Yes you should be able to do this with vacation. See man vacation in terminal. It should be mentioned that using vacation is proberly to complicated for the average user. There is no auto reply with GUI in Mac OS X Server :-(
There should be different solution to this problem, but they require...
There are major issues to consider:
1) To allow users outside your local network to connect to a server inside you local network. The solution to this depends on how your connected to the internet and which kind of equitment you (ie. firewall, router, MacOS X Server acting as firewall...
How you want to do this is depending what you need and how your network is set up. If you have a firewall and the server is behind it and you just want basic file sharing access this can be done via SSH see: http://www.afp548.com/articles/security/sshtips.html
Please be more specific and...
1) Try to start the server in target disk mode and see if you can see the disk
2) Install a system om a external hard disk and try to boot from that
If the server can't boot in safe it might lead to the conclusion that there is something quite wrong with you machine
Is sounds like the problem is that the webserver user which proberly is uid 70 (I havn't worked with 10.4 server yet) doesn't have the permissions to use this directory or some of the files or subdirectories. Especially the index.html file
Or you could change the permissions in the CLI. Use chgrp -R and the chmod -R This will enable you to change permission quite easy and fast. If you not not that familiar with CLI check server documentation on Apple Website or type man chmod and man chgrp in the CLI
If you are using 10.4 server...
Are you trying to start if from the GUI or from CLI ?
I have had a lot of problem with the GUI for 5.5 so I switched to starting and stoping from CLI
If you fivermaker server application is located in the application folder go the CLI and type the following commands note ignore the () and...
I haven't used 10.4 server where the control of permission have changed radically. Please see http://images.apple.com/server/pdfs/File_Services_v10.4.pdf around page 45
There is a description on how it can be done
If it just makes you more confused send a new mail