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I know this is a loaded question!

What are the best ways to manage Windows (2000, XP, Vista, 7) workstation from a centralized Linux server? I would like to replace the fuctionality of Windows Domain Server with a Linux box. The following issues would need to be addressed.

  • File Sharing
  • Authentication, Authorization, and Access Control
  • Software Installation
  • Centralized Login Script
  • Centralized Backup
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4  
A better question would be "why" –  Izzy May 11 '10 at 19:11
    
Izzy - SBS isn't free –  Chris_K May 11 '10 at 19:13
3  
I may be wrong, but it sounds to me like he already has an SBS box in place. In which case, why on earth would you decide to replace it - the licenses are already paid for. You get what you pay for. Or in the case of Linux, you get what you didn't pay for. –  Izzy May 11 '10 at 19:23
    
We currently do not have an SBS box. We are just looking to emulate the abilities of that solution. –  JJ01 May 11 '10 at 23:03
    
Why this mention of SBS when none of the SBS features are even being asked for? All this can be done with a regular Windows server, or is there more than you're telling us? –  John Gardeniers May 12 '10 at 10:25

7 Answers 7

up vote 15 down vote accepted

You might be able to find 'practices' (or ways of doing this), I doubt you'll find 'best practices'. Best practice to managing windows desktops would be to do it in a Windows environment.

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4  
This can't be stressed enough. You will NOT save money, time and sanity by managing any sizeable network of windows machines with linux. Stick to windows if you need to manage windows machines. You COULD do it. But as l0c0b0x said, yuo MIGHT find practices. –  artifex May 12 '10 at 10:02

I believe Samba 4 which is still in the Alpha stage is an attempt to replace a lot of the functions of a Domain Controller. However, since it is alpha it isn't ready for production.

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Samba is what you are looking for. It provides the same functionality as a Windows NT4 Domain controller does. File and print serving, authentication, login scripts, etc... If you do some googling you can find some nice "Live" Linux distributions or a virtual appliance that will get you up and running fast. Samba has been around for ages and is just as stable if not more stable then an actual Windows Domain Controller.
Also checkout BackupPC for backing up your data. It's easy to use.

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How do you handle login scripts from the server without a domain controller? –  JJ01 May 11 '10 at 23:04
    
@JJ - oreilly.com/catalog/samba/chapter/book/ch06_06.html Samba 3 is like an NT4 domain controller. Samba 4 is probably of more interest to you... However, you may want to explore 3. –  Chris_K May 12 '10 at 0:08
3  
Gets hardly more primtitive than a NET4 domain. –  TomTom May 12 '10 at 6:58

You can use a combination of Samba and KiXstart scripts as login scripts to accomplish most of the functions of AD and Group Policies. For centralized installs and software management you can use OCS Inventory. For backup as long you are using network shares on the side of the samba server, any linux/backup service will do it, for instance Bacula

Regards.

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Samba lets you set a login script when you make it a PDC.

For centralized backup, you should also look into BackupPC which is OSS, and included in Debian (and probably ubuntu)

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As I said in a comment above stick to Microsoft's suite of software when managing Windows machines.

However, if you still are interested take a look at ebox which is a full fledged Linux Small Business Server!

It will do what you ask. Some things more easily than others. VPN is a breeze!

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It all depends on how much time you want to spend getting a system like this to work. One of the largest Windows installations in the world (20,000 computers) is managed entirely by xCAT, which is usually run on Linux.

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@Cristian Ciupitu Where did you get the stats for xCat ? –  JJ01 Jul 19 '10 at 1:01
    
@JJ: I've only edited the answer. The answer itself was given by occamshatchet (as you can see from the revision history). –  Cristian Ciupitu Jul 21 '10 at 11:17
    
@CristianCiupitu - I'd also find that "20,000" number being highly suspect if they're also claiming it's "[o]ne of the largest Windows installations in the world" –  warren May 23 '12 at 19:48

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