Migrate Windows 2003 Server to Open Source

This applies equally to any of the MS server OSs, in this case I was looking for an Open Source alternative for 2003 Server and decided on CentOS 7.

If, like me, you are a CLI -tard (e.g. prefer GUI’s to the Command Line Interface) then you might find Open Source difficult to grasp. Most of the Open Source offering do have a GUI option but in my experience they leave a lot to be desired! Microsoft and Apple are the masters of the GUI and their OS offerings are optimised for use of the GUI but both support the CLI, unlike Open Source who seem to optimise their OS’s for CLI (Microsoft did try this with 2008 server). One other major stumbling block is a decent alternative to MS RDP, the nearest you’re going to get is a browser based admin panel and these work quite well but they’re not RDP :-((

My early day of “computing” started with the ZX80/81 and then on to Atari 520ST, Commodore 64 and Amiga. DR DOS and MS DOS but since 1995 I became a big fan of Microsoft, I “GET” Microsoft and I’m an MCP on several counts but have exposure to SCO Unix and several Linux Distro’s so jumping ship, so to speak, was more of a cost factor and Free (Open Source) was a good incentive.

In my case, the 2003 server was on my home LAN, I didn’t really need an AD DC but had one because I could and it kept me in the groove whilst working as a regional support analyst. As 2003 server is now pretty much obsolete, I decided to find an Open Source alternative. If you’re on a low budget for a small business and your main requirement is the file sharing aspect, this may be the way to go but if , like me, your native tongue is Microsoft and you have a little knowledge of Linux but you are happy to invest a little/lot of time learning a new “language”; then going for Open Source is a viable option. I nearly went for Ubuntu server but decided to use CentOS due to its reliability and robustness, it is used by thousands of people hosting Web sites so it is, IMO, a good choice.

In my case my needs were fairly simple, I didn’t really need an AD Domain Controller on my home LAN and only had it because I could! One reason I went for CentOS 7 is that it offers the newer Systemctl / System.d, which is probably easier for Linux newbies to get to grip with.

Despite having done what I thought was adequate research, it’s taken me 3 weeks of hair pulling, cursing and swearing but I now have an Open Source server to replace my Windows 2003 server. To help me with the transition, I use Putty, WinSCP and WebMin, and a lot of reading on the various Linux forums; most of which are very helpful people.

I don’t really need an internal DNS server but in the grand scheme of things, why not πŸ™‚ Creating a DNS server using BIND was a fairly painless and setting up SAMBA for the network shares was not too difficult, in fact using WebMin it was fairly easy. I had a few problems with permissions and had a few hair pulling experiences trying to get Robocopy to work (from my Windows boxes to the Centos box) but I got there in the end.

With my 2003 server system, I used to back up stuff like “My Docs” on the LAN clients every evening and then during the night; the server would back up to a USB Drive (Probably not the best backup strategy in the world). For this, I used Robocopy and I’ve now got this working fine, backing up the LAN clients to the 1TB internal “data” drive on the Centos server. I’ve mounted the “Data” drive as NTFS to hopefully reduce any compatibility problems between NTFS & EXT3. On the CentOS server, I’ve mounted the external HD as an NTFS drive and started to use Robocopy to do the night time backups from from a spare Win 8 box but have now learned how to use rsync on the CentOS box to do the nightly backups and it’s working like a dream doing what Robocopy used to do but maybe a little faster!

CentOS 7 is running sweetly on an aging Fujitsu Econnel 200 S2 box with only 1GB RAM.Β  Accessing the network (Samba) shares is lightning fast and the Robocopy backups are running fine, hopefully I’ve set up theΒ  backup cron jobs properly to backup the internal “Data” drive to the USB backup drive.

Overall, the project to jump ship and go for open source has been successful, I didn’t think it would take this much time and effort and I still have much to learn but I have enough spare time to do so. If you’re in a business environment and have the facilities to test before jumping ship, I’d highly recommend CentOS 7 as your new File and Print server. Using Samba as a Domain controller is relatively easy but you do need to test and test and test before going live.

Migrate Windows 2003 Server to Open Source = Success πŸ™‚