How would you be arranging the drives? Are they going to be grouped together, or set up as single drives?The "easy way" is just to install Win 7 64 bit Ultimate, which will contain all the hard drives for centralized record keeping, as opposed to having my files backed up willy-nilly on multiple hard drives throughout the network.
I was using a Windows XP box to serve files a few years ago and was looking to moving to Win2K3, but found the cost outrageous, which is why I moved over to Linux. So far I haven't looked back. The original XP box was serving files via Windows file sharing (aka Samba) from a USB 2.0 drive, which needless to say was pathetically slow. After that machine died, I build a basic dual core box and loaded it with Ubuntu 9.04, that box lasted around 3 years or so before I retired it and built an i7 box so it could handle more Virtual Machines at the same time.
I use Samba to share files with Windows (and other *nix machines) as well as ssh/sftp if I need it. That was the main reason I wanted to build a home server - to store files in a centralized place and have it set up so I didn't have to worry about doing backups on my own.
I haven't really dealt with Server 2012 that much outside of work, and I have heard of ReFS, but I don't think I have seen it implemented anywhere.The only thing that made me take Microsoft seriously was the new file system ReFS, which is in MS Server 2012 and can be added on to Windows 8. From what I have read (volumes) ReFS is a real improvement over NTFS which came out in 1993 and has served us well.
True. I wasn't that excited about Linux until I discovered it can do almost everything a Windows server can, but I've also been using it for 4 - 5 years now.1) Doing so would just postpone the move to Linux (Ubuntu) which I have been planning to make for a couple of years now.
How so? Once you get it set up, it's pretty much "stick it in a corner and forget about it." You can set it to apply updates automatically and it will pretty much manage itself. I do manual maintenance whenever I do my monthly backups, but that is around once a month and the backups maybe take 30-60-90 minutes to complete, but most of the time the procedure for these backups is just me logging in and running a BASH script manually, then waiting for it to complete, which gives me time to do other things.4) Using Linux as a server looks like it's just going to further distract me from my actual work - educational materials development.
That is true. There is only so much you can learn by reading. Most of my Linux knowledge has come from reading howtos and actually doing them and either succeeding or breaking things. If you aren't totally convinced or want to switch over to Linux full time, I would suggest running a Virtual Machine off one of your Windows machines, so you can play with it and get familiar with it before switching over, so you don't jump in head first and reach epic levels of frustration.Now although I need something "quick and dirty", and Windows 7 is actually very nice mind you, using Win 7 in lieu of Linux only postpones the inevitable, i.e. learning Linux by using it, not reading about it.
1) the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of NAS, so that's out. NAS is more for the AV enthusiast actually.
No really. RAID is quite simple, if you break it down. This link might help explain the basics. Here's another one that does a good job at explaining the different RAID levels and it has some links to how to configure RAID on a Linux system.2) that RAID to know that it is only for people with too much time on their hands for problem solving. Even at it's best RAID offers me nothing.
Basically, there are 4 major RAID types, RAID 0 (striped), RAID 1 (mirrored), RAID 5 (striped with parity, able to handle the loss of 1 disk), RAID 6 (striped with parity, about to handle the loss of 2 disks).
I use RAID 5 at the moment with 4 x 2TB drives so I have one large logical drive that can hold around 6TB of data. I am using RAID 5 so I don't have to worry about having the whole thing blow up in my face if one of the drives dies. I will be moving to RAID 6 as soon as my new raid card comes in, so the array can handle 2 disks going out before it breaks. The reason I am using RAID is being I wanted to have a boatload of storage and I wanted to have it be at least somewhat redundant in case one of the drives craps out while I am at work or something. I do daily backups off the array and so far I haven't had a drive die or lose data, but RAID is not a backup solution - it is a method of pooling disks and has the ability to still run if one or more disks go out, depending on the RAID level.
With all that being said, what does RAID not offer you that you can get otherwise? I use it for redundancy, as I stated before and it has worked wonders. If you are just starting out, I would suggest checking out mdadm - particularly this tutorial.
Depending on your environment, you can do a whole lot of things. I use Samba being I'm mostly serving to Windows machines, but Network File System works for both Linux and OSX just fine and it is lighter than Samba.And, no, I am not interested in debating why the above two are wrong for my needs. I have thrashed that about on other forums and with my tech friends, quite good ones in hardware (not Linux).
What I do have an exceedingly open mind to is how I can file exchange on my network with my single (for now) Ubuntu Linux desktop. That's the direction my reading will take me for awhile.
I think the first thing you need to do is figure out how you are going to arrange your drives on your server as that will tell you how you will need to proceed to accomplish your goals.