Best Practices for Peer to Peer Newtorking with Win XP, 7 and 8 Clients

We are going to retire a machine that has been out faithful domain server for 15+ years running Windows 2000 SBS.  We no longer need a file server, nor a domain as almost all of our applications are now cloud based or use peer-to-peer networking.

Users will be migrated from authenticating on the domain, to authenticating on their individual workstation. There are only 10 active users so user management won't be a big issue.

We will still need central file storage. This may end up being a Windows 7 Pro workstation with lots of hard disk space or perhaps one or more NAS systems. There does need to be varying levels of security on file storage. This can be user based.

We will need to maintain compatibility with many versions of Windows.  We have a legacy application that is rarely used, but when it is it requires a Windows 98 machine be brought on the network for short periods of time. There are a several  users who won't let go of their obsolete XP Pro machines,  The balance of the user base is Windows 7 Pro and Windows 8 Pro. Some Windows 7 and 8 Home edition as well which currently don't authenticate via the domain (since they can't).

I'm pretty familiar with peer-to-peer home networks, but this need goes beyond simple networking, just not as far as domain networking.

I'm open to suggestions as to the best way to approach this. 500 Points will be shred among the best 5 or less responses.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Windows 7 is NOT meant for individual security of users and folders like a server.

You can set up a number of folders, enumerate the 10 users (at most) who will access the machine and then secure each folder by username enumerated in the first step.

Please read my article on modern machine folder sharing. I share out my Windows 7 Desktop without issue.

HOWEVER, for 10 users, you have reached you limit and honestly, a small inexpensive server will be much, much better for you. The NAS will be pricier than the server and easy to attach and manage from the server. Folder security and user security is vastly easier.

You can do what you want up to but not beyond 10 users. A server will be better.

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BRT-TechAuthor Commented:
Thank you John.

I haven't priced Windows server OS in a long time. I'm thinking it will be outside our budget.  I have some experience with Linux. Would that be an option for a server?
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Small Business Servers have been coming way down in price. A barebones server will not be vastly more expensive than a beefy workstation. The NAS and a backup for it will be the pricey components. And the latter 2 you need anyway for 10 users.

Look up Lenovo or HP small business servers and keep the server separate from NAS (Disk) and Backup. You will find pricing reasonable.

If you are comfortable with Linux and Samba, by all means consider it. Windows Servers are robust and easy to manage and for most of us, Windows Servers are easiest.

10 is a BIG number for a workstation approach. That is my concern. Performance and growth will  both present issues.
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Bryant SchaperCommented:
You would be hard pressed to find best practices sense it is not a recommended practice in the first place.

I have to completely agree with John, you still want a server and domain controller.  SBS being the logical choice, but even server standard would work.  You are giving up so much by losing the domain approach for a only a small amount of money.

Features like central authentication, group policy, print services, dns and dhcp are so critical that I would never recommend this kind of move.
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:
If you are going server then use a Windows one.  For the NTFS support on the hard disk and the backup options.  (If this was a home I'd go for Linux but this is a business.  I do use Linux/Samba at home).

I'd worry about peer to peer because of malware.  That would love peer to peer.

You've got Windows 98 machine.  Any chance of creating a Virtual Machine of that rather than using it on the network?

I'd upgrade the Home editions to the Professional and also consider if possible making the XP machines Virtual machines and running them under Windows 7 or 8.
BRT-TechAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone. I appreciate your advice and will peruse Windows Server 2012 Essentials with the owners. So far everyone who has commented deserves a split of the points which I will do within 24 hours.

The Win 98 machine scares me too. I can't get any AV for it. Fortunately it never goes on the internet and is only on the network for a half hour or so every few months,  A virtual machine is a good idea. Not sure the dongle based legacy software would like one, but it's worth a try.

Virtual machine for XP isn't needed. My Win XP users just refuse to give up their old machines. They all have a Win 8 machine too, but use both with a KVM switch.  Some of the applications they run are not XP compatible. I may have to convince them that XP is dead and needs to go away.

The whole reason this came to the forefront is that our AV on the Win2000SBS reached end-of-life and won't update. I tried installing Avast for Business, but they don't support 2000 so we are basically running with no AV on the server, My boss is pretty frugal and hates to buy hardware.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Windows 98 is long. long dead and gone. You would need to run it in a Virtual Machine and get a Windows 98 license on eBay if you do not have one. I have a Windows 98 Virtual Machine.

XP is also dead and Windows 7 has now past its best before time. Patch Tuesday today with 30 patches for Windows 8.1 and only a dozen security patches for Windows 7. No new features.

For the Windows 7 machines you do have, make sure they are Pro and then you can download and run XP Mode for free.  Far better to give up XP and move on. They must, sooner rather than later.

My boss is pretty frugal and hates to buy hardware.  <-- The reason I asked you to separate Server from NAS and Backup is that the need the latter anyway and the Server, you will find, is not a lot more than a beefy workstation.  Your boss needs a real dose of reality.

I have an article for that as well :)
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:
Microsoft Virtual PC does support Windows 98.  And runs in Windows 7 but apparently not Windows 8.  Now as for the dongle support (I presume parallel port) that depends on the host machine's support for LPT.  You'd have to experiment.  But if it is only on the network for half an hour every few months it is probably not worrying about.

If the users have two machines a Windows 8 and XP Pro and a KVM switch you can enable file sharing between those two only and connect the Windows 8 to file server.  However if printing is required then you'll have problems.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
For printing, I gave up local printers and print sharing a dozen years ago. I only use Network Printers now. Then you can install the applicable driver on each machine and attach the driver to the network.
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
A basic server with software for a really cheap price.. I am not assocated with amazon or Computer Upgrade King $379 for a server with WS2012R2 Foundation .. what a steal
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Yes, and then (BRT-Tech ) you need to consider costing for NAS and Backup, which, as I said, are the pricey components you need anyway.
BRT-TechAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone for the great comments and info.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@BRT-Tech  - You are very welcome and I was happy to help.
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