Best method for using old computer as file storage (XP sharing, VPN, FreeNAS, etc.)

Since i got a new computer a little while back, my old desktop is now sitting idle and i want to use it as either a file server or some other form of network attached storage. I’m trying to work out, though, which setup would be best to use.

The hardware:
[li]Dell Dimension 8300[/li][li]Intel Pentium IV 3.0GHz[/li][li]2GB RAM[/li][li]1 x 320GB HDD[/li][li]1 x 750GB HDD[/li][li]Linksys WRT54G router with Tomato firmware[/li][/ul]
The software possibilities:
[li]Windows XP Pro with basic network file-sharing setup[/li][li]Windows XP Pro with VPN[/li][li]Ubuntu 9.10 with SAMBA network sharing[/li][li]FreeNAS[/li][/ol]
Requirements for the system:
[li]act as a backup for other computers in the house (Macbook Pro OS 10.5; dual-boot desktop Windows 7/Ubuntu 9.10; dual-boot netbook Windows XP Home/Ubuntu 9.10)[/li][li]be accessible from outside the home network, i.e., need to be able to use it when we’re on the road[/li][li]need the ability to wake the system from Standby or Hibernate using Wake on LAN or something similar[/li][/ul]
My initial preference was for FreeNAS. It’s free, takes up virtually no space on the drive, and i don’t really need to have a regular operating system on the old computer. The only thing that might put me off it is the last point, listed above: the issue of being able to wake it up remotely.

While the Tomato firmware on my router has a Wake on LAN function, the network adapter and BIOS on my old computer are, as far as i can tell, too old to support WOL from a full OFF position. And from what i’ve been able to gather, FreeNAS doesn’t have a Standby or Hibernate stage that would support remote waking. In WinXP, i can go into the device manager and set the network adapter to wake the computer from Standby on receiving a Magic Packet; i’ve tested this with my router and it works fine.

This seems, at the moment, like it’s probably the best solution, but i thought i’d throw it over to the Dopers and see if anyone had any other suggestions, or if anyone can think of anything that i haven’t yet considered. Any input appreciated.

SME Server - although like FreeNAS it does not support Suspend/Hibernate/WOL. However, as a local server (or, with a second network card, a gateway device) it is wonderfully flexible and reliable.

Mine runs 24x7 on an old Dell desktop, stores all our music, photos and documents, runs a business website, VPN, a web tunnel that allows me unfettered internet access from a restrictive work network, print server, usenet downloads, manages our media streaming and all our email. The additional power use is a small price to pay for the convenience of all the services it supplies.


How about Windows Home Server? Again, it doesn’t support Wake On LAN for itself. But it will backup your XP boxes

That certainly looks like a candidate. I’ll check it out and see how it compares to FreeNAS for ease of use, flexibility, etc.

I have no objection in principle to this, except that Windows Home Server costs money and, with money a little tight right now, i’d prefer not to spend anything on getting this set up, if i can help it. All my other options are either free (Ubuntu, FreeNAS, SME, etc.), or are things that i already have (WinXP).

I think i might play around a bit and try each one to see which works best. The hard drives on the old computer are currently empty and all my files are backed up elsewhere, so i can afford to try a few things before settling on a final solution.

Thanks for the advice.