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Transition from Windows-based network to Linux-bas

Link to this post 12 Feb 11

I am looking to make the switch from a Windows based network to a Linux (preferably Ubuntu, because I used it the most) based one. Currently the network includes a Windows 2003 server which acts as a domain controller and file server, a network shared printer (Canon 2300N) and 7 clients running Windows. Several other Windows-based clients connect remotely via RDP.

I would like to setup a server to act as a domain controller, file server, and (if possible) terminal server. The clients should be authenticated via the server and have access to the files stored on it (via ssh?).

Here are several points that I was wondering about:
[li]All the clients use Outlook, some of the clients run Quickbooks Pro and another program called Tentant File Pro. I was thinking about replacing Outlook with Thunderbird (I contact, calendar, and tasks) and I know that Wine can't run Quickbooks and Tenant File Pro so I may have to use VirtualBox/VMWare because these applications can't be replaced by native Linux versions.[/li]
[li]I need an adequate backup solution for the files on the server running as a daily backup.[/li]
[li]Should I use webmin to administer the server?[/li]
[li]What antivirus / firewall solution should I use for the server and the clients?[/li]
[li]How can I allow remote clients the login to the server to be able to run applications (Outlook, Browser, Tenant File Pro, etc.) remotely on the server?[/li]

What is the best solution for this? And what would be the least painful way of making the transition for the users?


I know this is a lot, but any feedback would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Link to this post 13 Feb 11

You can use openldap to setup a domain controller and setup the windows and linux based hosts to authenticate against the openldap server.

For e-mail, contact and calendar management there are several solutions, but most involve setting up separate server software, the simplest and probably most cost effective approach would be to look into google apps for business (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html) which can develop those solutions to any platform including document editing and collaboration tools. The benefit of google apps for business is that it is paid per user per month, the long term savings can easily outweigh the cost of servers and all related software for all clients.

For file sharing you can setup sftp, samba or nfs shares based upon your needs. I think that using filezilla as a sftp client would be the easiest solution, the only drawback is that would require a little training.

For a backup utility you can implement shell script that are launched by cron at set intervals to write the backup to external disk with or without compression.

You can use webmin to administer the server, but to obtain better control and more knowledge of the internal functions I recommend using ssh and doing all administration from the command line.

There are several antivirus products such as avg, antivir or clamav that can run on the server and clients. I have always recommended antivir for both server and client installations.

Currently the rdesktop application does not support rdp5 or 6, so terminal server capabilities for single applications can be difficult. I recommend checking out vnc server capabilities or citrix xen solutions (http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/feature.asp?contentID=2300358) because they support multiple operating systems, both of these solutions would allow you to have a single windows based computer on the network to serve these applications to hosts on all operating systems.

These solutions may start out as a little costly, but the multi-OS support and cloud based functionality will put you in a good position for future enhancements.

The use of citrix xen and google docs will be the simplest to train the users on because xen is invisible and google docs are simple web based solutions, the only real difficulty would be to train the users to interact with a sftp client.

Link to this post 14 Feb 11

You can use openldap to setup a domain controller and setup the windows and linux based hosts to authenticate against the openldap server.

That sounds good, I think I'll try that.

For file sharing you can setup sftp, samba or nfs shares based upon your needs. I think that using filezilla as a sftp client would be the easiest solution, the only drawback is that would require a little training.

I was thinking of using SSH and running SSHFS so the users can access their files on the server, would this be OK?

For a backup utility you can implement shell script that are launched by cron at set intervals to write the backup to external disk with or without compression.

I saw a post that recommends running a cron job that executes rysnc for the backups, would that be OK?

Currently the rdesktop application does not support rdp5 or 6, so terminal server capabilities for single applications can be difficult. I recommend checking out vnc server capabilities or citrix xen solutions (www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/feat...sp?contentID=2300358) because they support multiple operating systems, both of these solutions would allow you to have a single windows based computer on the network to serve these applications to hosts on all operating systems.

I was planning on having the users login remotely via SSH into a virtualized instance to run certain applications on the server but it seems (from the responses I'm getting) that it is too much of a security risk so I'll setup the applications to run locally on the client's desktops and access the server data via SSH.

Link to this post 14 Feb 11

sshfs should be sufficient as long as all clients have the necessary software to access the shared data.

You can use rsync, cp, scp, or write to a disk.. the key is to find the best backup method for your needs. rsync if the best solution for a rolling backup, but for incremental backup it would probably be best to focus on tar.gz archives being created on a remote system or being burned to a backup media.

x11 app forwarding can be done through ssh, but you cannot forward the gui from windows based applications via ssh. Using local virtual machines would fulfill their needs, but it can become costly and can be abused by the users, which is why I recommend virtual terminal sessions. The price of a single instance of an OS and software along with a virtual terminal solution can be quite a bit cheaper and more secure.

Link to this post 14 Feb 11

What about Exchange and your current Outlook clients ? Are they using "basic" email features: sending/receiving emails and few more, or are they using "enhanced" features ( shared calendars, agendas, multiple email folder, public folders) and so on ?
I'm absolutely a supporter of Linux platforms but there's so much to do to have a real working environment if you want to replace a Windows Server system on certain enterprise companies.

My biggest troubles in this moment are related to Microsoft legacy technologies, basically:
- Client policies (set by the AD domain controller), I don't mean basic tasks but things like locking down a Windows client system (no local admin rules but fully working on certain things)
- FSMO roles
- Exchange when you use advanced (legacy) groupware features
- AD software distribution

and so on.

I'm really trying to push things like Samba 4, OpenLDAP, 389 directory server and things like that to the maximum but it's really hard to keep all the benefits of a legacy MS environment. (@Matt: maybe a new blog argument ?)

Let me know if we may assist you in some way
Ben

Link to this post 17 Feb 11

What about Exchange and your current Outlook clients ? Are they using "basic" email features: sending/receiving emails and few more, or are they using "enhanced" features ( shared calendars, agendas, multiple email folder, public folders) and so on ?
I'm absolutely a supporter of Linux platforms but there's so much to do to have a real working environment if you want to replace a Windows Server system on certain enterprise companies.

I am not using an Exchange server, the clients are using Outlook to connect to Google Apps account. They mainly use email and the calendars so it shouldn't be an issue to transfer to Thunderbird.

x11 app forwarding can be done through ssh, but you cannot forward the gui from windows based applications via ssh. Using local virtual machines would fulfill their needs, but it can become costly and can be abused by the users, which is why I recommend virtual terminal sessions. The price of a single instance of an OS and software along with a virtual terminal solution can be quite a bit cheaper and more secure.

What do you mean a virtual terminal solution? Will it run on the server and be accessed remotely by the clients?

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