I have seen Linux used in a small business setting and thus can share some knowledge. Please see my response below:
> I was thinking about all of the Windows Server "products" (Server/SBS/Exchange/Active Directory, etc) I deal with daily for my job and > thought it would be great to learn the Linux equivalents/alternatives. I then go to thinking about how one could replace Windows in a > small business setting. I did a Google search and saw many people replace their Domain Controller with Samba, but I'm not sure what > the advantage to this is if you are still running Windows on your workstations. Using our clients as an example, I tried to imagine them > running both Linux on their server and Linux on their workstations. I see an issue with this as many use programs that would prohibit > this (Quicken - Accounting, AutoCad - interior design, MS Access based client management program - Insurance Company, etc) and
Open Office is your best bet here. Writer is very good, Calc is ok. Base is, well, not so good (at least the last time I checked: Open Office version 2.4). So essentially if you are using MS Access then forget about using Base. Unfortunately there is NO Open Source replacement for MS Access.
You might want to take a look at KOffice also but personally I have no idea. Someone else might enlighten us on this.
There are very feeble replacements of AutoCad. None that will work in a professional setting. Unless if you can make Blender work for you. Blender is excellent, industry level 3D modeling software. It rivals the best 3D modeling software that the Windows world offers.
I checked online for Quicken Linux version. But unfortunately they don't have a Linux version of their software. But there ARE other accounting software companies that do offer linux based software. I know companies do use linux for their accounting systems. Here is a list that you might find useful:
The one which caught my eye was QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. It might be useful for you if you wish to migrate from Quicken. They have linux support.
I believe you will be able to move to a Linux based accouting system far more easily than being able to replace AutoCad.
> I was curious to see how you are using Linux in a small business setting.
> [*]What Linux software should I look at and learn as equivalents to Microsoft Server products?
Personally I have not seen native Linux Domain Controller server/client setup so I can't really comment on that. But I will try to help you with as many pointers that I can think of being worthwhile to follow.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Debian seem to be the most prominent linux distros for server setups. (At least to me, please correct me if I am wrong)
> [*]What benefit have you seen from replacing a Windows server(s) (DC, AD, Exchange, etc) with a Linux one(s)?
* No licensing fees - free software :) - As you probably know, Windows charges you both for the CALCs on the server PLUS the acutal cost of the Windows workstation you are buying.
* More secure - built-in security using ssh etc.
* Less (way less!) susceptibility to viruses, malware, etc.
* Scalability - If your needs grow, Linux distros are more easliy scalable as compared to Windows (Somebody needs to confirm this). Again you don't need to 'purchase' another license for another Domain controller if you need one in the future.
> [*]What issues and how have you over come them when replacing all computers with Linux based ones?
A LOT of issues. Most, if not all, of the Windows software that you use will not have Linux equivalents. Please look at my comment above.
> [*]What other ways have you seen Linux used in the small business setting?
* Very friendly setup for employees to work from home (more security via ssh etc. - because, as other people here will inform you - RDP is not the most secure protocol :) )
* You have the option to run every type of service that you can imagine on a linux server - FTP, HTTP, NTP, VSFTP, etc with absolutely no special setup. If you know anything about Windows, you know how painful it is to think of installing another piece of software on an existing (running system). With linux, it is a whole lot easier (of course you need experience - a little bit at least :) )
My advice to you is to step into the Linux world by looking into Virtualization. Virtualize your existing Windows servers as Guest OSes on a Linux Host OS. This will set the stage for replacing the workstations and training/convincing your users to use Linux workstations.
Let me know if this advice was useful for you. If you any want other details I will gladly help if I can :)