I'm volunteering to set up a server for my church. Some questions...
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For your GUI request I would recommend you install Webmin. http://www.webmin.com/
It's a great bridge for people that aren't quite comfortable with the command line and will let you complete most administrative tasks on a server.
Webmin is a web based interface that will allow you to do system administration functions using a web browser. you do not need to be in front of the server to do admin work, you do not have to have a GUI installed on the server. you can add webmin users and grant them various levels of control, so you could give someone the ability to add/administer users but not change anything else. someone else could handle users and samba and backups, etc..
With all the admin tools in one interface it makes it a bit easier to find what you need. you're not trying to run SWAT for samba, some other tool to handle users, another tool for printers, etc.. etc..
Webmin will run on ANY distribution (afaik) so the distro isn't quite as important. I prefer Debian but I wouldn't call it a great distro for a new Linux user. Suse or Debian would probably be my recommendations for you from a distro standpoint. I would recommend avoiding any distro that changes rapidly (such as Fedora Core) for server use.. You want a server to remain stable and not go through a lot of changes and updates that may break things, this is where Debian Stable excels.
Take a look at Usermin also, it can give each user some control over their own settings, interoffice email, etc..
I've heard of Webmin, but the thought of using this to administer things never crossed my mind. It sounds like a great idea! I'll have to give it a try once the server is set up and see how it would work for us.
I'm installing Ubuntu server edition, but I'm guessing it should still be fairly easy to set up...maybe via APT-GET? As long as some basic administrative functions are present in the GUI, I'd be happy.
Well-intentioned though you may be, and I'm sure that your church is grateful for the offer, make sure that you can give them a thoroughly professional job. That includes, in particular, careful research and planning .. determining and articulating their requirements and evaluating their options systematically before any physical work is done.
Even pro bono work counts as a solid professional reference.
Is it as simple as connecting an external USB hard-drive and finding scheduling software to copy everything? If so, do you wise Linux folk have any recommendations? :-)
For backup, rsync is great. It is a command line program, but it can easily be set up as a cron job. I use it to back up my important stuff to a couple of different computers both on my LAN and over the Internet. It is certainly capable of doing a backup to a USB drive as well.
Right now I'm having some trouble with setting up the initial partitions. How exactly can I do this in a RAID-1 or RAID-5 format? Does RAID-5 require 3+ hard-drives, or can I simply have 3+ partitions across 2 hard-drives? Any good articles out there on how to set partitions up?
I can deal with everything else, but RAID partitions have always confused me.
Distribution: Mandriva mostly, vector 5.1, tried many.Suse gone from HD because bad Novell/Zinblows agreement
in mandriva and many, you need first to create the raid
using utility mdadm (this is one of the best)
once created the raid is for example /dev/md0
you can mount it to /myraid
and partition as normal, as you would a normal HD
There is a great howto software raid in the tldp
To keep it simple, often easier to do the install on a single IDE first, maybe.
Dodgy ground, after taht, my knowledge is raid0 really