While many people think of enterprise computers in terms of systems running Windows or MacOS, there have long been millions of enterprise users running a GNU/Linux-based enterprise Linux distribution and entire industries where all employees run Linux. While sometimes this is for philosophical reasons, often it’s also for practical reasons: a Linux desktop is the ideal development environment for instance, for writing software for the Linux servers that dominate the cloud.
Picking hardware for the enterprise that runs Linux can be challenging for IT departments, but the Librem 14 is a drop-in replacement for any existing enterprise Linux laptop and makes deploying Linux in the enterprise easy. In this post we will outline some of the reasons why the Librem 14 is the ideal laptop for enterprise Linux.
In addition to its sleek, professional lines, and minimalist branding, the Librem 14 offers unique security features like hardware kill switches, and tamper-evident PureBoot boot firmware that set it apart from other laptops on the market. These features not only dramatically increase security, but also are designed to work out of the box with Linux.
The Librem 14 also offers hardware features that have sadly, recently become pretty unique: ports! Many laptops have decided that you should only have one or possibly two USB ports, and that everything else should be served by hubs and dongles. This means IT departments have to fill each conference room with a variety of dongles and employees have to make sure to pack dongles in their over-crowded laptop case when traveling.
In addition to two USB-A and two USB-C ports, the Librem 14 also offers a full-sized HDMI port and even an integrated Ethernet port for gigabit networking. This means no need to carry around a bunch of dongles when traveling, whether that’s on a business trip, to a coffee shop, or to a conference room.
Many enterprise customers tell us that one of the main reasons they picked the Librem 14 over other products is our secure boot process, using our PureBoot tamper-evident boot firmware and our USA-made Librem Key USB security token. Other boot security measures secure the boot process with vendor-owned keys. The enterprise customer must anchor their trust in the security of the vendor’s keys, with little influence over the security of those keys, or which binaries the vendor will sign. As a result, those computers will only boot enterprise Linux distributions in secure boot mode if they have permission from the vendor. If you happen to use a Linux distribution that hasn’t gone through the process of getting signed, you can either disable secure boot (if your UEFI interface allows it), or switch to a distribution that does.
With PureBoot, you hold the keys, both literally in the case of the Librem Key, and in the fact that all of the keys that secure the boot process are fully under your control. You can change keys at any time, and either opt for a model where the IT team controls signatures and keys, or you delegate that control to employees. In either case, when an employee boots their computer, they insert their Librem Key and if it blinks green, the computer is safe. If it blinks red, they know the computer has been tampered with.
Because PureBoot is free software, you can also customize it to suit your enterprise. Customization could be as simple as adding company branding or adding company-specific error messages (with IT contact information), or as sophisticated as modifying PureBoot policy to block employees from booting a system if it detects tampering or block booting from USB.
The biggest challenge for enterprise Linux for IT departments is hardware support. While overall, the Linux kernel supports a lot of hardware, a lot of IT departments face the challenge of getting all the features of a particular laptop supported. Even if a vendor pre-installs an enterprise Linux distribution as an option, the reality is that most are just selling a Windows laptop that they happened to get Linux running on. This means support for something other than Windows on their laptops is often lackluster, if they offer it at all.
There’s no guarantee all of the features on a Windows-first laptop will be supported when using even their pre-installed Linux distribution, much less if you switch to something else. So even if the network card might work, perhaps some of the media hotkeys on the keyboard don’t. Even if it suspends, it might not wake up. The result of vendors prioritizing Windows on their hardware is that when it’s time for IT to refresh their fleet of Linux laptops, they first must spend a lot of time doing research and testing on new models to find out which new models will actually work.
The Librem 14 was designed to run Linux and to run Linux well out of the box. We choose components that work with 100% free software and Linux support as our top priority. This means that hotkeys, ports, and switches work as you’d expect. All of these features are also fully supported by our team, who use Linux every day and help customers far beyond standard questions and even field questions that dive into the technical inner workings of the operating system.
When you are managing a fleet of enterprise laptops, repairability is an important concern. Employees can sometimes be hard on laptops and sometimes accidents happen. Ultimately, IT departments often end up with a stack of computers with some broken component. Yet many modern laptops have sacrificed repairability for thinness. Screws are hidden (or require special screwdrivers), and as much hardware as possible is soldered onto the motherboard (sometimes even including RAM and hard drives) so when there’s a failure in one component, there’s not much an IT department can do apart from RMA the entire laptop (if it’s still under warranty).
We support the Right to Repair and even move beyond right to repair in how we approach our hardware. The Librem 14 uses standard philips screws and we don’t hide them. The RAM, hard drive, WiFi card, and battery are all replaceable once you remove the bottom case.
We default to PureOS as our preferred OS for the Librem 14, and offer QubesOS as well for security-minded customers. Yet because PureOS uses 100% free software, including drivers, that means that any other popular enterprise Linux distribution works out of the box. There’s no need for special drivers tied to a particular kernel to get your preferred enterprise distribution on a Librem 14, which means it’s a drop-in replacement for any other hardware you’ve used in the past. This also means there’s fewer headaches when it’s time to upgrade your preferred distribution.
Many IT departments, particularly those that manage larger fleets of laptops, often develop their own, custom in-house Linux distribution with internal tools and configuration. When these departments evaluate laptop upgrades, they must always keep this in-house distribution in mind and budget time not just for testing, but possibly also changes and upgrades, to get new hardware mostly working. Since the Librem 14 is a Linux-first laptop, installing an in-house distribution is simple.
When you combine the unique hardware features, secure boot process, hardware support, repairability, and software support, you can see why we think the Librem 14 is the ideal laptop for enterprise Linux. Now that we’ve moved away from “just in time” in favor of maintaining large Librem 14 stock, we can accommodate enterprise orders of all sizes without delay. If you’d like to order a fleet of Librem 14s, either order directly from our shop page, or contact our sales team.
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