In the mid- to late 1990s, Linux earned a reputation as a "stealth" OS. Network administrators, asked to do a great deal with few resources, turned to Linux, sometimes even when it wasn't an approved solution in their organizations. In some cases, Linux replaced Windows servers that were expensive, balky, or unreliable. One of Linux's greatest tools in accomplishing this task without raising eyebrows was Samba, a server that handles the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, which now also goes by the name Common Internet Filesystem (CIFS). SMB/CIFS is the file- and printer-sharing protocol used atop NetBIOS, a common set of network protocols on local networks dominated by Windows systems. In other words, Samba lets a Linux system function as a file and print server for Windows computers. Samba does this job very well, and its capabilities are improving.
This chapter begins with a look at the role of Samba in a network, then moves on to general Samba configuration. These general options include configuring Samba to take on the roles of domain controller, master browser, and NetBIOS name server ”NetBIOS functions that aren't directly related to file serving but that are often found on NetBIOS networks. Samba's file- and printer-sharing features are fairly straightforward, but you may need to set some parameters to alter some default behaviors. This chapter concludes with a look at how you can use Samba's automation features to do things you might not ordinarily associate with file and print servers.
Although you can get a Samba server running to a minimal extent without making extraordinary changes to its configuration files, Samba is a very complex package with many options. The Samba man pages provide unusually detailed descriptions of its configuration file format, so type man smb.conf for details on specific parameters. If you need an in-depth tutorial introduction to Samba, there are several books on the topic, including my Linux Samba Server Administration (Sybex, 2001) and Eckstein and Collier-Brown's Using Samba (O'Reilly, 1999).