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We currently manage our networks (Intranet) using Windows Server 2008 R2, as it was relatively easy to manage and configure. Being a non-profit organization we were sponsored our initial setup but we would have to add more computers soon and we would like to migrate most of our hardware to Open Source servers and clients.

We currently use a Domain Controller and a File Server to create and manage user accounts and permissions (using GPC on groups) and manage files on the network. We have multiple users using the same computer so this suits us perfectly. (Mapped network drives are such a blessing!)

We are looking at Ubuntu as the distro for the client computers, but we would like suggestions of what open source server distribution I should use?

The requirements would be:

1) An easy to setup and use Domain Controller, I know it won't be as easy to use as Windows Server, but the smaller the learning curve the faster I can setup the network.

2) Something similar to User Groups and GPC's which would automate the permissions to be set on the network.

3) I was looking at SAMBA for a File Server, but prefer a pre-built and customized distro to handle the same.

Actually I need something that is pre-built and has the least amount of customizations to be made to it and the least amount of setup time. It should also be some what similar to Windows (GUI based) (although that would be too much to ask for I think!).

Please also post links to user friendly documentation (technical jargon is a little tiresome to work with) and how-to's to speed up the setup process. I am willing to put in effort for the setup process but the easier it is initially the faster I can complete the initial setup and migrate the existing network.

I have been managing this setup for about 6 months and so am familiar with a lot of networking concepts, but UNIX/LINUX is entirely new to me and would like your suggestions about this.

Edit: One very useful feature would also be if I can have a log of user login's and logout's, applications used and browsing history.

share|improve this question
"Please also post links to user friendly documentation (technical jargon is a little tiresome to work with)" - I think you'll be disappointed on this part at the very least if you're hoping to replicate all the features of a MS AD environment in open source. – RobM Nov 5 '10 at 15:47
"(technical jargon is a little tiresome to work with)" I think you're on the wrong site. :-) – mfinni Nov 6 '10 at 7:40

Seriously - stick with MS. THe price is the same. GUI based + GPO is smoething Linux does not do so much, and Linux has the same price as MS...

...if you know how to use google.

share|improve this answer
seriously? are there no open-source distributions that are similar to MS. There are always some limitations to donations and I would like to work around them by going open-source, though this is an enlightening option! +1 for that! – rzlines Nov 5 '10 at 15:00
No, there are no open-source distributions that do the same thing, or as well or as easily, as using the server and clients from MS. Also, logs of "applications used" would need to be gathered somehow from each client, because those don't run from a central server typically, unless you're also implementing some sort of TS or X-Window server. And "browsing history" is best captured at or near the network gateway, with something like Squid or a commercial product. – mfinni Nov 5 '10 at 15:06
@rzlines - seriously, most open source copies/replacements of MS technology seem to be based on the criteria "M$ sucks anyway, it should be easy to replace them in $foo". That rarely ends well. – RobM Nov 5 '10 at 15:50
@Robert Moir: I needn't be fixed to MS terminologies/methods just that I would prefer GUI and any other system which would help me to administer the network better and manage users and shares. – rzlines Nov 5 '10 at 16:07
@rzlines - then you need to document exactly what you do what for your own sake - At least if you want a copy of something then the original stands as a sort of documentation of your requirements... I know it sounds silly but I'm being serious. If you don't document exactly what you're trying to do, it will be impossible to know when you're done and to judge how well you've succeeded. – RobM Nov 5 '10 at 16:09

You could try this virtual appliance :

A Samba-based Windows PDC (Primary Domain Controller) server (without the Windows) 
which   is configured to support netlogon, network attached storage for domain users,
roaming profiles and PnP printing services with an example PDF printing service. 
Includes a powerful web interface for configuring Samba and printing services.

All you will need is to set up a ESXi, Xen, or Vmware Server(all free btw) and install this virtual appliance.

But i will recommend you to set up your own environment from the start, what i would do is the following:

Install a Centos(i'm more onto RedHat) Server, but if you prefer, and Ubuntu Server will do just fine, it depends on witch distribution you feel more comfortable.

here are the instructions for Centos, sorry for the late update:

Also, i found this article interesting:

share|improve this answer
quite informative! could you also post the links for centos for setting up LDAP, NFS, DNS, etc. I really like this option, it sounds like the next best thing to me. – rzlines Nov 5 '10 at 16:05
And then realize what you all are missing - as in: the solution does not solve half of the requirements. – TomTom Nov 5 '10 at 17:29
It depends what you want to do, i wont argue whit nobody that Windows offer a good solution(I'm a System Admin, of a windows based company), and it integrates perfectly with all of the other Microsoft offers, but you can get a pretty decent network using only open source software (there is a lot of things to take into account before migrating to opensource, i will not discus this here) but if what you want is to: be able to share files and printer whit user security, Easyly deploy software, Set an Email Server, ect, you can achive it whit open source – Hugo Garcia Nov 5 '10 at 18:50
@rzlines, i have added the requested info, i hope that you go whit this option, its a harder path, but in the process you will learn a lot – Hugo Garcia Nov 11 '10 at 14:25
thank you for the update I suppose I will have to take the harder part – rzlines Nov 11 '10 at 15:48

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