SuSE is free and not free -- and that is becoming increasingly true among Linux distros.
A few years ago, you could buy SuSE from SuSE GmbH (or whatever) and get some support online and so on. Or you could try to download it over the net (which was difficult because it was pretty big and the ''net'' was not as fast for most of us then as it is today with the proliferation of broadband). Or you could go to one of the Linux ''stores'' and buy for a very very modest few bucks the set of CDs of SuSE or SuSE Pro or whatever others you wanted.
Then you could install SuSE on your computer and get whatever help you needed from SuSE if you had a regged up copy or places like Linux Newbie Org (now justlinux dot org) and eventually get things working nicely.
Then you could use YaST to update online. YaST would contact ftp dot suse dot de and download a list of all the currently available modules and patches and then YaST would scan your system to see which of those you did not already have for things you had installed and come up with a ''shopping list'' which it would then submit to the ftp site and begin the download. The whole process (similar to what Micro$oft uses for WindowsUpdate) was handled in one of your tty sessions without much interfering with other activities.
I would perform this update during the workday while people in the office were being routed to the Internet through the box and while they were sending and receiving Email via the Exim MTA which was also running on the box, etc. It did take a while, but I'm talking about running this on a 90 MHz Pentium with about 80 MB of RAM, so I didn't expect supersonics!
So, we're talking about free as in ''free.''
Then, along comes Novell -- and I don't mean to disparage Novell, but Novell bought SuSE GmbH and decided to make a proprietary system of it.
Now, I want to say this carefully and I am not trying to start an argument. I am not a lawyer, but I'm sure Novell is operating within the law and in accordance with the GPL. But, you cannot get updates any longer unless you purchase from Novell a ''subscription'' (my word for lack of any proper term).
You may obtain the SuSE 9 or 10 or SuSE Open from any number of places as before. You may install it and it will work. But when you use YaST to try to update, the only thing which will be updated is YaST.
For your information, under the previous system as with the current system, YaST itself was (and is) always the first thing updated. At some point, you will be prompted for your registration number which you will not have unless ...
You might still want to do this. For $360 USD more or less, you can get a single-server registration for one year which will include tech support, updates, patches and so on. Novell provides excellent support and my view is that by the end of the year you would have everything pretty well tuned up and maybe decide not to renew.
On the other hand, your one year ''subscription'' includes update protection -- so if SuSE Enterprise Server 10 (or 11) were to be released during your ''subscription'' term, you would get it along with tech support, etc.
For a small business with a single server and twenty to thirty connected ''client'' PCs, that is a very modest charge compared to the $1,500 to $2,000 for NetWare. However, when you bought the NetWare license, you had it forever as long as that version was supported; whereas with the SuSE product, the charge is recurring.
For me, I'm pretty comfortable with the ''free'' versions because there is so much help available.
But, I must admit: my principle reason for selecting SuSE some years ago was that the YaST utility made installation a ''breeze.'' If you got the system running and then tried to do something which needed software you had forgotten to install, you simply called up YaST and searched for the software you needed which it handled seamlessly including dependencies giving you choices if appropriate, and so on. That is still true, but the update feature was important and I have to decide now if I want to pay for that.
I recommend you call Novell's toll-free presales number where a very polite and knowledgeable rep will guide you through the selection process based on your situation. No pressure. I talked to them and even accused them of trying to take a public domain product out of the public domain. My rep defended Novell's actions with good logic and did not get angry or abusive with me.
I hope this makes sense and that I have not made factual errors in my statement of the situation.
By the way, RedHat has done almost identically the same thing.