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What are pros and cons- Windows server vs. Linux server?

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a b G Storage
August 24, 2011 5:03:55 PM

Our small company has a Linux file server. We have had lots of problems with it, mainly getting file access set up right, letting office PC's connect to it, etc. When we started our company we used Win98SE as a server, then our supplier convinced us to get a Linux server. Now 10 years later we are wondering if we would be better off to go back to a Windows server. All we need is a file server. We don't need any SQL, we don't need a gateway, we don't need email, just files. We could use a simple NAS if it was fast enough.
a c 415 G Storage
August 24, 2011 5:41:20 PM

For simple file sharing I don't think it really makes that much of a difference what you use, as long as you have someone with the technical skills to manage it and the software to back it up. A relatively simple black-box NAS system will probably work just fine, since the real bottleneck isn't the system but rather then disks and the connection between the server and its clients. The only thing special you may need in a NAS is RAID support if you're concerned about uptime, or sequential / concurrent I/O performance.
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a b G Storage
August 24, 2011 5:54:46 PM

One thing to explore is cloud based file storage. The supplier gives you the space you need/want but then they manage the server and storage systems. Over time it may cost more than your own hardware, but not if you count in a real administrator to support it - then it get equivalent.

Cloud storage isnt for every app, but if you are talking file storage - its reasonable.
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a b G Storage
August 24, 2011 7:50:44 PM

The problem with the cloud or with NAS is that we need fast access to our files. We have some Revit data files that are in the 100MB range, and when you load them you want them to load as quickly as possible.

I've been reading Tom's for awhile and I remember at one time they tested a lot of NAS boxes. Most of them perform just a little better than a USB drive. Currently we have a very old PC running an old version of Linux and old hard drives, and it serves up files much faster than current NAS devices do. I realize that it isn't right to lump all NAS devices together, but to get a fast one you end up spending a lot of money, more than what we would spend on a fast Linux server. Our biggest problem with Linux is that when we need to add or modify user accounts, it doesn't work the way it is supposed to work, plus it absolutely refuses to connect to any of our newer Win7 machines.

We considered cloud storage for backup but never determined if it was fast enough even for that. I run incremental backups daily and the amount of our data that changes on some days is probably more than what our ISP could handle in a 24 hour period.

Unfortunately it seems that no matter what you do it still requires a lot of administrator attention somewhere down the line.
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a c 415 G Storage
August 25, 2011 12:00:05 AM

> Unfortunately it seems that no matter what you do it still requires a lot of administrator attention somewhere down the line.

That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast. I don't think a Windows 2008 server is that much less likely to go funky on you than a Linux server - the real issue is what's the skill set of whoever is going to support your server. If its easier for you to find someone who knows how to support Windows, then IMHO that's the reason that you'd choose it, rather than any inherent difference in the software itself.

I wouldn't completely rule out NAS. They're purpose-designed and have a much more "black box" administrative model, so they should be easier to administer and are likely to be a little more reliable, at least in terms of software glitches. There's no reason why a decent NAS should be any slower for file sharing than a Linux or Windows system, as long as you have equivalent disks and host to client connection.
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a b G Storage
August 25, 2011 12:22:32 AM

Also, you mentioned that tomshardware was where you saw some NAS reviews. I would be happy if toms did some more NAS reviews, but right now when I want stats on that type of equipment I go over to smallnetbuilder.com
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a b G Storage
August 25, 2011 1:45:43 AM

If you are going to need fast files served and only reading the files then you could do an SSD raid. You could get insanely fast speeds and easily fill a gigabit ethernet connection. If you want something that will just work I would stay with Linux over Windows. I have supported both and Linux once you get it setup you can leave it for a year at a time without any thought. Most people say you should check on it once a quarter. The only thing you would have to worry about is if you get SATA drives they are known to have high failure rates. I had 5/8 of my SATA drives fail within 6 months and this isn't out of the norm.
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a b G Storage
August 25, 2011 2:07:08 AM

Your question leads to a matter of taste rather than a matter of technological advantage. Both Windows and Linux server solutions are very capable given the hardware. Linux is more bulletproof from attack (but not invunerable) while Windows has a more familiar interface, and is easier to work with for those using Windows on the back end. ahnilated has a good point about RAID arrays of SSDs, theoretically, but they are very expensive in practice and impractical in actual use. The cost of MB/$ is too high for all but the Richey Riches of this world and RAID arrays of HDDs are tested and good enough for enterprises. Although cloud computing is an option it depends more on your requirements. I would set up a reliable RAID array and use a cloud backup as the optimal solution given your inquiry. The software choice would be based more on what IT is comfortable with, if you have an IT department. If not it should depend on your choice of what you are more adept with.
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a b G Storage
August 25, 2011 7:00:43 PM

WRT speed and possible RAID:
Our current server is about 5 years old, running SUSE Linux. It has a 100Mbps network card and that has proven fast enough for our use. If we built a new machine now it would have a 1G network interface which might or might not help us. It doesn't make sense for us to have a fast hard drive array if we are limited by the network interface.

We are rethinking our entire setup right now. Our supplier dignosed our Linux hard drive as failing so now we are trying to retrieve whatever data from it that we can. We have a backup that is 1 day old so we are trying to recover what files might have been modified in the 1 day since. We have another drive installed in the server and ready to go, so when we are finished with the first drive then we will swap cables and hopefully be back up and running.

WRT Win7 vs. Linux:
Our ideas behind running a server through Windows is that any computer with Windows can become a server. If our server fails we can take the hard drive out or just take our last backup, restore to another Windows computer and be back up and running. As of now we have been out of commision for almost 2 full work days. We have 4 salaried employees that we are having to pay with a lot of wasted time over these 2 days. With Windows based machines we could have been back up and running yesterday morning.

WRT backups:
We can't get a Linux machine with its data drives in a RAID configuration, so we're thinking about having several levels of backup on our Windows workstations. Currently we have some USB external drives that we backup to and rotate outside of our office. We've had discussions about whether our backups should be complete mirrors or just incremental backups. With an incremental backup the backup continues to grow, because if someone renames a file or folder then the next time the backup is run it copies the newly names file or folder into the backup beside the ones with the old names. OTOH if we run a pure mirror and someone accidentally deletes a file from the server then the backup deletes the file from the backup. Actually we are now thinking about running both types of backup into separate hard drives, with the incremental backup only used in case someone deletes a file and doesn't realize it until days later.

WRT IT:
I am pretty much IT for our company. I build computers, troubleshoot things, etc. I have a lot of experience with Unix but I have tried really hard to stay away from Linux. So I know how to run Unix commands on Linux and it seems to understand most of them, but dealing with user accounts and such through SAMBA is something I don't have experience with.
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a b G Storage
August 25, 2011 8:51:39 PM

Then I'd recommend the Win 7 solution on a RAIDed array with cloud backup as the best option.
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a b G Storage
August 28, 2011 2:05:21 AM

Another thing I've stumbled across is "freeNAS". It sounds very interesting but I haven't decided yet if it will do everything that our company needs to do. "freeNAS" is quick and easy to install, and seems to run on minimal hardware. We have lots of old computers around the office that might work. I brought one home this weekend but it seems to be too old for what I wanted to do since it didn't have a way to boot from a USB. I have a newer one at work that I think will be a better candidate, I might try it next week.

We finally got our SUSE Linux server back up and running at the end of the week. I've had some long running problems with Linux that i hadn't solved and our supplier could not help us with. Over the past couple of days I have done some internet study and some thinking about things and solved some of our problems. If I don't decide to switch to freeNAS then I'll just have to learn how to manage the Linux server myself.
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September 11, 2011 3:56:17 AM

Hi
You can do Ethernet bonding in linux 4 port will act as one
1GB X4 is very fast
you can try to bind 1GB x 8ports equivalent to 10G Ethernet already

in windows you need software to bond Ethernet ports


cadder said:
WRT speed and possible RAID:
Our current server is about 5 years old, running SUSE Linux. It has a 100Mbps network card and that has proven fast enough for our use. If we built a new machine now it would have a 1G network interface which might or might not help us. It doesn't make sense for us to have a fast hard drive array if we are limited by the network interface.

We are rethinking our entire setup right now. Our supplier dignosed our Linux hard drive as failing so now we are trying to retrieve whatever data from it that we can. We have a backup that is 1 day old so we are trying to recover what files might have been modified in the 1 day since. We have another drive installed in the server and ready to go, so when we are finished with the first drive then we will swap cables and hopefully be back up and running.

WRT Win7 vs. Linux:
Our ideas behind running a server through Windows is that any computer with Windows can become a server. If our server fails we can take the hard drive out or just take our last backup, restore to another Windows computer and be back up and running. As of now we have been out of commision for almost 2 full work days. We have 4 salaried employees that we are having to pay with a lot of wasted time over these 2 days. With Windows based machines we could have been back up and running yesterday morning.

WRT backups:
We can't get a Linux machine with its data drives in a RAID configuration, so we're thinking about having several levels of backup on our Windows workstations. Currently we have some USB external drives that we backup to and rotate outside of our office. We've had discussions about whether our backups should be complete mirrors or just incremental backups. With an incremental backup the backup continues to grow, because if someone renames a file or folder then the next time the backup is run it copies the newly names file or folder into the backup beside the ones with the old names. OTOH if we run a pure mirror and someone accidentally deletes a file from the server then the backup deletes the file from the backup. Actually we are now thinking about running both types of backup into separate hard drives, with the incremental backup only used in case someone deletes a file and doesn't realize it until days later.

WRT IT:
I am pretty much IT for our company. I build computers, troubleshoot things, etc. I have a lot of experience with Unix but I have tried really hard to stay away from Linux. So I know how to run Unix commands on Linux and it seems to understand most of them, but dealing with user accounts and such through SAMBA is something I don't have experience with.

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September 11, 2011 4:28:55 AM


Hi
In linux you can bond multiple 1GB Ethernet together
I bond 4 pcs of 1GB Ethernet ports it runs works almost 3GB/s speed
so network will not be an issue
in windows you can not bond Ethernet together


cadder said:
The problem with the cloud or with NAS is that we need fast access to our files. We have some Revit data files that are in the 100MB range, and when you load them you want them to load as quickly as possible.

I've been reading Tom's for awhile and I remember at one time they tested a lot of NAS boxes. Most of them perform just a little better than a USB drive. Currently we have a very old PC running an old version of Linux and old hard drives, and it serves up files much faster than current NAS devices do. I realize that it isn't right to lump all NAS devices together, but to get a fast one you end up spending a lot of money, more than what we would spend on a fast Linux server. Our biggest problem with Linux is that when we need to add or modify user accounts, it doesn't work the way it is supposed to work, plus it absolutely refuses to connect to any of our newer Win7 machines.

We considered cloud storage for backup but never determined if it was fast enough even for that. I run incremental backups daily and the amount of our data that changes on some days is probably more than what our ISP could handle in a 24 hour period.

Unfortunately it seems that no matter what you do it still requires a lot of administrator attention somewhere down the line.

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September 24, 2011 2:59:32 AM

I run Windows Server 2008 and find it annoying to keep all of the services running properly because updates can knock things out of sync. Don't even consider small business server for the same reason.

I am enthalled with ClearOS, which is a linux server. It can provide full server capability, beyond what the base Windows Server can do.

If all you need is simple file sharing but with e-mail and backup, I suggest you install a simple NAS... get one that is setup like an "appliance" such as the small HP units, and augment it with cloud e-mail and backup.

You may want to review www.easy-home-networking-guide.com/Cloud-Computing.html for some of the basics.

Good luck!
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