I need to share files between Windows 2000, Windows NT, and UNIX. I know I can use HTTP or FTP to accomplish this type of file sharing, but I'd like a more transparent solution. I've heard of Network Attached Storage (NAS) boxes that enable this type of sharing. I've also explored the possibility of using Windows Services for UNIX (SFU) 2.0. What do you consider to be the best approach?

The answer depends not only on the number of users and volume of content (both of which affect the bandwidth and storage capacity that a solution must provide) but also on how important security is in your situation. Many lower-end NAS solutions permit only directory-level, not file-level, security for Win2K, NT, and UNIX. This restriction works for small groups or niche applications but is less than ideal when security is a primary concern. (Maxtor's MaxAttach NAS 4100, which runs a version of Win2K Server that's optimized for embedded solutions, doesn't have this restriction.) Several higher-end NAS solutions can handle permissions for both Windows and UNIX. Network Appliance's NetApp units support both sets of permissions almost seamlessly; combined with the company's Data ONTAP 6.01 software, the systems work well in Win2K, mixed Win2K and NT 4.0, and UNIX environments. Auspex Systems' NAS solutions work as easily as Network Appliance's but tend to be on the pricier side. Hewlett-Packard's HP NetStorage 6000 and Surestore NAS XP also reportedly handle all three environments effectively.

As far as SFU 2.0 goes, I'm generally not a big fan. Setting permissions can be a pain (especially if you don't you use SFU's Network Information Service—NIS). Also, using Automount with SFU is somewhat unreliable (a problem that Microsoft acknowledges), but bandwidth requirements increase if you don't use Automount.

I recommend you try Samba, a freeware program that lets users access UNIX files from Windows PCs. This solution is a step above FTP and somewhat more convenient.