fiona,

i have been using MS Small Business Server in the 2003, 2008 and 2011 editions for many years and have been happy with it. Since MS discontinued and made many users dissatisfied, I am now using Nethserver and am very happy with it. On the side there is a server 2016 running for the things Nethserver can’t do (yet). WSUS for example. My motto is: Nethserver, that’s all i need.

Regards and a sunny Sunday.



Thank for your valuable comments. I wont miss WSUS I want to individually control all updates especially W10. I’ll go back on Monday and play with a Nethserver installation as a trial.

As you also want to have some kind of RDP option I can point you to the community module for nethserver-guacamole: https://wiki.nethserver.org/doku.php?id=guacamole
It allows to serve as a gateway to other devices through RDP, SSH or VNC.


Thank you all for your help, there is quite a bit Ill be playing with.

@Andy_Wismer I like your layout, what software are you using? We still have MS servers here with a BSD in a VM. Im looking at creating a second VM with Nethserver eventually and migrating all my software gradually We have Front Accounting, Owncloud backup PC, plus HESK already on the BSD platform but Id like to go completely NIX.


Hi Fiona

Sorry, I’m so late with answering, but I was on the train from Switzerland to Frankfurt/Main, in Germany (6 hours!).

I’ve been using Zabbix recently as tool to create network docs, like the maps shown above. All those shown maps are “live”, that is, if a problem exists, the host is highlighted with the problem.
But as you can create as many maps as you need, I thought it a good solution. It’s live, always accessible and I can create a Map/Drawing anytime I need. And they look good - I’ve always heard that, especially from the Visio Freaks.

I’d personally suggest not using NethServer as virtualization host (Just as bad an idea like using your MS AD Server as Hyper-V server…). I’d suggest taking a look at Proxmox for virtualization. Proxmox is free like NethServer, you can pay for support if you want, it costs about 100$ / CPU socket / year. The amount of cores does not matter!

Note1: NethServer can run KVM virtualizations, but does not give you HA High Availability, Live Backups (Even Windows) nor Fast Migration. Proxmox gives you all that, for free! I let my clients pay the maintenence fee, it so much simpler than what others bill, like VMWare or Hyper-V.
The comparison for billing from MS-Hyper-V, VMWare ESXi and XEN feels like you’re in a Starbucks, but you only want a typical italian expresso. The Menu and prices are staggering.
Proxmox only has 4 levels, all licensed by CPU socket! I use Community Support, that get’s me the stable, tested updates.

NethServer is like a good Swiss Army Knife, it can do almost anything, and fairly well. However, there are better tools for certain tasks, like virtualization and firewalling, two things I don’t use NethServer for.

But all my clients DO use a virtuzalized NethServer for similiar or same duties as before a MS SBS did. The last client I migrated this February, just before the lockdown. They were running SBS 2003 (!) high time that was replaced! They now have NethServer running virtually, in a brand new decent HP Proliant 380 Gen10 with 64 GB RAM, storage and Backups are each on a seperate Synology NAS. Next step is out of house Backups, using rsync and a NAS at home of the companys boss.

Note2: Migrating Physical 2 Virtual of MS Windows systems (no matter if workstation or server) is mostly a matter of loading mergeide (A MS Tool!), creating a image (no matter if clonezilla, acronis or whatever tool) and moving the image to the storage NAS.

I’d suggest you look and play around with both products, NethServer as SBS replacement and more, Proxmox for peace of mind virtualization.

One example:
The hotel I planned the network for and run their support uses HP Proliant Servers. One virtualized Server is a Windows 2008 R2 Server, running MS-SQL and the Hotel Application, all corectly licensed.
We demonstrated to the Hotel owner HOW powerful this new Proxmox was by loading a Backup from the virtualized Win2008 server, and loading that on my partners home Proxmox, which he brought along for the show. Now, this Home-Proxmox is a Apple Mac Mini! It has completly different hardware and CPU built in from the Proliant Servers. Using VMWare or Hyper-V, which pass the CPU 1:1, the system would have to be newly licensed, as windows would detect the difference…

Proxmox, however, uses ideally a “virtual” CPU, a KVM-CPU, which is the same on all Proxmox no matter what the real CPU underneath is! The same virtual 100 GB LAN NIC (yes’ i had to look twice, thought 100 MB was slow!!!) and the same grafik. So NO license issues, the licensed Win2008r2 carried on working with NO issues!

Add this flexibility to a 90 second LIVE Migration time from one Proxmox host to another, and you get a very high availability, without yet using full High Availibility (HA), a further option Proxmox offers.

The same goes for your NethServer - after you’ve burned yourself with your FreeBSD server, thought you might like the safety and peace of mind this induces, especially once you’ve tested this through!

As to NethServer: 2 - 75 users, AD, Mail, File, Print, Database, NextCloud, Zabbix Monitoring and more - including Guacamole HTML5 RDP (Home Office for Corona!) - all run extremly stable on Proxmox!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

My 2 cents


:clap: :clap: :clap:

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2 posts were split to a new topic: OPNsense, NethServer and Certificates

I quick question, related to proxmox + nas + vm/windows+sqlserver

Imagine that I need to restart the NAS where the vm is stored.
I wonder if I can pause each VMs running on proxmox+nas and wait for the nas to reboot, then just unpause the VMs without any loss? Especially for those VMs running sql server.

BTW, I have a test VM (windows 2012 r2 + sql server 2008 r2) , that I paused for some minutes, even days and I remember to not perceived any bad effect; of course, the vm is almost not used by anyone just for me for some migrations test.

I’m preparing for when I use a productive VM for our payroll system. (w201x+sql201x)

On second thought, I think the most sensible thing would be to turn off the MV and not play with fire.
I was curious, because just tonight I need to restart the NAS, to see if it shows an application I installed that doesn’t show up to assign permissions.

Sorry for highjacking this topic.


Hola Enrique!

As I’ve mentionned before: I use mostly Synology NAS at my several clients.
These NAS do get updates, maybe 6-9 a year - and these DO need reboots.

Now, your question IS a legit, intelligent question.
If you have heavy traffic, you can do a script which will do the “pausing” for you…
That would be the cleanest way.

But, to be honest, I’ve simply set my Synologys to do the updates automatically over the weekends at 3:00 early in the morning. This takes 2-3 minutes at most. Proxmox can cache the writing to NFS for that amount of time - no one notices!

Additional Note:
My VM Backups are all finished before 03:00, so I’m still on the safe side!

My 2 cents

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:astonished: wow!
Thank you!

One thing I notice with my nethserver VM is that sometimes the VM doesn’t stop when I shutdown it from the GUI, and if I don’t watch and ask the Proxmox Server to restart, it can take as long as 15 minutes (hopefully) or wait forever.
I learned this the hard way, that time I had to run to the office at night and see the server that had already rebooted after +40 minutes.
Having learned this, I now check the VM and if I see that after N minutes it doesn’t shut down, I force the shutdown with “# qm stop 100”

The Zabbix Monitoring (Synology Template) will inform me beforehand that the Synos expect an update, so I am informed.

And we are talking about 25-30 NethServer on Proxmox environments, most also have / use a Windows (member) server for certain tasks/apps.

Stable for more tha 4 years, using Proxmox and Shared Storage on NFS/NAS.

Be sure to always install the QEMU-Guest-Agent - this is much more reliable than a simple ACPI reboot/shutdown!


On NethServer, the issue is often a fail2ban still running.

I also set this for all VMs:

For LXC containers I use 30, respectively 60…

My 2 cents

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Yes, is installed:

Package 10:qemu-guest-agent-2.12.0-3.el7.x86_64 already installed and latest version
Nothing to do

Who knows why my VM that sometimes does not turn off from the GUI?

This is the only VM in production right now, I don’t remember why I put 150 for the startup, something was happening that was the best for this vm.

Check the VM console on Proxmox (Do a planned reboot just to correct this!)…

In my cases, it was often the fail2ban service.
You may need to click in the proxmox console for it to actually show something, but you will see there what’s blocking your reboot/shutdown!

But with the forced shutdown after 180 seconds / 3 minutes, it works well!

Thanks for the advice, I’ll try to check it out the next chance I get. :+1: