I recently had somebody ask me for advice about setting up a Samba PDC for their small business with 5 Windows Vista PCs. The owner is not very technical, and just wants something that is "set and forget". After doing a trial run with Ubuntu Hardy and hitting one barrier after another, I recommended that they go for Windows Server 2008 instead. Now I'm second-guessing myself, so I want to ask the community:

Would you recommend Samba to a small business owner?

There were a few factors that swayed my decision. I'm interested in whatever workarounds may be available for any of these issues.

  • Windows 7 support is not great. Downgrading security settings, DNS errors when joining a domain, and failed machine trusts in 3.4.0. Not what I want to see in production.
  • Out of the box, Samba doesn't support ACLs. It seems like a lot of extra configuration for something that you get "free" with Windows and NTFS.
  • Windows DNS server automatically resolves names registered in DHCP. But in my BIND9 configuration, everything has to be entered manually and statically. That seems terrible.
  • A Samba domain only works at the NT4 functional level. If the client ever wanted to upgrade to take advantage of new technologies, I'm not sure that they would have a reasonable upgrade path.
  • Active Directory allows delegation of rights, particularly on user accounts. I don't believe there is anything like that in Samba.
  • Group Policy would help keep the environment locked down, as some of the computers will be in a publicly accessible area.

With Samba 4 still way off in the distance, it seems hard to justify a new deployment using technology that is nearly a decade old with basically no upgrade path.

  • So far, the only Linux I've been able to access my Windows 7 shares with is a Centos 5.4 livecd. I've used Centos 5.2 in a production Windows XP/Server 2003 environment, and was able to access shares okay. However, the Linux machine was never a domain controller. – Joe Internet Nov 4 '09 at 9:41
  • Joe: I successfully used Ubuntu Server 9.04 with Samba 3.3.2 to create a PDC. Windows 7 was able to access shares from this server, but only after adjusting the local security policy. – Nic Nov 4 '09 at 20:27

I guess this is really a subjective question, so I'll give a subjective answer...

Maybe. If the business owner had the inclination and or support staff to work through the technical issues, then it may be a good way to go.

But in this case, no I wouldn't. I would suggest either Windows Server Standard or Small Business Server, whichever better met their needs.

  • 1
    Agreed; Samba is always a few features behind and is harder to setup. Oh, and there is no such thing as "set and forget" anymore; everything needs patching and upgrading and checking and monitoring and ... – James Risto Nov 4 '09 at 13:17

If you need simpel and easy, setup SBS 2008 (Small Business Server) It won't cost you a lot of time and is straight forward. The damm thing is one big wizard.

Then off course, samba would also do it, but if you do not have any knowledge whatsoever about Linux, samba, bind9 and dhcp, then stay away from it in a production environment.


If they want a Groupware included system then go with SBS 2008 with Exchange 2007

If they want a simple server to allow security and pretty much a set and forget without Groupware then just do Exchange 2008 Standard Edition.

If they just want a local IMAP/POP server add on hMailServer to it or do external hosting.

The initial cost of the Win2008 server + CALs will be well worth it in the long run in time saved if they don't know linux/samba. Worst case as well, if something big goes down they can open up a $260 ticket with MS to fix it.

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