OpenSolaris for the Small Office / Home Office

Screenshot-1My primary computer for my small business/home office is now running OpenSolaris.

I made the switch for several reasons.  One is that I am a computer science professional and a person familiar with cyber security threats and I have lots of concerns over the state of security of traditional OSs .  Another reason is cost.  Another reason was an assessment of what I need in a computer .  I have to admit, part of the reason was for fun and maybe some bragging rights, but please don’t let that stop you from reading on.

Here is a little more info on each of those areas:

Security: There is no such thing as the perfectly secure computer.  Both hardware and software can be compromised.  But history has shown the software defect rate of Windows is far higher than Open Source systems like Linux and OpenSolaris.   I have Windows on some of my computers at home but I don’t keep things on them that are of value except for one computer that runs Quickbooks, and I take extra measures to protect that system (like keeping it constantly patched, unplugged when not in use, and of course backing up the data).  I also use Macs.  In practice they are more secure than Windows based systems but even they need to be constantly patched and the applications that run on Macs can also be vulnerable to exploits (Safari, for example).   OpenSolaris will also require patching I’m sure (remember the mantra, there is no such thing as a perfectly secure system), but as a system with security designed in from the begining and a system with a formal open source review process its security is much much higher.

Cost: If you are a home user, OpenSolaris is free (enterprise users will want a support license).   So is the full featured office automation suite OpenOffice.  You still need hardware, but it runs on most hardware that has been made over the last five years or so (consult the OpenSolaris site for more details).  I loaded it on my oldest PC.  It was a Dell from four years ago.  Doing that meant I was able to get a fully functioning, full featured system that does what I need and is secure and, it is FREE!   If I would have gotten the iMac I was thinking about it would have cost me over $2100.00.  That is a huge savings for any small office.

Functionality: The most important application I need on a system is Firefox, because I do so much stuff in the cloud.  Of course you get that with OpenSolaris.  I also run OpenOffice in case I need to do some offline office automation. I have a handful of other tools too, but those are the big ones I needed.  So far the only functionality I think you can’t get on OpenSolaris that you can get on Windows or Mac is iTunes and Quickbooks.  I might run those in windows in a virtual box on my OpenSolaris system.  Or maybe I’ll just keep a Windows box around for that purpose.

Fun: Ok, this is where it is ok to say I’m nuts.  But I like learning new things on and about computers and this is a great way to learn about a great OS.  It is also a great way to learn about enterprise class open source storage systems (ZFS) and open source virtualization (especially VirtualBox).  If you are ready to dive in and have some fun, you can order your CD of the OS for free at:

In the near term I’ll give some more installation tips if you are planning on taking this path for your small office or home office.

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About Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the publisher of and and the new analysis focused Analyst One Bob's background is as an all source intelligence analyst and an enterprise CTO. Find him on Twitter at @BobGourley

  • lewis shepherd

    Stop trying to provoke me! :)

    I'll let this one pass without comment, just because I know you're sincere about the "having fun installing & learning a new OS" part :)

    • Bob Gourley


      I'm re-reading my post wondering why you think it was written with you in mind. Could it be because I did not say Windows was the best, most secure operating system available? I didn't mean for that to sound too harsh, we all love our windows desktops and Microsoft is doing better and better about security. But don't even think about entering a debate on whether or not it is in the same category as Linux (any flavor) or Unix (any flavor) or OpenSolaris when it comes to security. The facts are in.

      But, back to the fun part, I thought you or someone was going to ask my why I didn't install Ubantu. It has a GREAT user experience and a large community of developers. I've played with previous versions a bit and will be running version 9.04 soon in a virtual box.


  • Peter Bartram


    Interesting writeup…I've been a big fan of Solaris for years for Internet servers. I'll soon be trying OpenSolaris. I also run OSX on one Apple Mac and several flavors of Linux and some Solaris.

    In my office I've been running Vista since 2007 on a few Lenovo PCs with TPM chips (required if you want to prevent any future BIOS attacks)and fingerprint readers. I am looking forward to Windows 7 for my Lenovo tablet which has a touch screen. Windows 7 runs much faster on the same hardware. Finally Microsoft made an announcement that they will be offering up improved anti-Malware which if used with Windows 7 should be a great improvement on the security front.


    For open source Linux I recommend the site

    where you can also get Open Solaris:



    • Bob Gourley

      Thanks much Peter. I saw the Microsoft press release and that is good news I think. I'm also hearing good news about Windows 7.



  • George Peterson

    This is indeed very helpful, very nice! thanks

    But have you also ever heard of SSuite Office software?

    They have a whole range of office and business software including invoicing and calendar diaries that are free for download.

    • Bob Gourley

      George, thanks for the link. But I'm not sure if that SSuite provides any enhanced functionality over either Open Office or Google Apps. I'm probably going to stick with those two since they are really full featured and get the job done in well integrated ways.

  • bflores


    I don't think you're crazy, but your math is off a bit. Any time you buy a traditional (comes with an OS loaded) PC, part of the cost goes to pay for the OS license. Granted, it's not all that much (relative to the total cost), but if you remove that OS it still means you've thrown out some money. Of course, if you build your own machine, or you are upgrading an old one (as you did), then my position is not as strong.

    I'm a big believer in open source; but I also believe there's no free lunch!

    • Bob Gourley

      Bob, Thanks, I know you are right. I did pay money for that PC and they did charge me for the XP license. But in defense of my calculus, the PC I put Open Solaris on was just sitting around doing little and was almost worthless to me.