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Peer to peer file server needed

I want to install a file server in a peer to peer environment (XP Machines). Right now files are being shared from an XP machine. Security is decent, for what they want, but every so often access to the shared folders craps out.
I want to install a file server on the network, but I want to avoid creating a domain. I just want a file server to store their documents while providing thorough/stable security.
Can I go with Redhat, or some other Linux flavor. I don't have any experience with Linux. But I'm confident that I can learn.
Or is there an even better solution?
Thanks.
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effincomputers
Asked:
effincomputers
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2 Solutions
 
purplepomegraniteCommented:
If you don't want the hassles of a domain, Linux probably is your best bet.

I presonally prefer Suse Linux, as I think it has a more user-friendly interface - but this is antirely a matter of personal choice, pretty much any flavour of Linux can do what you want.

You will want to run Samba to handle the windows user authentication - this should be installed by default with most distributions, but just be aware during the install and ensure the box is ticked for it!

I have noticed on peer-peer networks that if a specific computer is designated as a file-server it can cause issues as the number of users increases.   Desktop OSs such as Win2k Pro and XP Pro are limited on the number of connections they can handle, which is Microsoft "by design".  Obviously the reason for this is that Microsoft recommend using a server to do this if you have more than a few users!
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rindiCommented:
Either use some linux, or you could buy a simple, small box, similar to the one in the link. To that you can add a disk, and you manage it via a webinterface. This is simple to use (also based on linux, although you won't get to know linux using this box) and cheap.

The Homepage language is german, but the pdf's are english.

http://www.claxan.de/de/prod_list.asp?GRPID=6&TOPNAVID=3
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purplepomegraniteCommented:
Very good point.  The term to search for is NAS - Network Attached Storage.  Many boxes are available that will work straight out of the box, no need to install OS or anything like that.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&q=nas+network+attached+storage&btnG=Search&meta=
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effincomputersAuthor Commented:
Will a NAS box provide any authentication?

Also, I'd want to simplify the backup procedure, that's why I shyed away from a NAS.
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purplepomegraniteCommented:
NAS can provide authentication, or they can tie in with an authentication server on an existing network.  This is very dependent upon the particular NAS device you go for, so you'd have to check the specs.  Backing up NAS can be done over the network, though some devices again have backup facility built in.
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effincomputersAuthor Commented:
I think I want to take the opportunity to get some Linux experience. If I went with Suse, or Redhat, etc.....would I get the enterprise version? Or can this be done with a scaled down version?
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purplepomegraniteCommented:
It can be done with the standard distros - file-sharing is pretty basic, fortunately.

I would download the latest distribution of your choice from the developer's website and start playing. With the enterprise versions I believe you get support included, so it is up to you if you want to pay for that.  If you are money conscious you could start by downloading the distro of choice, and if you run into problems maybe pay for the support.

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purplepomegraniteCommented:
Oh hang on, Novell took over Suse... forgot about that!  Let me check...
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rindiCommented:
I think the claxan NAS which I mentioned above also has USB ports. You could use backup devices which connect to those ports, like Iomega's Rev.

If you want to build a linux box yourself, it isn't necessary to get an enterprise product for what you are going to use it. The enterprise versions usually mainly give you more support, but otherwise are similar to the plain person product. All you need is some linux distro, of which probably SuSE, Mandrake or Fedora-Core are the simplest to install (Fedora-Core is the free version of Red-Hat), and then you'd have to install Samba Server, which emulates a windows nt or 2000 server. The above mentioned products should already include Samba in their distro, so it should be enough to just select that during the installation. SuSE probably is one of the easiest Distro's to get Samba configured on.
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purplepomegraniteCommented:
Yes, for Suse the eval version is in fact the free version: http://www.novell.com/products/linuxprofessional/downloads/ftp/eval.html

When I saw they had changed the terminology to eval, I presumed they had put a time limit on it!  It appears not however.

If you choose a distribution that doesn't contain Samba, Samba itself is open-source and can be downloaded independently from here: http://www.samba.org/samba/download/
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effincomputersAuthor Commented:
When Samba is used, will it emulate a Ms Server so much that my clients will have to use different profiles as their machines are configured to log into Samba? I'd like to avoid going through the process of duplicating the exact desktop environment that they're using right now.
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rindiCommented:
It depends how you configure Samba. You can do almost anything with it.
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purplepomegraniteCommented:
No, they won't have to change profiles once you have set Samba up.  They will basically see the shared drive as another windows network resource, as if there were another WIndows computer on the network.
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effincomputersAuthor Commented:
Very cool. I think I'm going to go with Linux/Samba. Thanks to everybody!!!
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effincomputersAuthor Commented:
One more thing, if I could....how do I find out hardware compatibility lists for the different flavors of Linux?
Thanks.
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rindiCommented:
Thanx,

HCLs for linux? I'm not sure if you can find any such thing. Generally you'd just have to try it. A modern Distro will take most hardware, although there may be some issues with Wireless Lan adapters, Printers only supporting the Windows Printing System, etc. But, for most you'll find some way to get it working. What you can do is download knoppix, a debian flavored distro which is complete and workable directly from CD, so it isn't necessary to install anything, it just boots, autoconfigures any hardware, and then runs. With this you can test your hardware before starting an installation. You could even use that as your distro by using a script on the CD to install it to your PC. Debian itself is relatively difficult to install, if you use knoppix, it is probably the easiest and quickest, as it more or less just copies the CD to disk!

http://knoppix.net

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