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This might be a silly question, but with my inexperience I am not sure where to start looking.

I want a file server that would first authenticate a user and check that the user is permitted to access the specific file he/she is looking for before serving the file through some secure method (e.g. FTPS).

What software and/or technologies should I look into? I imagined such a setup might be called an "access restricted file server", but Googling the expression has not been very fruitful.

This is for a hobby so I don't have a very large budget. I have a reasonably modern laptop running Ubuntu that I could dedicate for this purpose. On the other hand, I don't want to rule out web services like Google App Engine etc.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Sounds like you're looking for a NAS (Network Attached Storage)

You can buy pre-built ones from companies such as Netgear (Ready NAS) but this road is generally expensive.

You can also build one yourself using old parts- NASs don't require the latest and greatest parts, I have mine running on an old 1996 Compaq box with 512MB of RAM- I only had to buy a network card and a RAID card for it (plus hard drives).

There are a few software solutions out there as well, my weapon of choice is freeNAS http://www.freenas.org/ which is based on FreeBSD. It has a web interface to configure it making it nice and easy.

As for security, freeNAS allows you to configure users and groups and assign permissions accordingly. It also has a lot of services pre-configured (FTP,CIFS etc) which you add a 'share' folder to and then literally 'flick on'.

As an example I have two users, one for me, and one named 'Everyone'. I set them up in FreeNAS (with a reboot for sanity's sake), Add a CIFS share, enable the CIFS service, and on a windows box I open an explorer window, navigate to the NAS's local ip address, and double click on the share folder that shows up. I am then prompted for a username/password. If I log in as 'Everyone' I only have read access, or if I log in as me, I have read/write.

I hope this is enough to get you started!

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