Linux File and Print Services

Although it is not the most obvious choice for a file and print server platform, Linux can perform the role of a file and print server admirably. In a base configuration, the volumes on a Linux server are not available to network clients. To make them available, one of two file sharing services is commonly used:

  • NFS NFS is the original file-sharing system used with Linux. NFS makes it possible for areas of the hard disk on a Linux system to be shared with other clients on the network. Once the share has been established from the client side, the fact that the drive is on another system is transparent to the user.

  • Samba Samba provides Server Message Block functionality so that areas of the Linux server disks can be made available to Windows clients. In much the same way as on Windows servers, Samba facilitates the sharing of folders that can then be accessed by Windows client computers. Samba also makes it possible for Linux printer resources to be shared with Windows clients.

As with the other NOS discussed in this chapter, Linux has a file system permission structure that makes it possible to restrict access to files or directories. In Linux, each file or directory can be assigned a very basic set of file rights that dictates the actions that can be performed on the file. The basic rights are Read, Write, and Execute. The rights can be expressed in an alphabetic format (that is, RWX) or a numeric format (777). The rights to a file can be derived from the file ownership, from a group object, or from an "everyone" designator, which covers all users who are authenticated on the server. The Linux file permission structure might not be as sophisticated as those found in other network operating systems, but it is still more than sufficient in many environments.

Printing on a Linux system occurs through a service called the Line Printer daemon. The Line Printer functionality can be accessed by any user on the network who is properly authorized and connected. In later versions of Linux, some distributions have started to provide a more enhanced printing system called the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS). Many people, however, still prefer to use the traditional Line Printer system because of its simplicity and efficiency.