There are many situations where Samba can be used to supplement, or even replace a Windows based server, helping to reduce the total cost of ownership for an IT solution. Consider the following scenarios;
- A workgroup or departmental server which holds shared files and documents can be replaced by creating the sharepoints on the Samba server and using domain security to redirect authentication back to the Windows Server.
- A heavily used Print Server can be implemented using Samba, this server can also support “point and print” which dynamically installs drivers using the print$ share.
- A pure Windows 95 or Windows 98 based network can use a Samba server as a domain controller, replacing Windows NT.
- Samba can provide WINS functionality to any WINS client.
There are some general disadvantages to Samba implementations that replace Windows.
- Samba is generally more difficult to configure and maintain than Windows.
- In situations where Samba uses the domain for authentication, Samba simply forwards the authentication requests to the domain controllers, increasing network traffic, logon time, and workload on the domain.
- You must maintain account information on the Linux server in all configurations.
So as you can see, Samba is a great alternative to Windows for a file and print server, and in some cases even as a domain controller. There are companies, including a local hospital here, that have replaced there entire Windows File and Print service with Samba with great success. There is much more to learn about Samba that I have listed. The largest downfall to implementing Samba as I have described is the account maintenance between Linux and Windows. Fortunately, if you combine Samba with PAM, you can overcome that, and make the fact that the file server is in fact Linux completely hidden from the user, and even most administrators.
You next step should be to go to www.samba.org, navigate to the documentation area and download the Samba project documentation, a collection of about 40 pages of documents which explain how to configure Samba for various scenarios, including those mentioned above. I have found that this documentation is a bit technical, and have positioned this article as a stepping stone. If you understand the information I have presented, then the documentation should be well within you technical reach.