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Linux as a File Server

Posted by: John M.      20 Nov 2011 @ 12:30
Linux as a File Server

Hi
We are a small business with 4 employees each with his own PC working on XP Pro. We have a file server that is getting long in the tooth and I wish to replace it with a newer model. I have heard much about Linux as a File server rather than windows. What experience have readers of this forum have in moving over to Linux for file serving, and it is wise or unwise?

Reply by: Alan B. PCIQ IT ProfessionalIT Professional in Cambridge, CB22      20 Nov 2011 @ 13:07
RE: Linux as a File Server

Well you will have to shop around for a new machine that does not come with Windows pre-installed (so as not to waste your money) and you will have to know at least a little Linux to set-up and run the new machine (or be able to call on the services of someone who does). If you want to do everything in-house, do not know Linux, only want to use it for this purpose and cost your learning time at your work hourly rate, then I do not think the proposition is economic.

By the way, the most important aspect of a file server is that it runs some sort of backup, ideally an automatic backup that would cope if the hard drive fails or the machine is stolen or the whole office burns down in a fire. So think ahead about how you would achieve that.

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Reply by: Jon S. PCIQ IT ProfessionalIT Professional in Morecambe, LA3      20 Nov 2011 @ 13:19
RE: Linux as a File Server

with only four users I'd argue that the case for a dedicated file server is small. Personally I'd look at a cheap "NAS" (Networked Addressed Storage) system - basically a big networked hard drive running its own operating systems
Big question though is how you handle your e-mail: if you're using collaboration tools like Outlook / Exchange then maybe you do need a server
I recently came across Zentyal - which claims to be a Linux alternative to Windows Small Business Server and MAY give you what you need. You'll need to buy a machine to run it on - you can get cheap servers from Dell with no preloaded OS
Word of warning - I've nver used Zentyal soake this as just a possible suggestion, not a recommendation
http://www.zentyal.com/en/server/

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Reply by: Alan D. PCIQ IT ProfessionalIT Professional in Oakham, LE15      20 Nov 2011 @ 15:59
RE: Linux as a File Server

The first thing to identify is why you need a File Server. Is it just for shared data, in which case a dedicated NAS box would be cheaper and easier to set up, or is it to run things like mail server, and/or a web server, and/or a shared database?

Using a modern linux distribution for simple file sharing, printer sharing etc is fairly straightforward. Many of the distro's will prompt you during set up for the facilities required, and install the necessary modules for you.

More critical is the choice of hardware. You may want to consider RAID disks to reduce the chance of data loss, and certainly need to consider backup facilities whether to an external hard disk or tape. The important things then are 1) make sure the backups are held elsewhere, and 2) test that they are working and can be restored.

If knowledge of Linux is an issue, you may find a local PC shop that will build and configure the system for you, and do some training on the ongoing maintenance.

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