Microsoft Windows – (Photo credit: Topsy@Waygood)
You can totally share directories or files on Windows 7 easily, but what if you want to share such data that reside on Windows to Mac or Linux? When you have more than one Windows machines, sharing data between them can also get uglier, because you might have to worry about the reliability of the share data on each machine. Since the data reside on each Windows machine are obviously under the mercy of each Windows machine, therefore if something is happening to a Windows machine such share data can be lost. Sure, you can always do backup for each Windows machine, but if you forgot to schedule the backups for one of these Windows machines — the data on this particular Windows machine is in danger of disappearing in the wind. So, data management can get uglier if one does care about making sure the share data among Windows machines stay healthy. Sometimes, having too many different share repositories can also encourage data duplication, and yet this sort of data duplication isn’t exactly properly managed so it would turn out to be of something as data redundancy. Data redundancy is only possible if the data management procedure gets simpler, otherwise (sometimes) data can just disappear within the wind.
Centralizing Windows share data in a single server is definitely a solution toward the problems I had described. By centralizing share data, it’s easier to manage who has access to what data. When a data is accidentally delete by someone, centralization of share data allows the administrator to easily figure out who had done it since there are log files that would resolve what had happened. If Windows share data reside in a scatter manner (i.e., on different Windows machines), it would be a lot harder to figure out what data had gone missing since all Windows machines must be turned on and their log files must be opened for analysis, assuming that Windows 7 does actually produce such log files in the first place. Furthermore, when Windows share data are reside on a machine that is optimized to just serve share data, perhaps the transfers of data can be facilitate in term of speed and security. For an instance, perhaps not all of your Windows machines are always idle, because these Windows machines might run some intensive jobs — plus there might be plethora of third party software that run behind the scene that might somewhat slow down a Windows machine and in the process slow down the Windows machine performance in everything. Some Windows machine might not be up to date in term of updating Windows itself and not having proper security settings, therefore if the share data are supposedly to be kept away from unwanted users might not be able to do so.
Sure, there are several ways you can tackle Windows sharing, but I personally recommend FreeNAS since the software itself is an open source and free of charge. FreeNAS definitely allows you to centralize the sharing of data for so many platforms, but if you want to particularly centralize the sharing of Windows data, you can use CIFS service within FreeNAS. Albeit, to have a proper FreeNAS machine can somewhat be daunting since you have to make sure you got a reliable spare machine with enough disk drives that would give amble storage space, this way the share data won’t be stored on just any machine that would fail easily or else the data will be gone with the wind. Luckily, I think you can easily buy a reliable desktop under or around $300 nowadays that has enough horse power to power FreeNAS easily. After all, FreeNAS server doesn’t require a good graphic card as it’s not a gaming machine. Nonetheless, make sure your FreeNAS machine at least has around 4 GB of RAM, but I do recommend to get the more RAM the better. Installing FreeNAS is very easy! You just need to find a howto install FreeNAS video on YouTube and watch it, and it is probably going to take you around 15 minutes or just a tad more to have FreeNAS installed. Afterward, the question is how to set up CIFS on FreeNAS so FreeNAS machine of yours can begin to let your Windows computer to use Windows share, but luckily this is too can be done easily. If you want to know how to set up CIFS on FreeNAS, check out the video I had made on this very topic right after the break. Enjoy!!!
Afterthought: Although I made it sound that having FreeNAS machine can be cheap, but if you want to do it right it won’t be cheap. Luckily, it won’t be overly expensive either unless you want it to be so. What make a FreeNAS machine isn’t cheap at the moment is digital storage space. Perhaps, this won’t be the case in the future, but at the moment hard drives are still expensive when we’re talking about hard drives with disk space capacity around 2 TB or 3 TB. FreeNAS solution can be cheap if you have enough spare hard drives that lay around idle within your premise. Nonetheless, I don’t think you should go cheap on hard drives at all, because what you want to last most are the hard drives. With a failing hard drive or hard drives, your data will be lost!!! Yes, FreeNAS does allow you to configure RAIDs, but what if you go cheap on hard drives and more than one hard drives would fail? Even with a RAID, too many failing hard drives at any moment can either be a time waster or a really nightmare scenario since data could be lost if you fail to rebuild a RAID properly. So don’t go cheap on hard drives!