Server - Client based networking for Family History Centres.

Issues related to the use and operation of Family History Centers
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carljokl
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Server - Client based networking for Family History Centres.

Postby carljokl » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:47 am

I wondered if there are any family history centres that have implemented networking on a Client - Server architecture rather than the normal peer to peer setup?
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:15 am

I'm not sure what you'd consider the difference to be. A server is nothing more then a peer that is dedicated to the server task. Especially if you're going to try and work with that you are given - WinXP and don't have Windows Server.
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Postby carljokl » Tue Aug 09, 2011 6:34 am

I am considering Server - Client to mean a network with user accounts stored on a central server with authentication into that server or a Windows Active Directory Domain etc.
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:22 am

That's going to require Windows Server ($$$). The church will not provide that. I have a system set up using WindowsXP for the server, so it's more of a dedicated peer. Personally, I don't see the benefits of Active Directory to be worth the cost.

As an alternative, you might look into ClearOS.
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Postby carljokl » Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:56 am

I kind of figured that the Church would not pay for Windows Server but I have set up a Server computer running Microsoft Small Business Server Essentials 2011 (with a licence I payed for myself). It is the most affordable for the Windows Server family (excluding the Home Server). I also have a book coming from Amazon to get up to speed on administering it. I am primarily a programmer, not a network administrator but it doesn't hurt to have more skills. I knew it was unlikely that many family history centres would have a client - server setup but there are some fairly large ones in the higher population and wealthier parts of the Church and so I wondered if there were some in existence.

I know about Linux (which I have been using myself) and Samba and that is what I originally planned to use but then considered that Windows is by design geared to work best with a Windows Server. Samba does not support running as an Active Directory Domain Controller (though it looks like it can join an existing domain). This is expected to be supported in the next version of Samba but that is a long term development project. Do I need this functionality? I don't 'need' it but it would allow for centralised administration of user accounts and group policy rather than having to administer it computer by computer. Even failing that it may be beneficial get some skills with Microsoft networking such that I could write of the cost of the Server operating system as "Tuition Fees".
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Postby scgallafent » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:08 am

carljokl wrote:I am considering Server - Client to mean a network with user accounts stored on a central server with authentication into that server or a Windows Active Directory Domain etc.

What benefits will you get from this configuration?

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:34 am

Something to consider is that whatever you set up, someone after you will have to maintain.
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Postby carljokl » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:51 am

I would think that the initial setup will be the hardest part and the maintenance by comparison should be easier. It really depends upon the grade of whomever would eventually take over.

The benefits as I see it for Active directory is the centralisation of user accounts and the ability potentially for those users to roam around the network and still have access to their data. Active Directory is connected with Group Policy whereby I can potentially just set up the security controls and policies for all the computers on the domain and all the computers on the domain automatically are configured to that policy without having to duplicate it on each individual computer. I know that using a Server operating system is a bit overkill but even if it didn't work out and things had to be reverted, the network setup would be no worse than before.

My thinking it that it would be good if when a Patron logs in some login scripts run to map drives to point to centralised stores of Genealogy data (having been loaded onto the Server from the existing piles of CDs and DVDS currently in the Family History Centre. Beyond the Family History Centre, I have considered having user accounts storage space such that when Clerks and leaders log into the network they have access to their own network space which is accessible from whatever computer they log into i.e. the network share follows them around. I don't know how useful they would find this would remain to be seen as it is not something they would have used to having before unless they work in an office with a similar setup.

The primary goal with the server is to centralise the storage and access to the Genealogical date. Being able to provide access more elegantly is a bonus. Having invested in the server I am looking at trying to get the most use out of it. That is why I was looking at whether any HTTP access is possible to the server through the firewall.
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Postby Mikerowaved » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:27 am

carljokl wrote:I would think that the initial setup will be the hardest part and the maintenance by comparison should be easier. It really depends upon the grade of whomever would eventually take over.

I would propose there are very few people (if any) in any given stake qualified to maintain an Active Directory (AD) environment. Obviously, you seem up to the task, but it has to be a couple of orders of magnitude more complex than a simple workgroup with possible shared file storage and printing services.

Seriously, I've done a fair share of IT consulting (I'm currently writing this on my Windows Server 2008 home machine) but I wouldn't consider running AD at home (outside of a virtual world), as the work involved in the setup and maintenance would far outweigh the benefits. Where church PC's and networks are involved, my philosophy is: the simpler, the better. (Which usually translates into more time spent with the family. :))
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Postby aebrown » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:50 am

carljokl wrote:The primary goal with the server is to centralise the storage and access to the Genealogical date. Being able to provide access more elegantly is a bonus. Having invested in the server I am looking at trying to get the most use out of it. That is why I was looking at whether any HTTP access is possible to the server through the firewall.


Indeed your primary goal is a very worthy one -- making shared files accessible from each patron computer is very helpful. But that can be done with simple networking, and designating one PC as the "file server" without installing an expensive server operating system.

Having specific accounts and storage areas for each patron seems like a lot of work. Many patrons just drop in and want to use the FHC for a day or a couple of days. There are some regular patrons, certainly, but the overhead in dealing with these occasional users in terms of network access seems burdensome.
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