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I know this question may be fairly simple, but because it seems to be common knowledge, I cannot find anything on the topic. There are many different file servers available, but I am trying to figure out what would be most effective.

I am trying to setup a server that can accept a request and return a file based on this request. Does anyone have any suggestions for a setup and a reason why one setup or server is more effective than another implementation?

Thanks!

Everything will be static files (mostly images).
EDIT: I'm working with Windows and Mac, but the server will be run on a Windows machine. Servers will all be local and the clients should be within mostly within a 10 mile radius (if that means anything). The clients will need to be authenticated, and the security will be SSL.

Sorry for the vague question, I'm just not sure which direction to turn. Let me know if there is any other clarifications/edits needed! Thanks!

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What systems are you working with? Mostly windows/mostly macs/mostly linux or a mixture of everything? Are your clients and servers mostly local or over a wide area network? What are your security requirements? Do you need to authenticate your users? Lots of questions I know but they'll help to make sure you choose the right tool for the job. –  vsltd Apr 22 '11 at 14:22
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We can no more tell you what an "effective" file server is, with this little information to go on, then we can tell you what type of car to drive (without knowing your driving habits, how much money you have to spend, fuel prices, speed that you have to drive, whether or not you have a drivers license, diesel or gas, etc.etc.etc.). –  GregD Apr 22 '11 at 14:22
    
Since all a webserver does is serve files (albeit ones generated on the fly for most dynamic web-sites), you'll have to be more specific about what you're looking for. –  sysadmin1138 Apr 22 '11 at 14:23
    
I've made some edits to my original post. @sysadmin1138: I'm looking to request images quickly and run a server side script to possibly reduce the image for easy in browser viewing or downloading. –  SortingHat Apr 22 '11 at 14:55
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2 Answers

Any web server. (Accepts requests/returns files via HTTP, using a browser)
An FTP server. (Accepts requests/returns files via FTP. Supported by most browsers & many client programs)
SFTP. (built in to most SSH servers these days & many clients available)
SAMBA. (Runs on Unix, exports to Windows, Unix, Mac, etc.)

All of those are "effective" in their given arena. All have advantages and disadvantages. It's possible none are right for what you're doing.
If you give us more information maybe we can give you a better answer :-)

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First of all, you need to provide more details/requirements -- without that, we can all only generalize, turning this into more a guessing game than a meaningful exercise.

Having said that...

What you're asking for is usually described as a Portal (either Intranet/Extranet/both), Content Management System (CMS), Document Management System, etc. etc. There are literally thousands of free/open source solutions available, some of which have native "Gallery" modules and I'd say 99.9% have some 3rd-party contributed Gallery module as well.

There are also purpose-built CMS systems tailored to images such as Gallery which not only lets you view the images in an album/slideshow format that's typically used throughout the Web, but also download/upload/contribute through a Web interface or FTP; granular permissions can also be used to restrict certain images/albums/sub-albums to certain users/groups.

Unfortunately, most of these were built on top of Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP (LAMP), and while you can run the "AMP" or just the "MP" of the stack on Windows, this may be beyond what you're capable/permitted/wanting to do.

For Windows, there's also SharePoint Services 3.0, which is a freely-available portal from Microsoft that tightly-integrates with Windows/Office, but provides limited support for other browser/operating systems, and would require testing on your Mac clients to ensure that it's doing what you want it to do.

Again for Windows, there's DotNetNuke, another open source/free CMS that's quite mature (been around for at least 7 or 8 years iirc) that can likely do what you want to do on the Microsoft platform: Windows/IIS/SQL(express)/.NET Framework. Not sure about Mac OSX interop, but I'd gather since it's based on ASP.NET and SQL (database authentication), it should be ok (save for any ActiveX specific functionality).

You never specified whether you need granular per-user/per-group/per-image permissions, but what might work for you would be vanilla IIS with directory browsing enabled and Integrated Windows Authentication (and appropriate NTFS permissions on the root directory/sub-directories), which will seamlessly integrate with any Windows domain machines, while prompting for an Active Directory username/password for your Mac users using Safari/Chrome/FireFox.

While not sexy by any means, this is pretty bulletproof: all major browsers will provide a folder-like structure in the browser, uploading/maintaining the files/directories for you (I'm assuming) the administrator, can be done from Explorer from within the server.

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