Windows Networking/Server OS/Shell



Im trying to configure a server for my small office. Less than 15 computers. I have a server that doesn't have an OS(Dell power edge T110). I'm trying figure out the best OS or set up for the server. Bare in mind Im fairly new at this.

-The servers primary function will be for storage (file storage-mostly pdfs.)
-The servers secondary service will be storage of client data(to check for conflicts)
-The servers third function will be for running out interior phone and voicemail system. The phone and Voicemail system already is running on a separate PC(not a server) running windows xp. I hope to copy the configuration and import it to the new dedicated server.(separate issue and not absolutely necessary)

I've already tested FreeNas on the server. However, Im not sure if FreeNas best suits my needs.

My questions are:
- Should I install an OS that will allow me to set paths for file storage and conflicts and emulate xp? If so which one? Simpler user interfaces preferred.

- Should I stick with FreeNas- and will it be able to handle my above needs?

- Is there an alternate/simpler configuration with an OS/VMware etc that you can recommend for the above listed needs?

Didn't want to go to windows server unless I have to.

Thanks in advance for any help.


First, let me say that although I have read about FreeNAS, I have not actually used it, so my advice there may be limited.

That said, as much as I dislike Windows, it's difficult to consider using much of anything else.  Because it is so common, almost all other third party applications (backup solutions, anti-virus solutions, other network apps such as email) are all usually designed to run on Windows and not much else.  There may be some other Apps that work on other OS systems (most commonly Linux).  But compared to what is available for Windows, your options are very limited.  Also consider the fact that if you ever need consulting help, it is very difficult to find anyone who is experienced in much of anything other than Windows.  There are a few people who know some Linux, but even that is limited.

If all you need is basic file sharing, I'd say you probably don't even need a server at all.  You can buy a simple NAS device to which people can connect directly.  Their are RAID devices with network connectivity that can meet most basic network file sharing needs.  Here is one example:

But if you already have the hardware and FreeNAS works for you.  It should meet your basic needs for file sharing, assuming it works as advertised.  It probably will not run your phone and voicemail system, however. I'm guessing that is a Windows program and will need a Windows OS to run properly.  You will run into this issue with pretty much any application you want to run from the server.  They are all pretty much designed to work with Windows.

The main alternative to Windows is Linux.  It's nice, open source, and there are some good programs that can work with it.  The problem is that if you are not very experience with Linux and don't have a consultant who is, you will not be able to take advantage of much.  The benefit of Windows is that most people can manage the basics right out of the box without much additional training.

In short, FreeNAS is definitely the road less traveled.  It may work for you, but it is a dangerous path which I would not recommend for mission critical business apps, especally if the server administrator is a real expert with the OS.

- Mike  

Windows Networking

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Michael Troy


I have a fair amount of experience in peer-to-peer networking. I can answer questions about hardware, networking software, protocol settings, etc. I have some client-server experience, but not a lot with Windows-based servers. I can also give some advice on home network security: VPN, firewalls, anti-virus, etc.


I am the Director of Information Systems for a large law firm which connects about 300 users over five offices via a wide area network. We use client-server, peer-to-peer, remote access, VPN, Internet, and proxy servers.

I also have a peer-to-peer network of computers at home, with file and print sharing, remote access, shared network storage, and shared Internet access with a firewall.

BA George Washington University JD University of Michigan

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