Setting-up a new client-server network for a small business?
December 5, 2006 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My friend's small business requires a client-server network setup with hardware and Windows Small Business Server 2003 - what's the best combination of Server hardware, UPS, backup systems and colour network printer to use to create a reliable network?

The business currently have six client machines (permanently logged-in as local admin accounts!), some of which are set-up to access a file-share on one client, which acts as their main data store and all these machines access the Internet using a 2wire router. The data is business-critical and so needs to sit on a server with some provision for power failure (though nothing more than providing 20 mins of power to safely shut down the systems). What hardware would best perform in terms of reliability and performance for the server and UPS kit? An hp ProLiant ML310 G3 appers to be suitable - is this appropriate? I would purchase a second SATA hard disk and second network card to provide firewall and backup capabilities (alongside an external backup USB drive with a nightly Syncback backup). The platform to use seems to be Windows 2003 Small Business Server - is this wise?

What Antivirus provision should I consider - can I have this software sit on the server and deploy to clients (fairly cheaply?) A colour network printer is also going to be necessary - any views on the current best value products on the market? Are there any other components which I'd be wise to add to this set-up? Have I got the server choice wrong? Any and all advice here would be greatly appreciated as I'm keen to implement the best system I can for under £1250 if at all possible!
posted by bill-uk to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't advise you on the software side, because I'm a linux admin. However, I can advise you on the hardware side.

First of all, some basic rules when choosing hardware:
* You want to avoid single points of failure -- with failure-prone items like power supplies and hard drives, you want a backup in there for everything.
* You should worry about expansion, but not upgradeability -- in two to three years you'll be buying a new one anyway. This means that you want additional hard drive bays, but don't worry about being able to put a new processor in there.

Now, on this specific server:

Honestly, this is a basic desktop box, not a server. It has no redundancy in any way shape or form. One power supply, one hard drive (and a small one at that)...

You should look into getting a SATA-RAID controller and setting up RAID1 Arrays for his data. This means that if a hard drive goes bad, you don't have to take the server down until you can put a new hard drive in and move your backed up data down to it. It's NOT a replacement for having an offline backup, but swapping hard drives out (pull one of the two drives in the pair out, putting the other one in and letting them remirror) and taking them offsite can be a backup method.

I think the proper UPS for something like this is a Smart UPS 1500.
posted by SpecialK at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2006

I have had good luck with HP Proliant servers. I recommend the following. You didn't mention running mail but I am going to assume you do. This is what I have:

Main Server: Runs AD, Exchange, Antivirus (Symantec is by far the best in my experience) and acts as a print server. Try to run gigabit as much as you can. Also go ahead and get 2 CPUs for the main server. Make sure you get a two disc RAID setup (I have 2 500GB disks which seem to work fine).

Media Server: I went a little overboard and have a 1.5TB Raid 5 setup. It cost ~$5,000. This is the main share. I even backup (Veritas) to this. The probability of it failing is low. Even so I run tape backups periodically.

We have different servers for accounting, etc. I have had very good success with the main server, the media server and then the "node" servers running the individual, high load programs. You probably don't need the node servers. In the event the main server fails a node server can pick up the slack until we get another server in. Data loss is exceedingly unlikely from disk failure.

For a small business try to stick to MS products. I have found they need very little configuration, very little attention and work well. I would rather spend a premium and perhaps give up performance and not have to worry about configuring some esoteric program.

Really if you play your cards right you should only have to deal with MS, Symantec and HP.

I think I've had a power supply go out once in 6 years. I have redundant power supplies, the cost was rather marginal to add another $100 brick in there. RAID 5 will be slow, so if you have something that needs to be fast it is best to look at other solutions.

I am primarily coming from an environment where all documents are created by Office, Acrobat or plain JPGs. Speed is not really an issue and hasn't been.

If you get a top of the line server setup and manage it appropriately I think all expenses will be towards upgrading software for quite some time. You will also be able to grow quite a bit. I bet without licensing you can get a fairly redundant setup and a nice bit of storage for ~$3000 a server.

Don't do SB, go Standard so you can do AD.

1250 is too small. Don't under capitalize your IT budget.
posted by geoff. at 11:51 AM on December 5, 2006

From a management perspective you definitely want to get data off the workstations and onto a server you can manage, backup and control. In a small company this is even more imperative. The damage this person can do, even inadvertently, would be more than buying your own file server.

Reading the comment above and revising a little bit, I think gigabit would be too much. Put two network cards in there. Redundancy isn't cheap, but it is not expensive.

Minimum of 500GB on the main server, if you want to also make it a media server. Keep an extra hard drive on hand, so when one fails you can hot swap without running to the store.
posted by geoff. at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2006

Response by poster: SpecialK - the Proliant I mentioned above has SATA RAID already within the spec - I just need to add an additional hard disk I thought?

thanks geoff for your advice - I don't have a deal of freedom on the budget though!
posted by bill-uk at 3:28 PM on December 5, 2006

What I use, and have little to no hardware failures

HP Printers
Dell Server's (w/ DRAC for remote access)
BackupExec for SBS Server

Bulletproof set.

If you run RAID5, you need a hardware raid controller.
posted by SirStan at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2006

And for the love of god, don't use your fileserver as a 'firewall' ever. It can be setup sensibly, but I have come into many companies that had their entire fileserver shared to the world.

Do NOT do that. Buy a $50 linksys router.
posted by SirStan at 4:59 PM on December 5, 2006

I think you need to look at getting someone else to provide and support the equipment or at least hire someone to spec the equipment and give support. If this is for a money making business you are asking way to many questions for you to even consider supporting this. A business is not a hobby to play with, an experienced person who does this for a living needs to be involved. Perhaps you can find a smaller company or consultant who will take this on for a reasonable rate. It's much better to have this done professionally upfront than to have someone come in latter to straighten out the mess. I'm not trying to be snarky, just speaking from years of having to straighten out messes that business owners friends made that were easily preventable if done correctly from the start.
posted by white_devil at 6:38 PM on December 5, 2006

Good point white_devel, but I am that consultant as well, so cases like this are what makes me money. Sometimes I forget to suggest the original fix (hire someone who knows their shit), as people ignore it so often.
posted by SirStan at 9:11 PM on December 5, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all for the input - I'm extremely comfortable setting things up on client side, I was just querying the hardware choices and keeping up to date with what other guys are doing.

The 2wire router has a firewall in-built, and the Proliant seems a good bet, so we'll run with that (with additional drives).
posted by bill-uk at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2006

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