I am looking to replace a Win 2008
server by a Linux equivalent.
This is doable, but requires significant labor.
The Windows server provides us with
the following services:
- File sharing with user / group based permissions
Samba will provide this. This is a major task in and of itself. However, you are indicating (below) that you will not have an Active Directory domain to authenticate against...so there will be additional work involved.
- VPN access from home user to the company
There are several ways to approach this. Are you wanting "traditional" VPN access, or can you use 3rd party tools?
- Remote desktops access to PC (usually from home via VPN)
UltraVNC on each Windows desktop will accomplish this.
- Centralized user management and domain user authentication so people
can login from any Win PC with their
own username / password.
This is the tricky one. Kerberos (or a variant such as Heimdal) will accomplish this, but expect to also spend significant time setting up and testing this. It will also have a significant impact on the configuration of Samba (as mentioned above).
BIND is available, although there are others (PowerDNS, djbdns, etc.). Choose what works best for your environment.
I would like to know which
distribution you recommend and if
there is any recipe / best practice
and gotchas you want to share.
Debian, if just for the stability and longevity of it.
Keep in mind that you're asking an awful lot, and making an awful lot of assumptions in the process. This could easily be a month-long full-time project in the making, doing nothing but getting all of these pieces working correctly together. Are you sure you want to do that?
There are also several unanswered questions here as well:
- Do you need to have Windows client connectivity? OpenAFS might accomplish what you want with far less grief than Samba, or if you're running new-enough clients, NFS.
- Following that question, does the file share need to be very secure, somewhat secure, or just usable?
- Do you expect to connect to file shares outside of your LAN?
- Are all of your clients Windows-based, or is this a mixed environment?
- What kind of clients are connecting to your VPN?
- How much time and labor can you invest into this?
- Is the cost of it worth not purchasing 2008?
- Are you expecting to use website or GUI tools to administrate all of this?
- What level of interoperability do you need between environments?
- Do you plan on adding different clients, or services, in the near future?
- I see no mention of contingency planning. How do you want to approach this?
I can go on and on all night...so, to answer your question in a generic sense, yes, you can do all of this and have it work fine. Whether or not it works the way you anticipate, is a different matter.