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What is ClearOS? Introduction to ClearOS

ClearOS is a CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux based small business server operating system with server, networking, and gateway features. It is primarily intended for use in homes, small, medium, and distributed environments. ClearOS is a low-cost Linux alternative to Windows Small Business Server.

ClearOS offers a very robust set of tools organized in an easy to navigate web based user interface.

ClearOS debuted in May 2000 as ClarkConnect, an innovative and user-friendly Linux-based operating system with a simple web-based GUI and automatic updates via a Service Delivery Network. In addition to the thousands of Linux and open source developers and community members, the developers of ClarkConnect (Peter Baldwin and Ben Chambers) still continue to maintain and grow ClearOS today.

ClearOS is free to use, but paid subscriptions that improve services and support are also available. ClearOS editions are as follows:

  • Community Edition is free and includes available open source updates and patches from its upstream sources.

  • Home Edition is ideal for home offices.

  • Business Edition is ideal for small businesses, due to the inclusion of paid support.

ClearOS professional support services can be purchased from ClearCenter.

Currently, ClearOS offers around 135 different features.

In this article, we will briefly cover the following topics listed below:

  • History of ClearOS
  • What is ClearOS?
  • Why should you use ClearOS?
  • Features of the ClearOS
  • Installation of the ClearOS
  • Pros and Cons of the ClearOS
  • Usage examples of the ClearOS

History of ClearOS#

ClarkConnect was the original name of the ClearOS and was first released in November 2000 by Point Clark Networks which is a Canadian company. This release had a dynamic DNS service and basic software update service features.

In 2009, ClearFoundation was a New Zealand company founded with the goal of developing and maintaining ClearOS using an open-source model that is Simple, Secure, and Affordable. The foundation was established to ensure that every small business and distributed IT environment around the world has access to enterprise-grade IT security, privacy, filtration, and management tools. ClearCenter was also founded in 2009 and is based in Orem, Utah. ClearCenter's primary goal is to commercialize ClearOS and other open-source applications and services developed by the company or by members of the open-source community. After ClearCenter bought the ClarkConnect and Point Clark Networks, ClearFoundation released the ClearOS 5.1 that is the successor of the ClarkConnect 5.0 in September 2009.

What is ClearOS?#

ClearOS is a simple, open and affordable operating system, with an intuitive web-based graphical user interface and a marketplace with over 100 applications to choose from, with more being added every day. By leveraging open source software, you decide which apps you need and only pay for the apps and support you want. - ClarkConnect

ClearOS, formerly ClarkConnect, is an all-in-one Linux server solution available in a variety of configurations. It is based on CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is intended for use as a network gateway and network server in small and medium-sized businesses, with a web-based administration interface. The software is developed by ClearFoundation, and support services are provided by ClearCenter.

ClearOS 6.1 is a full-featured operating system for gateway, network, and servers based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux source packages.

ClearOS provides a modern, flexible and scalable operating system. This is accomplished by downloading applications from the ClearOS Marketplace. Many of the applications are free and included with all distribution editions. Others can be purchased to enhance the server's functionality.

ClearOS is available in three different editions. Also, ClearCenter provides preinstalled ClearOS appliances for a complete hardware and software solution.

ClearOS Community Edition: This edition is an open-source Linux server operating system designed for Linux experts and developers who want to be on the cutting edge of OS development while also providing suggestions and forum support to a global user community. All updates, bug fixes, patches, and security fixes are provided free but not supported. The Community Edition has a six-month lifecycle and patches, bug fixes, and new updates are tested on live servers. This operating system is ideal for hobbyists and Linux experts, but it is not intended for use in a production environment.

More than 75 IT functions are supported, including domain control, network and bandwidth control, messaging, and more by this edition free forever and manageable on the cloud.

ClearOS Community Web GUI

Figure 1. ClearOS Community Web GUI

ClearOS Home Edition: The Home Edition is more feature-rich and stable than the Community Edition. It has a low subscription fee but provides quality tested code as well as lifecycle support for five years. This version of ClearOS is an ideal choice for a Smart Home server.ClearOS Home Web GUI

Figure 2. ClearOS Home Web GUI

ClearOS Business Edition: This edition is distinguished by its reliability and functionality from other editions. It is intended for use in a production environment and has been quality tested and optimized to achieve peak performance.

ClearOS Business Web GUI

Figure 3. ClearOS Business Web GUI

Community EditionHome EditionBusiness Edition
Free ForeverPaidPaid No User Fees
Community Driven, Open Source EditionHome Filtration & Protection ServicesThreat Protection Services
Participates in Upstream New Code TestingMedia Server Functions Built-InPerformance Optimization Tuning
Is NOT Designed for Production UseQuality Tested Updated & Security FixesQuality Tested Updated & Security Fixes Quality Tested Code Only
Is NOT Professionally Supported (forums only)Is NOT Professionally Supported Quality Tested Code OnlyFully Supported via ClearCARE 1
Designed for Linux Expert / Hobbyist UseDesigned for Home UseDesigned for Production Use

ClearVM is another version of the operating system that is intended for use in virtualized environments.

ClearOS Appliances

ClearCenter provides a line of hybrid appliances that are intended to meet a variety of requirements. A ClearBOX appliance can be used as a network file server, mail server, applications server, or Internet security appliance. It also has optional wireless capability.

There are currently two models in the ClearBOX series.

  • ClearBOX 100 Hybrid Gateway Appliance.
  • ClearBOX 300 Hybrid Network Appliance.

These appliances both come with a one-year subscription to ClearOS Business and are well-equipped with Intel processors and plenty of memory.

 clearBOX100 appliance

Figure 4. clearBOX100 appliance

Why Use ClearOS?#

We will explain top reasons to use ClearOS in your IT infrastructure below:

Easy to use and rich server applications: ClearOS is a low-cost, dependable Linux operating system based on CentOS that is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. It features an easy-to-use web-based user interface and an application marketplace with 100+ essential applications such as firewall, anti-virus/anti-spam, content filtering, file/print, web, mail, media, remote backup, and more.

Reliability and dependability: ClearOS has been in production for 17 years, has over 400,000 global deployments, is translated into over 80 languages, and is available in over 150 countries. ClearOS is a reliable operating system due to its maturity and connection to CentOS.

Free and paid services: ClearOS, ClearOS updates, and over 85 applications are all available for free. Patches and fixes that have been tested and qualified, as well as a few paid apps and support, are available with a per-server subscription. Also, individual applications and support incidents may be purchased.

MS Active Directory integration: You can install ClearOS as a directory server or integrate your ClearOS seamlessly with Microsoft Active Directory via the Microsoft Active Directory Sync application.

Reliable gateway and security solution: Many people are turning to ClearOS as a dependable gateway and security solution (firewall, IDS/IPS, content filtering) to replace expensive name brand gateway and security systems.

All-in-one server: ClearOS is widely used as a multi-function server (all-in-one) to meet the majority or all of the needs of small and medium-sized businesses and remote branch offices.

Intelligent integration: Applications on ClearOS are intelligently integrated, which means that any dependencies between applications or the operating system are accounted for and resolved automatically.

Automatic Updates: Since ClearOS applications are intelligently integrated, updates are applied automatically. You can, however, choose to schedule updates if you prefer.

Web GUI: ClearOS provides a web-based user interface. Therefore, you can easily access your server from anywhere, anytime from a web browser.

What are the Features of ClearOS?#

You can find the features of the ClearOS below.

Cloud Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • Dropbox Synx
  • Dynamic DNS
  • Remote Security Audit (Paid Application)
  • Remote Data Backup (Paid Application)
  • Remote System Monitor (Paid Application)
  • Google Apps Account Sync (Paid Application)
  • Antimalware Signatures for Business (Paid Application)
  • Antimalware Signatures for Home (Paid Application)
  • Anti Spam Signatures for Business (Paid Application)
  • Anti Spam Signatures for Home (Paid Application)
  • Content Filter Blacklists for Business (Paid Application)
  • Content Filter Blacklists for Home (Paid Application)
  • IDS Signatures for Business (Paid Application)
  • IDS Signatures for Home (Paid Application)
  • Software Repository (Paid Application)
  • Software Updates (Paid Application)

Gateway Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • Gateway Anti Phishing
  • Gateway Antivirus
  • Premium Gateway Anti Malware by Kaspersky (Paid Application)
  • Content Filter Engine
  • DNSthingy (Paid Application)
  • Web Access Control
  • Web Proxy Server
  • Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (Paid Application)
  • Intrusion Detection System
  • Intrusion Prevention System

Network Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • Bandwidth & QoS Manager
  • 1-to-1 NAT Firewall
  • Custom Firewall
  • DMZ Firewall
  • Egress Firewall
  • Incoming Firewall
  • Port Forwarding
  • Network Map
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • NTP Server
  • RADIUS Server
  • SSH Server
  • UPnP
  • OpenVPN
  • ibVPN
  • PPTP Server
  • Static IPsec VPN for Home
  • Static IPsec VPN for Business (Paid Application)
  • IP Settings
  • Multi-WAN
  • Upstream Proxy

Server Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • MariaDB Database Server
  • Directory Server
  • Microsoft Active Directory Connector (Paid Application)
  • Antimalware File Scanner
  • FTP Server
  • Flexshare
  • ownCloud for Business (Paid Application)
  • ownCloud for Home
  • Photo Organizer
  • Plex Media Server
  • Serviio Media Server
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client
  • Windows Networking (Samba)
  • Advanced Print Server
  • Greylisting
  • IMAP & POP Server
  • Mail Antispam
  • Mail Antivirus
  • Mail Archive (Paid Application)
  • Mail Retrieval
  • Premium Mail Antimalware by Kaspersky (Paid Application)
  • Roundcube Webmail (Paid Application)
  • SMTP Server
  • Zarafa Community
  • Zarafa Small Business
  • Web Server

System Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • Account Import
  • Account Manager
  • Administrators
  • Certificate Manager
  • ClearOS Marketplace
  • Dashboard
  • Date and Time
  • Dropbox User Account
  • Groups
  • Mail Settings
  • Master / Slave Synchronization
  • Password Policies
  • Services
  • Software RAID Manager
  • Storage Manager
  • Support
  • System Registration
  • User Certificates
  • User Profile
  • Users

Reporting Features of the ClearOS are as follows:

  • Event and Notifications
  • Bandwidth Viewer
  • Disk Usage Report
  • Log Viewer
  • Network Report
  • Network Visualizer
  • Process Viewer
  • Resource Report
  • SMART Monitor
  • System Report
  • Filter and Proxy Report

ClearOS Features

Figure 5. ClearOS Features

What are the Benefits of ClearOs?#

ClearOS has a variety of pros that suits very well especially for home and small/medium-sized businesses. We have already mentioned some advantages that encourage you to use the ClearOS above. We will again emphasize the most important benefits of the ClearOS in the following list.

Fully integrated and comprehensive IT solution: ClearOS includes a number of open-source products to provide a fully integrated and comprehensive IT solution. This means you gain access to tens of thousands of hours of development and millions of users testing new code and features. Depending on the environment in which you intend to run ClearOS, there is a variety of editions designed to provide unrivaled value for your IT needs. ClearOS provides all required Server Applications, Gateway Security Functions, and Network Protocols, which are all easily installable via the ClearOS Marketplace.

Simple, secure, and affordable: Main advantage of the ClearOS is that it is a simple, secure, and affordable all-in-one IT solution at any Scale. It provides free or low-cost and simple IT for your small business. You may consolidate your IT environment to one device with one user-friendly interface by using ClearOS. You can also manage servers, networks, and gateway with one device at an affordable cost. Since it is cheap and secure, it may be an excellent solution for elementary schools and charitable organizations.

Centralized management: Provides centralized management on the cloud portal for your IT on both premise and cloud.

No additional cost: You pay only for what you need. As indicated above. ClearOS Community edition is free and provides you more than 75 applications that can be used for your gateway, server, and network requirements. To get benefits of additional features of the ClearOS you may buy the application that you need from the marketplace or subscribe to one of the paid Editions

Suited to your requirements: ClearOS has a growing online store of 100+ applications and services, You may quickly browse in the online store and select the applications to install on your server. This collection of free and fee-based applications enables small and medium-sized businesses to download, install, and pay for only the applications and services they require and value.

Appliance-free: ClearOS installs on the most widely used hardware computing platform today, giving you the flexibility to choose hardware to meet a wide range of applications and budgets.

User-friendly Web GUI: ClearOS's simple web-based interface reduces management tasks to a minimum, automates repetitive tasks, and allows IT management to be completed in less time from any location, allowing it to meet the needs of the most complex network requiring multiple services.

Security: For any small business, security is a top priority. ClearOS will ensure that your digital assets are secure from unauthorized access and easily accessible when you need them, whether your organization requires a firewall for front-line network defense, an Intrusion Detection/Prevention system for secondary defense, or a Virtual Private Network for secure remote access.

What are Cons of ClearOS?#

Although ClearOS has many benefits, it also has some drawbacks which may prevent you use it in your infrastructure.

The biggest disadvantage of ClearOS is that Community Edition is not robust enough for production environments as it is not tested and professionally supported. It can be used only by Linux experts and hobbyists. If you want to use ClearOS in your production environment and need professional support, you have to buy Bussiness Edition.

Another disadvantage is the lack of up-to-date documentation. You may not find all of your needs about the product neither on the website nor on the official documentation. Product documentation is not updated quite often.

Also, during installation, you must register your server even if you are just using the Community Edition. This could be a problem if you care about your privacy.

How to Setup ClearOS?#

As it is incredibly simple, you won't have any problem with the installation of ClearOS. You may have your ClearOS up and running in about 20 minutes (which included post-install wizard and platform updates). After finishing the base install, the post-install wizard, and the updates, you may add applications from the ClearOS Marketplace. For more information about how to install ClearOS, please refer to the ClearOS Installation tutorial.

What are Usage Examples of ClearOS?#

ClearOS is an operating system platform that can be run on dedicated hardware or in a virtual environment at home, office, or datacenter. ClearOS can be configured in a variety of ways, including as a dedicated firewall/gateway, a standalone file server, or in a hybrid role known as an Internet Appliance. ClearOS allows you to choose the options best suited to your organization's specific needs, whether you need a server to host your IT infrastructure or a secure gateway to the Internet. ClearOS's modular, scalable approach allows it to be configured to meet your business requirements today while also expanding to meet your business needs tomorrow.

If you're looking for a Linux solution for your infrastructure needs, here are some implementations where ClearOS is a great choice.

Implementing ClearOS as an Internet Gateway: When you use ClearOS with a WAN connection, you can use it as a gateway to your ISP. With the tools included in the distribution, you can share Internet access and protect all network-connected computers while providing the users with a stable, fast web experience. ClearOS makes it simple to add wireless capability and fully supports it.

Running ClearOS as a small business server: Small businesses or startups usually need to find cheap solutions for their IT infrastructures because of having limited budgets. Therefore, they prefer using an open-source system to run their business server. ClearOS provides the following functionalities that are critical for a business server:

  • File and print services
  • Email services
  • Database and web server
  • Virtual private networking
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • DNS Server
  • DHCP Server
  • Built-in reporting for system statistics and services

Additionally, all of these services can be managed from a web interface, simplifying system administration. Every service can be started, halted, and configured on the same GUI.

Implementing ClearOS as a Firewall: ClearOS provides a user-friendly interface which is one of the distinguishing features. Moreover, it is one of the best open-source firewalls currently available. ClearOS firewall provides the following features to secure the network infrastructures against cyber attacks.

  • Stateful firewall (iptables)
  • Web proxy, with content filtering and antivirus (Squid, DansGuardian)
  • Intrusion detection and prevention system (SNORT)
  • Virtual private networking (IPSEC, PPTP, OpenVPN)

Since ClearOS installation and configuration are simple, you can get your ClearOS firewall up and running quickly to protect your network.

Implementing ClearOS a network platform: ClearOS may facilitate core network services to make network management easier.

Implementing ClearOS as a cloud platform: ClearOS may enable you to integrate with cloud services as well as become your own cloud services provider for your workstations

All-in-one solution: A versatile all-in-one solution that can do everything listed above or something completely different.