Samba is used for providing file and print sharing and authentication services for Windows LANs, and for networking Windows with Linux/Unix. Samba functions much like a Windows NT domain controller, if you prefer a domain-style LAN, or an ordinary Windows peer network, where all the hosts can directly share files and printers with each other. It also functions nicely as a standalone file or print server, as part of a domain or workgroup.
You can mix Linux hosts into any of these scenarios: peer network, domain, or central file server. Files are easily shared between Linux and Windows. Sharing printers is a little trickier, but the combination of CUPS and Samba makes it much less painful.
As Windows NT4 Server nears the end of its support cycle (December 31, 2004), wise admins are migrating to Samba. It’s a perfect drop-in replacement for an NT4 domain controller.
Samba server runs on every Unix variant, including Mac OS X. Any platform that supports the Common Internet File System/Server Message Block (CIFS/SMB) protocol, such as VMS, AmigaOS, and NetWare, can be a Samba client.
Samba is now on version 3.x. If you’re still using 2.x, you really need to upgrade. Outwardly, 3.x looks the same—the configuration options are the same, and it installs the same way. But under the hood, it’s a beefier, much-improved engine.
Samba has another useful application that hardly anyone talks about: file sharing between ...