Note: I see a lot of posts about homebrew file servers, but none that are directly on my point (below). Feel free to point me to an existing discussion if I missed it.... Also, not sure how this ought to shake out between "systems," "storage," and "networking," but since my goal is to build a file server, posting here.
I'm looking to build a home file server that I can access securely and remotely. The main usage will be to allow me to back up files to a safe location while I'm on the road.
I want this to be a private file server that's not directly exposed to the internet. I also want my access to the server to be secure even if I'm on an untrusted network. In my mind, this means something like a tunneled SSH connection.
Remote access will be primarily from a windows 7 laptop and a mac leopard laptop.
My current solution has an old Mac mini with 2 1TB USB drives hanging off it (one is the "primary" drive, the other is a Time Machine backup). This works fine when I'm at home. However, it's a nightmare to use remotely, primarily from the Windows machine.
As far as I can tell from Google, there are no AFP clients currently available that support Windows 7, so I can't use AFP, even if I could tunnel it via SSH.
I can in theory use Samba to connect via SSH. This is a MAJOR pain. From what I've found, I can tunnel Samba over SSH, but it's several Rube Goldberg's at once, because Windows by default binds ports 139 and 445, which I'd need to tunnel. The solution I've found that works (after much Googling) involves setting up a loopback pseudo-network-adapter, then disabling certain Windows services that run at startup, then rebooting, then establishing the SSH connection, then starting the Windows services manually. This works (i.e. I can actually connect), but it's a lot of work to do every time I want to connect. It's also a huge pain if I lose the SSH connection and have to start all over.
So, I'm looking for something better. It appears my file sharing options on OSX are AFP (won't work) and Samba (major pain).
Is there a better/different way to do this? I have an old Dell that I can throw Ubuntu onto if there's a *nix solution that would work better than this. I'd rather not buy a copy of Windows Server, but I'd consider it if it simplifies the problem.
Edit: Sorry, missed the "please include" info. For reference:
Approximate Purchase Date: ASAP
Budget Range: As close to $0 as I can get - cost is a factor
System Usage from Most to Least Important: File Server
Are you buying a monitor: Nope
Parts to Upgrade: Ideally, just the OS and networking. Will buy incremental hardware only if it's valuable.
Do you need to buy OS: Don't know.
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: tiger direct and newegg
Location: USA, Greater New York City.
Parts Preferences: N/A
SLI or Crossfire: N/A
Your Monitor Resolution: N/A
Additional Comments: N/A
And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: See above.