Suggestions for a file/account server, ~200 users


macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 30, 2005
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I need to put together a computer to be used initially as a file server for a small high school. There will be about 200 users total. I would like to give each user about 1gb of space each.

Eventually, as the school expands it's computer lab, I would like to be able to have each user be able to log into their account on any computer in the lab with their own desktop, settings, etc.

The number of simultaneous users will likely top out around 60 at the absolute max.

The computer will also need to run two very small, simple, databases available to all users on the network.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!



macrumors 68040
Mar 3, 2008
My son's high school and my daughter's high school took radically different approaches to the same problem.

My son's high school installed a bunch of old pc's running Linux and assignments are accepted in Open Office format or in MS Office format. Everything always worked and servers were never down but there was no campus wide wifi.

My daughter's high school insists that every incoming freshwoman purchase a $2000+ HP tablet that is the single biggest waste of money I can imagine. Almost every document that comes from the school is in some sort of MS wrapper that OOO and iWork struggles to render faithfully. The campus wide wifi was almost always working but servers were down frequently and we hated dealing with the school's MS based mess.

These two examples don't answer your question directly, but I suspect the windows network was set up by a "professional" and the Linux network was designed by a volunteer. There is no licensing hooey to mess with if you use Linux. If you do it yourself, choose OS X or Linux. If you hire a professional, be prepared for a costly MS based solution, unless you can convince the Gates foundation to make a donation.

I have set up Linux networks before. You set them up. They "just work". No help desk. No call center. No downtime (except for power failures). I have set up windows networks before. The care and feeding of windows is mind boggling, from what seem like daily windows hotfixes to users that can't do this or can't do that. If you do it yourself and choose Linux, spend more time up front to investigate how to set things up correctly and you will have a light to non-existent workload going forward. If you use windows, brace yourself to be on call from now on.


macrumors 6502
Feb 25, 2011
The land of the cucumbers
I'd go with Linux, Ubuntu or Fedora. But 200 users is a lot, so a Mac Mini wouldn't suffice... I'd go with a decent i7 pc and most importantly a decent raid controller with 5 ssds (Vertex 3 120 or 240, depending on how fast you're planning on expanding the 1 GiB limit) in RAID 6 hooked up to it. + a daily back-up, I'd say 3 1 TB hdd's in raid 1 (this could be a software raid). Normally there at least 4 sata ports on a modern mobo, so I'd use the first SATA port for the OS SSD.

Maybe a 10 Gbps connection from the server to the switch in the computer labs (this'll require another PCI-e slot) - but this might be overkill. It could come in handy if you decide at a later point to back-up other files from the pc's, or if you enable file sharing between computers in different labs (like teachers sharing videos or large amounts of photo's)

Personally, I'd reserve more space for the teachers (like 10 GiB or so) and an gbps ethernet connection in some classrooms (like language teachers).

For the file-sharing: I'd look for both a samba as a html client (everyone knows how a browser works, no one knows what samba even is!), no ftp! since ftp doesn't supports encryption (not for data, not for passwords and user information). I'm guessing you're using Windows, so using 'virtual' accounts (being able to login using your username and password on any computer, with all preferences being loaded from the server) isn't really an option when using a Linux server (I think!).

If you want to support afp, you could install netatalk.

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