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Small Network Client Server Solution???

  • Networking
Last response: in Networking
February 15, 2007 7:30:09 PM

I have a very small peer to peer wired network using five Windows 2K, ubuntu and XP computers with plans for an additional HTPC (or two), and a networked gaming box. I am not happy with my workgroup experience. We have data files, multimedia recordings etc scattered over multiple machines, backup is a pain, and security is minimal. Even accessing data is a pain as the Win 2K machine imposses an additional loggons to get at resources.

I thought about just adding a NAS and providing some ahem, family instruction, but I know it will not solve all my concerns, nor will it make my life easier in terms of security managment or software fix deployment. Specifically, I want to move email, file storage (and back up) from individual computers on the network to a RAID 5 based NAS or a file server solution. I also want to centralize security, and use a domain(s) for network access.

This seems to lead me too some sort of client server or at least a domain controller architecture. Problem is, I am no IT expert, and the paucity of DIY home networking examples with this type of setup could land me in hot water with the Mrs if anything goes amiss.

1) Does anyone have any good examples of how to implement something like this?
2) Should I bite the bullet and risk spousal rage by a) diving headfirst into SUSE Linux Enterprise Server or b) Windows SBS or Server.
3) Can I make this work using a Windows 2K box as a domain controller and storage solution using a product like the Open-E (an embedded Linux iSCSI device)?
4) Are there any reasonably priced stand alone domain controller devices?
5) if I choose to set up a domain, what do I do about email which is currently handled by Thunderbird e-mail on each individual machine?

More about : small network client server solution

February 16, 2007 10:48:08 PM

Hmmm, did I word my question poorly or is this a stupid idea? :oops: 

And does this portend badly for MS's home server?
February 17, 2007 4:01:16 PM

The main problem with what you want to do (assuming you have the $$$'s) is the usability of such a system in a home environment.

You CAN do all you want to do with Windows Server 2003 SBE (OS alone with licesne for 5 clients is ~$700-900), but such setups assume the existence of IT support. PLus, you need to make sure all of your Windows machines can join a domain (XP Home can't).

You have very ambitious goals (software deployment, email exchange server, etc) that are generally not implemented by part-timers in home networks.

I'd suggest a simpler approach first and see if there is enough improvement to satisfy your desires.

Add a NAS to centralize storage and better handle user permissions (i.e., not have to log onto the W2K machines to get certain data) and backup. If you place small enough hard drive on each of your machines, users will be "forced" to use the server!

Microsoft / HP has announced a home server product that may get you most of the way to where you want to be. Don't know too many details, pricing, or availability, though.
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February 17, 2007 8:46:06 PM

Add a NAS to centralize storage and better handle user permissions (i.e., not have to log onto the W2K machines to get certain data) and backup. If you place small enough hard drive on each of your machines, users will be "forced" to use the server!

Thanks for the "sanity check". I agree that my goals are abitious - I guess I have been spoiled by my IT people. What if I scale back my ambitions to a simple domain controler and some networked storage.

I think Windows 2K will let me set a single computer as a domain controller so I get the password protection on the domain and can force user account permissions, but with none of the industrial security functionality. What about an Open-E iSCSI solution for the storage. It is an embedded Linux OS on a plug in USB or IDE device. That would let me set up an old workstation as a NAS or SAN and make for easier backup.

Could I then store all user data in a central location by simply configuring all of my PCs to store user documents on the target network storage machine? In other words make each XP PC (all XP pro) user account "My documents" or "My music" etc point to a single dedicated individual's folders on the network storage?
February 18, 2007 2:22:33 AM

I don't know if W2K will allow you to set it up as a domain server or not. I've never done it, and I don't have any machines with W2K left on them.

However, you can set all the same password policies, permissions, and the like with Win XP Pro in a workgroup that you can in a domain. The only thing is you can't set them as a domain policy; you have to set them individually by user on each machine.

Microsoft has some scripts you can download / review / customize to make it easier if you have multiple user accounts per machine and you want to set the same password policy for every user, etc. I would assume (note: assume) you could do the same thing for user policy settings on W2K also.

I have no Linux experience (have been considering converting an old PC into a Linux-based audio recording / editing machine, but haven't gotten started yet), so I can't help you with that.