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I work in a big corporation, and the disk space my team gets in the corporate file server is so low, I am considering turning my work PC into a file server.

I ask this community for links to tutorials, software suggestions, and advice in general about how to set it up.

My machine is an Intel Core2Duo E7500 @ 3GHz, 3 GB of RAM, Running Windows XP Service Pack 3. Upgrading, formatting or installing another OS is out of the question. But I do have Administrator priviledges on the PC, and I can install programs (at least for now).

A lot of security software I don't even know about is and must remain installed. But I only need communication whithin the corporate network, which is not restricted.

People have usernames (logins) on the corporate network, and I need to use them to restrict access. Simply put, I have a list of logins of team members, and only people in the list should access the files.

I have about 150 GB of free disk space. I'm thinking of allocating 100 GB to the team's shared files.

I plan monthly backups on machines of co-workers, same configuration. But automation of backups is a nice, unnecessary feature: it's totally acceptable for me to manually copy the contents to a different machine once a month.

Uptime is important, as everyone would use these files in their daily work.

I have experience as a python and C programmer, but no experience whatsoever as a sysadmin, and almost nothing of my programming experience is network programming. I'm a complete beginner in this.

Thanks in advance for any help.

EDIT

I honestly appreciate all the warnings, I really do, but what I plan to make available is mostly stuff that now is solely on DVDs just for space reasons.

It's 'daily work' to read them, but 'daily work write' files will remain on the corporate server.

As for the importance of uptime, I think I overstated it: a few outages are OK, it's already an improvement over getting the DVDs.

As for policy, my manager is kind of on my side, I will confirm that before making my move.

As for getting more space through the proper channels, well, that was Plan A, and it's still on the table... But I don't have much hope. I'm not as "core businees" as I'd like.

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Should be edited: "How do I get fired for violating my work contract". –  TomTom Feb 2 '11 at 17:51
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@TomTom: You have no way of knowing whether or not this violates his work contract, corporate policy, or the ramifications thereof. –  joeqwerty Feb 2 '11 at 18:41

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's pretty simple:

  1. Share the folder. Grant the Everyone group Full Control share permissions.

  2. Access the security tab of the shared folder and add the domain users with the appropriate security (NTFS) permissions.

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3. Get fired for violating corporate policy. >smile< –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 17:50
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4. Have a lot of unhappy former co-workers who talk badly about you after you're fired when they have to completely change their work habits because they got used to the "pirate" file server. –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 17:51
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5. Have my sysadmin be a SF user and see what I'm doing (GOTO 3) –  squillman Feb 2 '11 at 17:53
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@Evan: "Let me introduce you to Frank from HR." –  squillman Feb 2 '11 at 17:56
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@Joeqwerty - I think the thing is an employee in a department ought to be asking their sysadmin/IT team, which kinda negates the whole question either way. If their current resources are preventing them from doing their job then that needs to be aggressively fed back to their management structure. –  RobM Feb 2 '11 at 18:22

I don't want to take an argumentative tone here, but I suspect your IT department isn't going to be too pleased with your plans. You're probably not going to get a lot of cooperation out of the Server Fault community to help you do this, either. What you want to do is, technically, very simple-- at least, on the surface. When you think about the longer-term ramifications and the other practical concerns that come into play, though, I think you'll find that your plans are actually ill-advised.

Here are some practical concerns re: your plans you should think about:

  • Availability (or lack thereof) - You say "uptime is important" and "everyone would use these files in their daily work". It's important that you have an understanding of what that means. Do you reboot the PC? Do you apply updates? Does the corporate IT department know that there will be others relying on this "server" and that unscheduled "outages" might hamper the ability of others to work? A desktop PC isn't a file server, and doesn't have the hardware features necessary to guarantee availability (RAID, power supply redundancy, ECC RAM, etc). You're risking the productivity of your co-workers with a "solution" that's not up to the task. This, alone, should be reason enough to scratch the idea.

  • Legal compliance - The corporate file server computers, presumably, are audited for compliance with internal legal standards. Your ad hoc file server will not be, and you may violate document retention guidelines, etc. This could get your company into a lot of hot water and might reflect badly on you or your teammates.

  • Backup - You don't consider daily automated backup to be important, but IT probably does. So do the other people who would be doing their "daily work" on this machine, I'm sure. There are days when I wouldn't care, but other days when I'd be pretty unhappy if I lost even a day of my work. Monthly is a "crazy long" backup window if you're talking about the work of others, let alone yourself. You're also not planning for an off-site backup component, which means that all the data will be lost when the building burns, floods, etc. If you do opt to perform an ad hoc off-site backup yourself you could be risking exposure of corporate data in that off-site component.

  • Business continuity planning / DR - IT has, presumably, planned contingencies for business continuity planning and disaster recovery in the event that server computers fail, network infrastructure fails, etc. Your ad hoc file server won't be included in those plans and may present an impediment to business continuity when circumstances cause your machine to become unavailable to others (hard disk failure, OS failure, loss of network connectivity, etc). IT doesn't, by definition, know about your ad hoc file server computer. When they're planning for a "hot site" in a physical disaster they aren't planning to bring your ad hoc file server back up.

  • Migration concerns - When your PC gets replaced with another computer (with a different OS, a different computer name, etc) IT isn't going to be planning for an orderly migration of the "clients" of your ad hoc file server. When you get a new PC your co-workers may have lots and lots of "pain".

  • OS limitations - Windows XP Professional is limited to servicing 10 simultaneous file and print sharing client connections. Perhaps you don't need any more than this, but if you do this will present a very real, practical limitation to your plans.

  • Reliance on you - Once you leave the company what happens to your co-workers who are relying on your ad hoc file server for their work? You're not going to be there forever.

I'd advise you, as a professional sysadmin who has worked in "large corporate" environments before, to work through your management chain to get the resources you need requisitioned via the "proper channels" rather than taking it upon yourself to create something that will end up creating problems for you and the others who use it.

What you think of as a simple problem really isn't, and the reasons above (and more) are why there are "officially sanctioned" file servers meant for your team to use.

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@joeqwerty: There are plenty of answers where I'm not "upvoted to infinity". In this case, I think my statements strike a chord with other sysadmins who, in the context of their own experience, see what the OP is asking for as being counter to what the OP actually wants (a stable file server for his team). My answer seeks to explain to the OP that what he thinks is a simple issue, in fact, isn't. The OP's own admissions about his skills make me think that he's not qualified to understand why his "solution" is a bad idea and, since I really do want to send people down... –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 18:21
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...the right road I say what I do. From a technical correctness perspective I could tell him how to "share" folders, but to address the actual business need that he's asking about I can't tell him that in good conscience. I'm not even really focusing on corporate policy arguments too much, either. In the end, the OP called out a busienss requirement that there be good uptime, and that's just not feasible on a Windows XP Professional PC. Aside from all this, the fact that I sometimes get "upvoted to infinity" probably means that other people agree with my assessment. –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 18:22
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For better or for worse, I've gotten where I have in my career by, in part, questioning what Customers are really asking for to understand the underlying business requirements and to create the best possible solution to their problem, rather than just blindly providing the technical "grunt work" that I'm asked for. I'd say that my attitude here is an extension of that philosophy. I want to help people get what they want out of computing, not to just do the technical thing that they're asking for. –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 18:26
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@joeqwerty: We all have to make some assumptions when we answer any question. (What's that Sagan quote-- "You want to bake an apple pie from scratch? First you have to invent the universe.") I've made my assumptions from things the OP said: "Uptime is important", "big corporation", and "corporate file server". I'm comfortable that the degree to which I'm assuming isn't too far off from the mark. –  Evan Anderson Feb 2 '11 at 19:02
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@joeqwerty and the OP obviously didn't know how to do something as simple as "Share Folder" and select "everyone". You think the OP is going to understand the possible consequences of an action done within a corporate environment? When someone asks "how do I kill myself?" to you tell them "cut with the vein" or do you try to actually solve the problem? –  WernerCD Feb 3 '11 at 1:00

My advice is - don't do it. There is more that you're seemingly not taking into consideration aside from the (assumed) violation of IT policy:

  • access time for your coworkers
  • synchronization - seems like you're creating multiple copies of files (whose data is where?)
  • lack of experience to be able to troubleshoot connection problems
  • integrity of backups
  • opening the door to malicious software

The biggest concern for me would be IT policy. Is it worth your job to do this instead of requesting more disk space in a supported configuration?

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This is a terrible idea. Workstation OS from Microsoft have a limit of 10 connections, so you can't serve to more users than this.

Anything you do will affect the performance of this for other users. Anything they do will affect the performance of your machine. Any data loss is your ass.

Talk to your boss, to talk to your IT team, to get more space. Maybe they can set up a dedicated fileserver or NAS for your group. They may charge you - real money or funny money. They may suggest that you buy a server and they'll manage it.

Unless they're amazingly incompetent or your organization is hopelessly bungled, you really should go through your company's IT guys. And if they are that useless, then it's still a bad idea - you're the business, keep pushing until you get proper support. What you're asking us to help you do is one of the worst ideas for everyone.

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It sounds like you have a business case for getting a small NAS box.

If you only use it to share out the contents of DVDs as you say then your IT department may actually support you since they won't want to clutter expensive storage and backup resources with unchanging files.

I suggest:

  1. ask your boss if you can spend a small amount

  2. ask the IT department to recommend a NAS server (that they won't have to support)

  3. promise to keep the DVDs in a box next to it and ONLY use it for that purpose

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