Advice for upgrading a small network

Posted on 2001-08-09
Last Modified: 2010-04-29
I have a small office network in our church, all Macs, and a limited budget.  For the most part it works well but the server crashes once or twice a week.  We try to do some kind of upgrade at least once a year, typically with less than a thousand dollars.  At this point, I am unsure where to put our money.  Here's our system:

Server:  6115 Performa, OS 9, 40 meg RAM, Jaz 1 gig driver for backups
Bookkeeper:  4400 with Crescendo G3, OS 8.1, 96 meg RAM
Secretary:  4400/200, OS 9, 56 meg RAM
Administrator:  PB 3400/200, OS 8.5, 48 meg RAM
Youth Minister:  7200/160, OS 8.6, 96 meg RAM
Senior Minister:  PB FireWire/400, OS 9, 196 meg RAM
Volunteer (seldom used): Centris 040, OS 8.1, 16 meg RAM
Hub:  Genuis 8 port, twisted pair 10MB ethernet

Useage notes:  The bookkeeper has the fastest machine because of all the number crunching.  The secretary has a 17 inch monitor for newsletter layout and other DTP with PageMaker 7.0.  The server keeps our primary database file for the congregation (an Omnis program), the calender file (Now UptoDate) and our interoffice communication via SnapMail.  We are about to add to the server a second ethernet port with a NuBus card for a DSL modem.  The only folk who access the internet now are myself (Senior Minister) and the Youth worker, though all the stations can send e-mail via SnapMail routed through the server.  With the DSL modem, all stations will have access to the internet.  Each station has its own printer and access to a LaserWriter.  We don't do much in the way of multi-media or have any need for video editing and graphics.

My primary objective in upgrading would be to increase stability, second would be overall performance (speed and flexibility).  One of my thoughts would be to hire a consultant to come in and do a complete evaluation.  Another is to buy OS 9 for all stations.  Should we be using a different machine for the server?  If we were to upgrade just one machine, say with an iMac or a used G4, should it be the server or should we upgrade one of the other machines and one of the 4400s the server.  Should we be working towards 100MB capable ethernet system?  

Your thoughts would be most welcome!  
Question by:Quackerback
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Accepted Solution

weed earned 200 total points
ID: 6369412
Yikes. I think youre in a bit of a catch-22. The server and the ethernet speed isnt worth upgrading unless you updated all those machines. You cant update all those machines at once due to a tight budget so there's no point in updating the network. You DONT want to put OS 9 on all those machines since it would slow them to a crawl. You dont want to go to a 100base-t network hub since none of those machines use 100Base-T ethernet except for the powerbook. It wouldnt do you any good. I think the server is probably OK for the ammount youre using it. Is it running any server software or is it just an appleshare volume? It could probably do with some more ram in either case. If i were in your shoes here's what I would do:

Keep the 6115 or one of the 4400s as a server and give it another 64MB of ram. (The 6115 was a more reliable server but the 4400 is faster.) Purchase an iMac within your budget as an extra machine and sell the machine you didn't use as a server. It's not worth going to 100Base-T yet so dont bother. Unless youre using your server HEAVILY for webserving etc i wouldnt make it one of your best machines. Dont replace it with a G4. It would be way overkill.

For a low budget network i think youve got a pretty good one. It just needs a little tweaking here and there. Probably wouldnt hurt to give each machine a runthrough of Norton DiskDoctor. Strip the servers system software down to just the minimums (after a clean install) required to do its task. Thatll free up more ram and decrease the clutter (stability) and speed things up a bit.

Author Comment

ID: 6373811
Is it running any server software or is it just an appleshare volume?

We do not have any server software of which I am aware, unless SnapMail/InterSnap could be called such.  It works regardless if you have the server volume on your desktop.   For all other uses, we access the server via AppleShare.

I do have NDD (SystemWorks) as well as TechTool Pro 2.54.

LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 6373920
Since its mostly just acting as an appleshare volume youll do just fine with a low end machine. You definitely dont need a whopping g4 server. Snap Mail isnt putting much load on it either but is probably taking up quite a bit of memory.

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