Yes -- you can set up some old computer with Linux
by pcardout - 2/24/12 9:25 PM
There is a ground-swell for Dropbox -- so that option is well covered. However, you also asked if you could repurpose a desktop as a server. The answer to that is easily! You could use almost any computer you have laying around. If you have any friends with any Linux savvy at all, have them set it up for you. If I were in your office and you handed me an extra computer that had Windows on it, I'd have the hard-drive wiped and the machine serving files within an hour (faster than you can install Windows off a CD). The Linux world is wonderful and is designed around networking.... and you don't need to buy "Linux Server" ... linux boxes are all servers if you want them to be. The only program you need to add to your standard linux distribution is called "openssh" or just "ssh". It is free of course and takes about 60 seconds to install. Once you had such a machine, you could use WinSCP or Filezilla or some other freeware program to move files back and forth between that server and your Windows computers. Windows does not mind connecting to a Linux box, whether in your office or on the other side of the world ... in fact, if you go in over a network it does not even know what is in the other end (that's just part of what's built into networking).
Unlike some of the other proposed solutions, this one is secure. Your fileserver would not be open to the world. You would be logging in to your own account and if your password is good no one else is going to get in. You could make your files read only (for your colleague) and read/write for yourself. So you get to change them, and your buddy can't. Of course he could keep a separate copy under his own account ... or you could set them up so either of you could modify them. I have been Windows-free in my business and personal life for six years, and I just keep getting more productive. This solution has a learning curve, but it pays dividends (if you are that kind of person). Alternately, hire a consultant ... like me. You could have a custom system that did just what you wanted in very
little time and is virtually maintenance free.
I read about Pogo-plug in Linux Journal. It is supposed to work very well and bypasses all that "learn some Linux" stuff I just mentioned. I would not be afraid of trying that. It's so inexpensive it would be hard to go wrong.
All this stuff you are reading about "the cloud" ... it's all just Linux doing what it does. You can either rent the service from someone else, or set it up yourself.