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Recommend File Server OS for Newb

Last response: in Linux/Free BSD
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September 19, 2011 4:32:34 PM

I am looking at setting up a file server for a small business. I would like to use Linux as the cost of Microsoft Server Licenses are outrageous. The workstations will be using Windows 7 and sharing files on what I would think is NTFS file format.

I have limited experience with Linux. I have installed Fidora once. That's about it.

I am looking for a user friendly recommendation based upon the sticky I read above. Something packaged with a GUI would be helpful. I would think Ubuntu server. Seeing as how Ubuntu has server and workstation releases I would hope that I could play around with one and use it to figure out the other.

PS. How does a linux file server work when I thought Linux used a different file format system? Can you format a partition with Linux to NTFS or FAT32?
a b 5 Linux
September 19, 2011 8:30:34 PM

Hello and welcome, DrakeConnar

I would suggest trying out a few distributions to see which one has the look and feel you are comfortable with. Ubuntu and Fedora have excellent community support to do most anything you want to with the server.

As far as fileservers go, you would probably want to look into using a native filesystem (e.g. EXT4) for the actual storage and setting up a SAMBA share (allows Linux to look like Windows to other machines, at least from a shared disk space perspective), there are some excellent GUI tools to help you get something setup, and if there's a AD setup at your place of business, you could even configure the share system to hook into that for user authentication.

Basically, it certainly can (and usually does) use a different filesystem underneath, but essentially the way that shares work is as follows:

Windows client wants to see content of directory "X"->formats a network request for that->Linux Samba server receives request->Linux system reads the content of directory "X"->Linux Samba server formats a network response->Windows client can understand response

So, you see, all of the knowledge of actually accessing the actual filesystem resides on the Linux server

September 19, 2011 11:07:44 PM

Thank you for the reply.

I assume the Linux formatting will also allow for files to be opened and closed while being edited by the Windows Application then?

For example, you open the file in a Windows Programmed mapped to Drive H:
Drive H: is mapped to the Linux Shared Drive

You make changes, add, delete data within the file, then save and close the file.

Good to go?
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a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 12:29:27 AM

I'd recommend Debian personally, just because it's rock solid and reliable, and it's fairly easy to use.

Once you set up a SAMBA share, you can just map a network drive on your Windows machines. As far as Windows is concerned, it's just another hard drive. You can create, add, edit, etc. files on the drive (depending on how you set permissions).
a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 1:47:18 AM

DrakeConnar said:
Thank you for the reply.

I assume the Linux formatting will also allow for files to be opened and closed while being edited by the Windows Application then?

For example, you open the file in a Windows Programmed mapped to Drive H:
Drive H: is mapped to the Linux Shared Drive

You make changes, add, delete data within the file, then save and close the file.

Good to go?

Yep, through the magic of Virtual File Systems (VFS) (or Installable File Systems or IFS in Microsoft terms), applications don't need to know what the underlying filesystem is, it just pokes it through a defined API that can handle multiple underlying physical filesystems (e.g. FAT32 or NTFS, Joliet or UDF for optical media) or virtual filesystems for non-traditional resources (SMB/CIFS shares for Windows machines and Saba servers, NFS for Unix(-like) systems on the network).

Therefore, the exact same set of calls in code can
1)Access a hard drive or
2)Spin up and read a DVD or
3)Generate some network traffic that will cause a different machine to access some physical device
a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 1:49:29 AM

Pyroflea said:
I'd recommend Debian personally, just because it's rock solid and reliable, and it's fairly easy to use.

+1

My home server runs Debian and the only times I need to take it down is to boot into a new kernel (not even two hard disk failures were enough to take it down: RAID1 setup so I just unplugged the faulty disk, popped in a new one, and a few commands later the array was rebuilding)
a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 1:12:29 PM

How many users are you looking to connect and what sort of files are they working on? It may be that you can just run a reasonable specification NAS (Network Attached Storage) box and remove much of the complication as well as lowering your power requirements and HW expenditure.
a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 3:17:25 PM

audiovoodoo said:
How many users are you looking to connect and what sort of files are they working on? It may be that you can just run a reasonable specification NAS (Network Attached Storage) box and remove much of the complication as well as lowering your power requirements and HW expenditure.

QFT. If there's not a good reason to throw a server at the problem, don't.
September 20, 2011 3:35:01 PM

There will be 8 users with a database of 33GB (projected to expand to 150GB in 5 years).

It's for a small business that does bank appraisals. One person will begin a house report using their software and another person will open the file and finish it. There's no server side install so it's not using .net as I can see. It only wants a mapped drive to the report file location and compiles it on the workstation.

I am used to building Windows Servers which cost $2,000 ($1k for licenses) and is way overkill for them. I figured a Linux file server would be enough as they are running now off of a Raid 1 placed in one of the desktops. That desktop running the RAID gets a lot of use though and I question it's stability, so I want the data off of it.

I would be happy to go with a NAS if it's sufficient. Will a NAS have enough horsepower to handle 8 users sharing a database?

Thanks!
a b 5 Linux
September 20, 2011 7:02:15 PM

In my opinion, it's less about horsepower (unless you need gobs of it, then be prepared to pay for that) and more about the functionality that you would need out of the system. A simple networked data store is perfectly suited for a NAS, even with multiple users (be careful if you plan on using a RAID setup in the NAS, if you plan on RAID 5 and the device doesn't explicitly indicate a RAID controller, chances are that it's done via a software RAID and can cause performance issues).

However, if you could foresee relegating more functionality to this machine, a server can expand whereas a NAS can't (or at least can't expand very much, functionality-wise)
a b 5 Linux
September 22, 2011 5:30:36 PM

I'm leaning towards the server here. Can I just clarify what database and layout you are using. Most databases are running on the server with the disks attached locally, when you move to hosting the database file on a different box the I/O overhead of the network can really slow performance down. With SAN type solutions you tend to have a dedicated hook to the external drive using something like FDDI or GigE to get over this.

The other consideration would be backup, when you get past 40Gb or so you need to start looking at proper toys.
September 28, 2011 11:55:26 PM

I use SUSE, AD integration is simple and YAST lets you use a GUI for most of the setup.
!