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Setting up a small business network

Discussion in 'Networking & Security' started by Vayne, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Hello everyone, been a while since I've posted here, but I have a question I'm hoping I can get some help with.

    I have recently been giving a chance to work for small local company setting up and managing their network of approximately fifteen computers. Now, I have setup small networks before in my home and for others consisting of 3-5 machines, but I've never undertaken anything of this scale before. My employer wishes to have these workstations all in communication with a server and later on down the road he wants to use terminal stations of which I currently know nothing. Hmm...how over my head am I? :wtf: (Is this the kind of thing you can learn as you go?)

    My first question, beyond whether or not I can actually do this...is what would be a good managed switch for the network? I need one that is reliable and affordable, but also not too difficult to use. I'm thinking a 24-port switch is the way to go so that I have future room for expansion. I have worked with the Cisco 2950 a long time ago back in school, but I think that something like that may be out of our price range. I've been looking at models like the Netgear FSM726 or Dell PC 2724. Bare with me here, I know very little about business networking and what is good and what is not. What would be a good switch at or around $500 that would allow me to connect approximately fifteen workstations/terminals to a server and vice versa? What does Level 3 mean in a managed switch and is it something I need?

    My second question, has to do with my server. Currently he has a C2D E6550 with 2 GBs of RAM running Windows XP. Currently it only has one hard disk, so the first thing I was thinking of doing was setting up RAID1 on two new hard drives. Does this sound like a good idea for backup in the short-term? I was also thinking a secondary external hard disk setup to be removable could be used as a fail safe backup. I am also wondering what would be the best operating system to run on the server. Please don't say Linux anything...I really don't want to deal with learn a whole new OS on top of everything else. I know that you can network with XP, but wouldn't I better off with a server OS? I've used Server 2003 before, but never 2008. I can get a legit copy of it from my employer if I need it for the server so money isn't a real issue here. I know that I'll need "seats" for the license, but I need to know what OS to pick first. :D

    My last question (for now...hehe) has to do with security. Do I need a seperate firewall between us and the Internet? My boss wants to get one, but I want to make sure that's necessary first in that the switch doesn't have one (I'm almost positive they don't) and that I know what an affordable yet good one to get is. Any recommendations?

    I know this is long, but thanks for taking the time to read.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
  2. CrAsHnBuRnXp

    CrAsHnBuRnXp

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    Well what you could do is from the server room, have the server(s) hooked up to a switch connected to the internet that is in the wall. Then in the room(s) with the fifteen or so computers, have all of them connected into the switch that are located in those computer rooms and throw a cat 5 or cat 6 cable into the wall for internet and lead that into the switch. Do the same for any other corresponding computer rooms.

    Question 2, if he is going to have a server managing all these computers, you are going to want to get Server 2003 (08 isnt out yet is it? Or is that W7's server version?) so that way you can manage users properly and give them the permissions correctly. Maybe if they are willing do a RAID-5. Here's a guide I wrote last November that may help out. Maybe also look into tape backups. Get a fireproof safe or NAS RAID device so in case of a fire, the sensitive info isnt lost.

    Like I meneitoned earlier. Get a separate hardware firewall like a Sonic wall. You can find a decent one on the Egg for 2-300 that should suit the businesses needs.

    Im a phone call away buddy. :toast:
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
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  3. Steevo

    Steevo

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    Netgear plug and play switches are cheap. If he wasnts terminal server to happen for 15 clients he will need a whole new server on a much larger scale, plus Gigabit network with at least a couple connections to the server.


    On the network it is adviseable to get a smart switch that you can configure for bandwidth allowances.

    For the server look to dual quad cores and 10-12Gb of RAM to support 15 users minimum on a server 03 or 08 box.
     
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  4. Steevo

    Steevo

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    Sonicwall is what I use here at work for Firewalls and also for content/site filtering as well as our VPN's and load management.
     
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  5. CrAsHnBuRnXp

    CrAsHnBuRnXp

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    Gotta remember steevo, Vayne is a noob with this stuff so talking like that is throwing him in over his head. :(
     
  6. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Okay, do you have a specific Netgear switch that you recommend? I've looked more into the Dell and I no longer really like what I hear in various reviews so scratch that idea.

    Can you elaborate please on the needs of the network's bandwidth and the connections to the server? I've never done anything on this scale before. What would I need and is my boss asking for something feasible in a small business? Is there an easier way to do this than terminals that doesn't require a high end server? If someone wanted to do accounting, management, and sales using "terminals" (which I think my boss is using as a catch-all term for a computer/register type device) how would you go about it?

    I wouldn't know where to begin on building a server, or even really running one. If it has Windows 2003 on it though I'm sure I could figure it out because I'm very familiar with Windows. I'm more worried about the physical networking aspect of things and getting the connections to all "work" once plugged into the switch.

    Can you, or anyone else, offer some more help? I'm not sure if my boss needs the scale of what he thinks he does or if I can undertake something of this level of complication.

    Thanks again for the reply.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  7. niko084

    niko084

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    Use those myself, pretty good for the buck, another option is to run a dedicated machine as a firewall but that's pricey and a lot of work..

    For that small network you don't need a managed switch, but what you may want is one with a good max throughput, you don't want numerous computer bogging down the entire network because of a crap switch.

    I have 2 PowerConnect 2748 switches here and love them to death.

    If you don't want to have to directly support all the hardware, a Dell 1900 server is a nice base level enterprise server that comes with a pretty nice support package and the price isn't bad to be honest, I also have 2 of those sitting here running a bunch of vservers.
     
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  8. Jizzler

    Jizzler

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    It is, as long as you have enough "base" knowledge and can also use the Google. Inheriting a network is a good way to learn, as most of the time you'll learn what not to do.

    What are they using now? Do they need a new one? I doubt that you would need a fully managed L2 or L3 switch (as you don't know what that means).

    At my current and last job we use Netgear Smart Switches. Cheap, easy to use, better than a "switch", but not quite fully managed.

    First off, why terminals? Are the workstations slow? Is he the kind of boss that reads about the latest thing and tells you that he wants it without realizing what it is? :)

    Also, what do they do? My users just run Outlook, a Navision client (financial and operations software) and a web browser. They could probably get by with eee Boxes - which make for sexy slim workstations :D

    [​IMG]

    Next parts order I'm going to try to squeeze one in for testing. But back to your situation... I just haven't seen thin clients / remote desktop / virtualized desktops / etc deployed in a network of this size. Their cost savings usually are realized from large scale deployments.

    Are they using the XP now? For what purpose? Just a file share? And what do they want to accomplish by going with one of the Servers?

    Server 2003 SBE is a nice all-in-one package for small networks, the Premium edition includes ISA Server as well as Exchange.

    Server 2003/2008 Standard doesn't do as much hand holding as SBE, but once you learn how to configure the services, you're set.

    It would all depend on their current/future needs/wants.

    Yes (unless you had ISA Server).
     
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  9. Steevo

    Steevo

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    Sonicwall wired TZ-170, upgrade to unlimited connections. That will work great for a firewall, and access control.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833339023
    register your Sonicwall and you can buy the upgrades.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122223 I use two of these to allow coverage, and attch to a additional port of the firewall and have them on a seperate subnet, lock the MAC addys of laptops that we use to allow for internal acess to our network.

    By terminals are you meaning they they will have a client loaded that needs a file serving interface to a machine, or a actual Terminal Server Connection or Remote Desktop Connection to a machine, we use Client Access Express for POS, Inventory and other control connecting to a IBM e-series server. If you do not NEED a actual terminal server but just a file server you could use a seperate RAID card and implement RAID 5 for speed and redundancy on the existing machine. At work I built our file server, and hacked the XP Pro to allow three users, two RDC amnd one console, I can share the Office 2007 Ultimate as once licanse on this machine and allow it to serve 5 users, it also handles incoming fax serving, scans from network capable printers/multi-functions as well as a failover for your VPN in case the internet goes down, the other store uses PPP and dials and it performs routing as well as internet sharing if theirs fails and ours is still active. It was a first series socket 775 Prescott and 2Gb of RAM with a dedicated RAID card with a single gigabit connection. It performs OK still, but it is almost 5 years old now and was supposed to be replaced this year.


    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833122058


    This would provide the most cost effective solution for the network, but does not provide any form of bandwidth management, however with this and just 15 PC's you would not really be able to use the available backplane bandwidth, and if you restrict server side connections and tweak your stack you will get the same effect as a more expensive switch.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
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  10. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. So I guess I'll be getting a separate firewall. I run the switch into that before going out, right? Would make sense to me that way.

    What benefits do I gain by using a managed switch? Isn't an unmanaged switch essentially just a dumb box with no way of me controlling it? I don't think I want that.
     
  11. niko084

    niko084

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    Managed are used for security and really large networks where you may have a serious issue with IPs or Connection issues and you need the help to trace them down.

    They are nice, but for a small network 90% of the time not used.

    Yes you run the switch to the firewall and then the firewall to the router or modem however you layout the network.

    *****
    And its a job you can learn on the go, just stay on top of it, and its good experience to have, especially when you can say you walked in with no exp.
     
  12. Steevo

    Steevo

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    For less than 50+ useres there is no real need to run a managed switch, unless all machines are "mission critical" while in use. I highly doubt that you will need a managed switch either. I am typing like crap today.
     
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  13. ktr

    ktr

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    Manage switches are mostly for if you have multiple switches (configure BID, set port states, etc)...or if you want to lock down ports, or monitor activity.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
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  14. lemonadesoda

    lemonadesoda

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    I'd recommend a "smart switch" rather than a managed switch. I think something like this: http://www.netgear.com/Products/Switches/AdvancedSmartSwitches/GS724AT.aspx

    We use netgear in our small business... routers, WAPs, and switches, and a "bridge" to another office accross the road.

    We operate without problems.

    I agree with steevo. Netgear "PRO" ís really "Pro in the eyes of consumer" and is NOT "Enterprise". But for your situation, you will be satified with a Netgear SMART switch. Just make sure you have:

    1./ gigabit on all
    2./ QoS
    3./ Bandwidth limit management.

    These 3 features are all you need for a small business network.
     
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  15. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Thanks for the thought-out reply and encouraging words. I certainly can Google and I've been doing quite a bit of it over the last few days! :cool:

    Right now the network is currently using a cheap Linksys WRT54G and a large number of the users are on wireless. My first and most important goal is eliminating the wireless for both simplicity and security reasons. I think I will go with a Netgear Smart switch as several of you have recommend them to be a good solution for a SMB network.

    This part puzzles me too. I've only just started working for the guy so I'm not sure what his exact pattern of thinking is, but I have a feeling he probably heard the terminal idea bounced around and assumed it was something he needed. Tomorrow is my first official day "on the job" and I hope to sit down and ask him why it is he wants or thinks he needs terminals. I will post back once I know more, but I have a feeling that there's got to be a simpler way to do things.

    Right now the majority of the computers use XP and a few Vista boxes here and there (not looking forward to networking them at all, by the way) as well as XP SP3 on the server. I think his ultimate goal with the server is to provide a redundancy backup and not necessarily to have an enterprise level server. I will know more tomorrow.

    Can you explain to me more about ISA servers? I'm not familiar with that.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  16. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Alright, I think I'll go with the SonicWall. They seem to have a few varieties available. Is the one you recommend their best product? I'll do some review searching of my own here in a bit.

    The more I hear about terminals, the more I think they're complete overkill for what it is he needs. Tomorrow when I talk to him I plan on finding exactly what it is he hopes to accomplish by using terminals. From there, I hope I can find a better way to provide him with a solution that's simpler, less expensive, and a lot easier on my brain. :)

    Thank you, that explains it. So a managed switch would be used in a more critical network environment. I guess the Cisco 2950 is a managed switch? (That's not really a question, more of an observation on my part as I've worked with them before.)

    Thanks for the reply. So what makes a Smart switch better than a "dumb" one. Is it kind of a compromise between a managed and umanaged switch in that it allows more control, or does the "smart" part imply it manages itself? I read the description on the Netgear page, but since you've used them before perhaps you can explain it better.

    And one question. By "Gigabit on all" you mean a 10/100/1000 connection on each port, right?

    Thanks to everyone I really appreciate all the excellent help so far!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  17. niko084

    niko084

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    Probably means that the switch isn't limited to 12 gigabit and has 24 gigabit ports... That's what you find in cheap switches.
     
  18. Jizzler

    Jizzler

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    Cool. Let us know how it goes.

    ISA Server is Microsoft's software firewall/routing/VPN/proxy/etc solution. At my last job we took an old Dell Optiplex workstation, added two NICS, and put Server 2003/ISA Server 2004 on it. Easily handled all our remote users as well as the traffic to our webserver, even when I was maxing out our 15Mb/15Mb line :D

    It's probably overkill for your network, but if you were to get 2003 SBE Premium, use it and save the cost of a hardware firewall/router.

    When I came into my current job they already had a Sonicwall Pro 2040. Works well, and the failover to our seperate DSL line worked flawlessy when construction workers cut through our fiber line! :eek: Were lucky that time as they didn't go deep enough to cut the phone line or our 2 T1's, which are used exclusively for our phone system.
     
  19. Jizzler

    Jizzler

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    I believe he meant getting a 24port gigabit switch, not one of the models that are 24 10/100 + 2 or 4 gigabit ports.

    But with the GS724AT that was mentioned earlier, it's fine in either case. Has 24 gigabit ports and 48Gbps switching bandwidth. Not that I would worry too much about the latter, as it will be a switch with a single server and 15 clients.
     
  20. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    What SonicWall firewall is the best one? The one suggested above is out of our price range. I'm thinking I should keep the firewall under $200. There's only one at that price. Is it decent? Keep in mind this is a small network (to you guys lol) so I'm not sure I need a $500 firewall.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833339001

    The outbound Internet connection I'm working with is extremely limited. It's a low end broadband connection and I won't know the details until tomorrow. Nothing faster is available in the location which is unfortunate.

    As I said, tomorrow I'll have a better idea of what it is he wants. I think I can handle managing fifteen or so computers with filesharing and the like, but the fact I'm not even sure of that worries me I'm way over my head when more complicated things start coming up.

    I hope I can do this because computer opportunities are non existent here where I live.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2008
  21. lemonadesoda

    lemonadesoda

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    What I think your new boss means by going to terminals is to ensure that EVERY MACHINE is setup identically, anyone can log in and get THEIR files (hot desk), and REDUCE THE COST of licensing.

    One or all of these is what he will be looking for.

    Many small businesses "add a license" AFTER they set it up. (SHOCK HORROR).

    He may well be aware he is short of licenses, but want to go legal in the cheapest way.

    He may also NOT want to dedicate desks to people, but go for hotdesking, esp. if the company uses temps.

    The term "terminal" used to mean "thin client" and now tends to mean "thick client". I think to look intelligent on the subject, dont just ask him questions, KNOW and GUIDE him. After all, he isnt the computer expert, YOU ARE! Or a least, that is why he is paying you.

    Use every minute to wise-up on the "small network" topics and on "clients" this weekend before you meet the guy. Dont try to be an expert or pretend you know something you dont. If he asks you a question, tell him "you think the answer is... BUT you will check into it". What ever happens, if this boss is a PC enthhusiast, he may well know a lot more than you do... but just doesnt have time to do the PC work... after all he runs the business. Maybe he will guide you and you just need to "do it".

    Good luck.
     
  22. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Hey, thanks for the reply and private message. I'm off to the place today to see how things go. I'm going to try my best to be knowledgeable in the areas I know and to be as helpful as possible with the things I'm not.

    Just to make sure I understood you right in the message, (I'll reply to it personally after I get back today), if I plug the computers into a switch I network them using the built-in Windows settings I'm familiar with, correct? I'm really hoping it doesn't require complicated management consoles or anything like that.

    How hard is the actual setup in physically getting machines to speak to and recognize one and other on a network like this? There isn't much to it besides physically plugging things in and setting up things on the client machine, right?
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2008
  23. lemonadesoda

    lemonadesoda

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    The EASIEST first step is to give ONE PC some SHARED FOLDERS. All the other PCs can see that. Then you can put access protection on those folders. This is OK if your network and users dont change much.

    A better solution, but requiring some time on your side to learn it, is to use a proper Server setup, with centrally managed users and AD (Active Directory) etc.

    But you are OK to get started:
    1./ Plug all the machines in
    2./ Set up "folder sharing" on one of the PCs (your server)
    3./ Set Access Rights on the shared folders
     
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  24. CrAsHnBuRnXp

    CrAsHnBuRnXp

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    So long as you setup a domain and have all computers in that domain, they should automatically connect to the network with no other physical setup on the networking side of things.
     
  25. Vayne

    Vayne New Member

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    Hey, thanks. I'm here at work now trying to piece things together.

    Here's a quick question, how does this switch look?http://www.netgear.com/Products/Switches/AdvancedSmartSwitches/FS728TS.aspx

    What's the main difference between the ProSafe series and SmartSwitches?
     

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