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We have ~120+ users in our network, and are endeavoring to centralize logon authentication and home directory storage server-side. Most of the users are Windows 2000/XP machines, and a few running Mac OS X.

Ideally the solution will be open-source-- can this all be managed from a Linux server running LDAP and Samba? Or would a hacked-NAS Box with a FreeNAS or similar suffice? Or is Microsoft's Active Directory really the preference here.

Is it viable to store PST files on this server for users to read from and write to? They are very large ~1.5gb. We have no mail server (or money) capable of Exchange or IMAP, only an old POP3. What kind of hardware horsepower and network architecture should we have for this kind of thing?

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Have you considered outsourcing your email to Google or MS BPOS? –  Wayne Sheppard May 5 '10 at 18:54
    
Do you want a low cost solution or do you require an open-source solution by policy? Those are two quite different (and unrelated) demands imo. How do you manage all the user accounts today? How do you backup local files and e-mail? How do users share documents? –  Oskar Duveborn May 5 '10 at 21:00
    
Wayne: thats a thought. Oskar: You are correct, they are different, either one would be fine. Currently the company has no backup policy for personal files or email, although approx. the last 14 days are stored on the POP3 server-- I want to change that and I have some ideas in place involving BackupPC and rdiff-backup for PST files. There really is no user account management- and most files and shared by simply mapping to 1 one of about 12 or so network drivers with different authentication. –  mtkoan May 5 '10 at 22:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Starting with the last question: no, you shouldn't store PSTs on a network, they should be local (official MS advice).

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Microsoft says Personal folder files are unsupported over a LAN. It can result in significant performance issues. Use OST files instead.

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If you are going to have PST files opened directly on a server, make sure it's running 64bit Windows as 32bit has real issues with pool depletion due to the way the OS handles PST files.

Personally I've never had an issue with PST files on servers (64bit caveat excluded).

No Microsoft don't support it or recommend it, however if you're using Outlook it uses PSTs and if you're using POP3 you sure as hell want to make sure those PSTs are backed up, so you have two choices - server or locally with some form of backup client running to ensure they make it to the server, and if you have no money to do the latter....

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You wrote "Micro$oft's" -- and you want a serious answer?

Is it viable to store PST files on this server for users to read from and write to?

No, it is not. MS strongly advises AGAINST using network shares for PST files. And you should not have them sort of in the first place - OST files are a lot better ;) But PSD files on a network share is a LOT of trouble.

What kind of hardware horsepower and network architecture should we have for this kind of thing?

Depends a lot what you do with it. No joke - 120 people could be anything. Developers? Forget it - let them work from local disc, check into source control anyway very often. Then - it is not a lot they do with home dirs anyway.

Graphics people keeping 100gb each? Totally different story.

Under MOST circumstances and a proper infrastructure in place (which you obviously do not have) I would sa about 200mb per user are good enough, and a RAID 5 of decent discs on a cheap NAS should be enough (and you don't have to HACK anything here - a good NAS has all the functionality you need).

MS AD is strongly encouraged - unless you want to look like an idiot ofr a lot of things. THen you talk 2 computers. Or do you think you still look so great and smart saving some money from Micr$soft when 120 people can not work because you were too cheap to buy a redundant set for them? Linux or not, go to 2-3 computers. As in hardware. 120 people cost a LOT of money on a day when your only server decides to retire.

Then spend some money on books. YOu know, the style without naked women. Read up what active directory is really bringing to your table (hint: it is not only central authentication) and maybe you sit down and run some numbers - Micro$oft may not look so stupid then anymore. You may even want to invest (0 money) into SharePoint Foundation 2010 (fresh released) - very nice powerfull intranet for free.

Same with exchange - btw. I know of no alternative to that one in the open source community. Maybe it helps you guys NOT to go bankrupt? I Mean, seriously - no money? How you pay the people? Even in india and with indian wages the cost for the licenses are not exactly THAT high compared to the fact that your people are not monkey being paid a banana per day ;)

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Thanks for the info, but I could have done without the verbal abuse. Its just rude and unnecessary. –  mtkoan May 5 '10 at 18:21
    
You mean less insulting than your Micro$oft? You started it. –  TomTom May 5 '10 at 18:35
    
I am sorry if that offended you, so I removed it. I was only pointing out that we are on a tight budget-- there have been paycuts on paycuts and layoffs recently, it is a bad industry we are in right now. –  mtkoan May 5 '10 at 18:47

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