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The Linux Networking Overview HOWTO: File Sharing and Printing Next Previous Contents

5. File Sharing and Printing

The primary purpose of many PC based Local Area Networks is to provide file and printer sharing services to the users. Linux as a corporate file and print server turns out to be a great solution.

5.1 Apple environment

As outlined in previous sections, Linux supports the Appletalk family of protocols. Linux netatalk allows Macintosh clients to see Linux Systems as another Macintosh on the network, share files and use printers connected to Linux servers.

Netatalk faq and HOWTO:

5.2 Windows Environment

Samba is a suite of applications that allow most Unices (and in particular Linux) to integrate into a Microsoft network both as a client and a server. Acting as a server it allows Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups, DOS and Windows NT clients to access Linux files and printing services. It can completely replace Windows NT for file and printing services, including the automatic downloading of printer drivers to clients. Acting as a client allows the Linux workstation to mount locally exported windows file shares.

According to the SAMBA Meta-FAQ:

"Many users report that compared to other SMB implementations Samba is more stable, 
faster, and compatible with more clients. Administrators of some large installations say 
that Samba is the only SMB server available which will scale to many tens of thousands 
of users without crashing"

5.3 Novell Environment

As stated in previous sections, Linux can be configured to act as an NCP client or server, thus allowing file and printing services over a Novell network for both Novell and Unix clients.

5.4 Unix Environment

The preferred way to share files in a Unix networking environment is through NFS. NFS stands for Network File Sharing and it is a protocol originally developed by Sun Microsystems. It is a way to share files between machines as if they were local. A client "mounts" a filesystem "exported" by an NFS server. The mounted filesystem will appear to the client machine as if it was part of the local filesystem.

It is possible to mount the root filesystem at startup time, thus allowing diskless clients to boot up and access all files from a server. In other words, it is possible to have a fully functional computer without a hard disk.

Coda is a network filesystem (like NFS) that supports disconnected operation, persistant caching, among other goodies. It's included in 2.2.x kernels. Really handy for slow or unreliable networks and laptops.

NFS-related documents:

CODA can be found at: http://www.coda.cs.cmu.edu/
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