Linux saved my afternoon

We had a scheduled downtime for our network infrastructure yesterday late afternoon. Our utilities company had to turn off the power for half an hour, so we took the opportunity to do some rewiring and some recalibration work on our USV. When power was restored, we booted the servers, switches, routers and PBX again – only to find out that our mailserver did not boot up again.
It turned out to be a complete hardware collapse: there were not even beep codes, the DVD drive door jerked in strange motions, and the three LED’s on the PC semi-flashed in strange patterns. Even without any cards attached, and even with all drives and the RAM unplugged, the system did not show any reaction. It was well after 6am by then, and my colleague and I tried to think of a solution. The mailserver is not THAT critical since mail gets re-delivered for 5 days – this would even be enough including the Labour Day holiday on Monday. But we had colleagues on business travel in the USA and they did rely on the mailserver.
Then it occured to me that the mailserver was a Linux machine. So I asked my colleague (who is in charge of our PC infrastructure) for a spare PC, and we simply transplanted the Linux PC’s harddrive into the spare PC. After that 5 minute action, the new mailserver booted without any fuss. It did not initialize the internal gigabit LAN, so we shut it down again, disabled the LAN in the BIOS, plugged in the network card from the “dead” mailserver and booted again. Voilá – the new mailserver was up and running!
This “heart-transplant” took less than 20 minutes. Just imagine this task with a Windows based PC. The old mailserver was some 3 years old and had completely different hardware compared to the new one. A Windows installation on the old system would have been impossible to transplant into the new system. So we would have needed to install a new Windows which by itself would have taken up 30-45 minutes. Then we would have had to install the mailserver software itself and configure it properly. Even a best-case scenario would have required at least 2 hours for this task. Instead of at least 120 minutes, we needed 20 minutes. Even though I like Windows as a desktop OS, I really see no single reason to use it as a server OS, and this incident has shown my point quite impressively.

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