Since 1.5 years our school uses almost exclusively Open Source software. This step has already saved us more than 5000€ in license costs in this short time. But that’s not our main reason for using open source software. The reasons are as follows:

  • Freedom and independence from a vendor
  • the low administration effort (Ubuntu client vs. Windows 10 client)
  • Flexibility and integration capability of open source programs to adapt them to our existing structures
  • and some more (hardware can be used longer, etc.)

Today I would like to introduce 5 open source programs, which we use and that make life easier for us in the IT everyday life of the school.

Linuxmuster.net

Linuxmuster.net is in my opinion the best free sample solution currently available for schools. It forms the heart of our infrastructure (DNS, DHCP for the LAN, LDAP, Samba, RADIUS). It’s not only the software that’s great, but also the community around this project. I have seldom experienced such a friendly and helpful community that you can really ask about everything to do with school and IT.

A part of Linuxmuster.net is LINBO, a mini OS that allows you to manage all computers in your network. With the help of images you can restore all computers to a defined state at any time (also offline). LINBO does not only support Linux, but also Windows. With the help of postsync-scripts, you can customize the computers individually or room by room without having to maintain 5 different images. For example, we provide teachers’ computers or students’ computers in the classrooms with a different configuration than the computers in the computer lab.

Website: https://linuxmuster.net
Documentation: http://docs.linuxmuster.net
Community: https://ask.linuxmuster.net

pfSense

We use pfSense for our firewall. It is a very reliable, stable, easy to configure firewall that comes with many (Enterprise) features:

  • Captive portal with RADIUS authentication and vouchers
  • SNMP / check_mk integration for our monitoring
  • High availability and hardware redundancy
  • HAProxy (Reverse Proxy) to distribute our subdomains to the right servers
  • Squid (web filter, proxy)

Website: http://pfsense.org/
Documentation: https://doc.pfsense.org/index.php/Main_Page
Community: https://www.pfsense.org/get-involved/

OMD/Check_mk

We have been using the Open Monitor Distribution and Check_mk for one year now. It takes a little time to find your way around the interface, but Check_mk is very powerful and you can use it to monitor pretty much anything. We use it to monitor our entire network infrastructure (switches, firewall, UPS, access points, wireless controllers, printer ink levels) as well as our servers and some clients (digital signage). Furthermore, we also use a plugin that sends a notification to our monitoring channel in case of a problem (currently we still use Slack, but are want to upgrade to Rocket.chator Mattermost).

Website: http://omdistro.org/
Documentation: https://mathias-kettner.de/cms.html

Zammad

We only recently discovered Zammad. It’s the support platform we’ve been dreaming of for a long time. At the beginning we used OSTicket, which also works well but does not have a modern and responsive user interface. Zammad offers us everything we want:

  • LDAP support
  • modern surface
  • many integrations / channels (email, telegram, web,…)

Currently, we use Zammad only for IT inquiries from employees or teachers. In our school we have other forms for repair requests, class trips etc. In the future we want to migrate them to Zammad.

Website: http://zammad.org/
Documentation: Admin-Documentation and User-Documentation

Koha

Since this school year we have been managing our school and teaching materials library with Koha. I had reported on the migration in the last few months. Koha is a very powerful tool for managing libraries and it’s not that easy to get started, because you have to deal with topics like Marc21 and many other bibliographic things to configure Koha correctly. However, you can easily simplify the whole thing without any problems, so that you only use some of the features.

Website: http://koha-community.org/
Documentation: https://koha-community.org/documentation/
Community: https://koha-community.org/support/community-support/

Conclusion

There are a lot of great open source projects and I could mention some more. A school, which runs with almost 100% open source software, is no longer a problem these days. There are many examples of this worldwide. I personally see the biggest obstacles in convincing employees and decision-makers, as well as capable IT employees.

Which open source software do you use in your school or company?


Stephan

Stephan

I'm Stephan. I'm a teacher and IT system administrator in an international school. I love open source software and I used it over a decade in my private and work life. My passion is to solve problems with open source software!

7 Comments

Jo · January 6, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Hi Stephan, I liked your article. Unfortunately, I think (typical FOSS fan problem), it misses the point. All applications are technical, “backend stuff”. None of your described applications will help a single pupil to learn about Physics, Biology, Math…. in a better way than apps available on closed environments. There is a bunch of apps available for example in the Ubuntu software centers, I would very much like to read reviews about them in the future, with honest comparisons to their closed-source counterparts.

    Stephan

    Stephan · January 6, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    @Jo: That’s true. The software listed here is all backend stuff but IMO also very important, because one thing many stumble upon is: How can I manage linux clients? Is there an alternative for Windows Server / AD? In my point of view there are two problems when using open source software in school. It is relatively easy to install OSS on Windows / macOS / Ubuntu, but it completely different how to manage that “in the backend”.

    I want to list software that is useful for the students, but also projects that make it easy for a system administrator to manage a school. Often this person is a teacher and does not have 8 hours per day to run a school network.

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