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Old 02-25-2018, 10:50 AM   #1
3guesses
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Question Linux File-Server Advice


Hi,

I am hoping I can get some advice on using Linux to run a home network file-server.

My plan is to use a spare laptop that I have as the file-server. I'll remove the DVD drive and replace it with a caddy that will allow me to have 2 HDDs (same size) installed in the laptop. I would like these to be in a RAID 1(?)/mirrored configuration, so I would like the operating system installed on (and therefore booted from) an 8+GB SD card (preferably) or a USB drive. I might also want the machine to run as an SQL database server, but otherwise it will be a dedicated file-server.

So, the issues I think I need to consider are as follows:
  • The Linux OS should be lightweight/light on system resources.
  • I rather doubt the HDD controller in the laptop supports hardware RAID so that will have to be implemented by the OS or a separate package installed; this would need to be able to rebuild a drive if one had to be replaced.
  • I would like the OS to be able to go into standby mode automatically if there is no activity.
  • I would like the machine to wake up automatically when needed (wake on LAN?) by a client.
  • I would like to be able to encrypt the contents of the mirrored drives (I have used Veracrypt on Windows XP for single drive encryption before).
  • It would be good to have firewall and anti-virus software installed.
  • It would be good to have software that will replicate (backup) files stored on other Windows machines on the network.

That's all the major issues that I can think of for the moment. I will be migrating the data from an XP/NTFS volume, so I think it might be easiest to format the mirrored drives as NTFS too.

The advice I'm looking for is which distro(s) would be best for my needs. Of course any other relevant advice would be greatly appreciated. I have used desktop Linux a bit before in the past but I have principally been using XP for the last 10+ years so my knowledge of Linux is fairly limited. I am technically proficient

Thanks very much!

Last edited by 3guesses; 02-25-2018 at 11:31 AM.
 
Old 02-25-2018, 02:26 PM   #2
business_kid
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All mainstream distros support your requirements, so people will recommend their favourite. I use slackware.

You're ambitious for a newbie. Set priorities and implement them first.
 
Old 02-25-2018, 08:56 PM   #3
frankbell
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I would recommend one of the distros that focuses on stability, such as Slackware or Debian or CentOS or perhaps a Ubuntu LTS, and avoid one with a short release cycle.

business_kid is quite correct about setting priorities and implementing them in a systematic way, but ambition is good when it leads to learning.

Heck, I got into Linux because I wanted to self-host my website. It took me five months to make it work, and another year to get it (pretty much) right, but, along the way, I learned a lot.

Last edited by frankbell; 02-25-2018 at 08:57 PM.
 
Old 02-26-2018, 04:29 AM   #4
3guesses
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Thanks. Yes, I may be a little ambitious but I wouldn't really say I'm a newbie. I've been installing Slckware to multi-boot using Lilo on all of my Windows machines for 10+ years and I used Unix at uni, so I have some experience of the OS - I'm just not as au fait as I am with XP. My brief experience of Slackware and Ubuntu are that they are stable but not especially lightweight. I think I tried Debian and didn't really get on with it and I've not heard of CentOS - is that more of a server-centric distro? I did have a quick look at FreeNAS after posting here, but it appears that it requires ridiculously high spec hardware just to run an entry-level file-server - we used to use 486-based machines with 16MB RAM for file-servers perfectly adequately when I first started work 8-)
 
Old 02-26-2018, 04:51 AM   #5
Turbocapitalist
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3guesses View Post
I did have a quick look at FreeNAS after posting here, but it appears that it requires ridiculously high spec hardware just to run an entry-level file-server - we used to use 486-based machines with 16MB RAM for file-servers perfectly adequately when I first started work 8-)
That would probably be due to it using ZFS with all the bells and whistles. You can turn off or reduce some ZFS features, such as caching, to save on RAM. If you are thinking of RAID, I would strongly consider looking at ZFS raidz1 or raidz2. Even if you don't go that route, ZFS is interesting reading. If you have the possiblity, I'd say go with ZFS over old-fashioned RAID.

Being lazy, I'd say that SSH and SFTP are the way to go instead of SMB. Support is built into the default file managers on the various GNU/Linux distros. There is also sshfs. For OS X you'd still have to use third-party applications for that like CyberDuck. A key advantage is that if you use keys for authentication and disable passwords for the file sharing users, you can make the file server available over the Internet as easily and safely as on the LAN.
 
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Old 02-26-2018, 08:59 AM   #6
3guesses
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turbocapitalist View Post
That would probably be due to it using ZFS with all the bells and whistles. You can turn off or reduce some ZFS features, such as caching, to save on RAM. If you are thinking of RAID, I would strongly consider looking at ZFS raidz1 or raidz2. Even if you don't go that route, ZFS is interesting reading. If you have the possiblity, I'd say go with ZFS over old-fashioned RAID.

Being lazy, I'd say that SSH and SFTP are the way to go instead of SMB. Support is built into the default file managers on the various GNU/Linux distros. There is also sshfs. For OS X you'd still have to use third-party applications for that like CyberDuck. A key advantage is that if you use keys for authentication and disable passwords for the file sharing users, you can make the file server available over the Internet as easily and safely as on the LAN.
Thanks very much - that all sounds very helpful. Yes, I thought FreeNAS must be using a huge cache to require 8GB+ RAM - I have no need for such performance - but otherwise it sounded a very attractive proposition. I know little about ssh and sftp, and nothing at all about sshfs so I shall do some research. And that use of keys intead of passwords sounds phenomenally useful!

Thanks again for the helpful pointers.
 
Old 03-06-2018, 10:36 AM   #7
3guesses
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Quick follow-up: I am considering using ZFS either under Ubuntu (limited experience) or FreeBSD (no experience at al). I'm quite tempted to give FreeBSD a go...
 
Old 03-06-2018, 11:51 AM   #8
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Thanks for the update.

If you try FreeBSD, there's a FreeBSD distro named TrueOS which is quite easy. It uses ZFS by default and has a lot of polish. Maybe it's more for a desktop though.

You should also be able to work through plain FreeBSD though if you have patience. They have a really good handbook which is an advantage. A disadvantage is that you'll need the handbook at first.

Ubuntu is quite easy and there's 18.04 LTS coming up next month. You should be able to get a hold of a beta release of that and just keep updating periodically until it turns into the official 18.04 release.
 
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Old 05-11-2018, 01:52 PM   #9
3guesses
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OK, a quick update as to where I am with this.

Since FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD I first had a look at that and also TrueOS (which is built on FreeBSD). I ran into a few problems - most of which I was able to overcome - but the impression I got was that they are not particularly user-friendly. They may well be very robust fundamentally, but I am after something a little more polished and less techie/server focussed. I don't need mission-critical levels of reliability (I've been using Windows for the last ~20 years for God's sake!).

After that I then had a look at Ubuntu 17.04 as that has ZFS support. That is polished, but I wasn't very happy about how resource-hungry it was (~1.5GB RAM in use on start-up with a vanilla install) plus I found some serious issues with it, so I then started looking at light-weight distros based on Ubuntu. First up was Puppy Linux 7.5. I was quite happy with that, but it has a portable intallation set-up plus it seemed to be too desktop-user focussed. I also looked at Slax 9.4 (I think) which I found quite tempting despite the portable instllation set-up (but the intallation method is incredibly straightforward and flexible). Next I had a look at Lubuntu 18.04 and I was REALLY tempted by that; my main/only concern was that it started developing start-up problems that I think arose from switching to booting Ubuntu 17.04 (all of these installs were in separate partitions on the same 128GB Lexar S3 USB3 flashdrive). I'm sure a fresh install on a dedicated drive would eliminate those problems.

So now I am currently looking at antiX 17.1 and I am very keen on that, even though it is Debian-based rather than Ubuntu. I like its small footprint and its speed - but then I have to say that all of the distros I have tested on my i5 4th gen laptop have been pretty lightning fast to use compared to the Core 2 Duo that I use day-to-day. If antiX doesn't prove suitable then I have the option to go back to Lubuntu 18.04. In the end I think I will probably install both on the machine and then I can switch between the two.

It's been quite a learning curve (which I like) and I feel like I will eventually be making a really informed decision when I choose the distro to go with. I'll be back when I have made more progress.
 
Old 05-12-2018, 05:05 AM   #10
business_kid
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How easy something is to configure is telling. Good options are Debian, RHEL (You pay for support) and Mint (=Debian but faster). I myself use Slackware, which you have to love, or will hate. Once you initiate yourself, it's great.

On the smaller district, the speed of updates suffer as too few are trying to do too much.
 
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Old 05-12-2018, 11:28 AM   #11
3guesses
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Linux Mint is one I've looked at in the past and quite liked. I might take a look at that also once I've finished looking at antiX. Is it generally quicker/lighter than antiX? Regarding the smaller distos, if they are based on a major one (eg. Ubuntu or Debian) then surely most updates (at least the major ones) will flow through fairly quickly, no?
 
Old 05-12-2018, 01:58 PM   #12
michaelk
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Have a look at openmediavault. Like freeNAS OMV is a dedicated NAS operating system based upon debian and uses a web based system for administration therefore you do not have the overhead of running a desktop environment.


http://www.openmediavault.org/
 
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Old 05-12-2018, 05:41 PM   #13
3guesses
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OK, thanks very much - will do.

EDIT From a quick scan of the OMV website, (a) it doesn't have native support for ZFS (support is provided by a 3rd party plugin), and (b) the installation uses the entire target disk so it can't be used for anything other than the OMV system, which seems a little anti-social and unnecessary to me. I might still give it a whirl, but these two points put me off straight away.

Last edited by 3guesses; 05-12-2018 at 07:52 PM.
 
  


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