How to Setup a Linux Server for a Home Network
By Keith Evans
Linux, the freely available UNIX alternative designed to run on personal computers, has become a popular choice for users who wish to establish a server on a home network. Because the operating system is inexpensive (and often free), inherently network capable and stable, it offers many of the qualities desirable in a networking server.
Select a computer. Although the general system requirements for Linux are relatively light, the ability of the server to handle multiple connections may be directly correlated to the computer's performance. For this reason, moderately sized networks (those consisting of three to five computers) can function with a typical retail computer available at any computer store or chain discount retailer. Large networks may demand a more powerful computer to handle many simultaneous connections. For most networks, a computer with at least 512 megabytes of random access memory (RAM), a 2.0 gigahertz or faster processor, a network card and a large (500 megabytes or larger) hard drive should be sufficient.
Install Linux. If you have not already installed the Linux operating system on your server, download the installation package from one of the popular Linux distribution sites like Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu or Fedora. Follow the installation instructions specific to your chosen package, paying careful attention to any network-specific configuration steps. If your Linux distribution asks you whether to allow FTP, Telnet or other network connections, select the option to enable these features.
Connect the Linux computer to your home network. Physically connect the Linux server to your network by connecting an Ethernet cable between the network card on the computer and an available network port on your router. Access the network configuration on the computer following the instructions for your Linux installation, and set the machine's IP address to "Static" with an address of 192.168.0.254 (advanced users with a different private network configuration may adjust this address as necessary); next, supply the subnet address of 255.255.255.0. If the configuration requires a gateway address, you may use the address of your network router or, if you do not want this machine to access the Internet, populate the gateway address with the numbers 188.8.131.52.
Add users to your Linux server. In order for users to map your Linux server as a drive or application server on their computers, they will need a username and password to access the Linux machine. Set up users according to the instructions included with your particular Linux distribution and be sure these users have access to any directories set aside for storing network files. You may also apply network access restrictions for each user if necessary.
Enable network application functionality on your Linux server. If your Linux distribution did not configure network applications like FTP and Telnet during the installation process, enable these services from your Linux control panel. You may choose which services you want your Linux server to provide, but be sure to enable critical services like FTP (which allows file transfers from Mac and other Linux computers), Samba (which allows file transfers from Windows computers) and Remote Desktop/VNC (which allows other users to see the Linux server desktop and run applications).
Map the server from other computers on your network. If your users are using Mac or Linux computers, they can easily map the Linux server using standard mapping techniques (on a Mac computer, for example, simply click "Go" then "Connect to Server" then browse to your newly configured Linux server). From Windows computers, right click on "My Computer," click on "Map Network Drive" and complete the address or device name of the server. If your Windows computer is unable to connect to the server, verify that the Linux machine is accepting incoming Samba connections. Once these users are connected to the server, your home network Linux server is active.
- Protect your Linux server--and user sessions--from power interruptions by plugging it into an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). A tremendous amount of useful Linux configuration information can be found in the plethora of Linux forums and online communities on the Internet.
- If you choose to connect your Linux server to the Internet, be sure to protect any potentially sensitive files--including any personal financial data your users may store on the server--through the use of firewall and anti-virus applications.
Keith Evans has been writing professionally since 1994 and now works from his office outside of Orlando. He has written for various print and online publications and wrote the book, "Appearances: The Art of Class." Evans holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication from Rollins College and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration in strategic leadership from Andrew Jackson University.