Consultant recommendations for Branch Office Integration

Hello all,
The regulars here are going to remember this scenario, but here it is again for everyone else:  I have recently been tasked with networking and integrating a Branch Office connection to an office who's LAN I installed and currently manage.  I have been evaluating the necessary hardware needs, IP configuration and core technologies necessary to create this link to the Branch Office.  For those of you outhere who have gone through this type of migration before, any suggestions you may have to aid me would be greatly appreciated.  Ultimately the goal is to allow the Branch Office computers to run a program on the Central Office's Server.  One of my remaining questions is how I would go about networking a Branch Office to the Central Office using regular Broadband with Static Ip's assigned  by the respective ISP's.  I recognize the 256k transfer speed issue, but it may save the business thousands a year using their existing ISP instead of a T-1......So there you have it, any comments or suggestions,  Let me know!

Thanks everyone!

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OAC TechnologyProfessional NerdsCommented:
If 256k is the TOTAL speed at the central office, you may want to consider Citrix. It does come with a high initial price tag, but it works great. I just decomissioned a Citrix server that had been in place for 10 years that 15 people used all day for accounting on a 256k line across the country.

If budget is a big deal, you probably want to try Terminal Server. It's less expensive, but doesn't have as many features as Citrix.
If you consider about security, then I would suggest you have some kind of VPN implemented between these 2 sites and then run the program.

But with 256K, I'm not sure how well this is going to work.

You need to detail out the hardware you have at both sites, the kind of application (less bandwidth/more bandwidth/db access etc).

Broadband DSL is 1.5 MEGA BITS!!! Not 256K, so why is the connection so crippled?  You can get ADSL for $29.95 per month, that will give you full access via VPN to the central office, there is no way you can justify the loss of business productivity from a pathetic 256K conncetion. That limits you to a thin client like Citrix, and it is crippling if you want full network file access. So decide if you can get better than 256K first, BEFORE you talk about how to network.  It make a HUGE difference, believe me.
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I have connected our 2 offices here through 2 VPN Routers and they work pretty well...  Very little investment needed since the VPN Routers were not that expensive.  The only thing it didn't have was QoS.  Now if you want more control for your bandwidth then I would suggest getting a VPN Router with QoS, or the cheapest way would be to setup a linux box, but more troublesome when it comes to set up etc....  Hope this helps.
You're going to want a VPN between the sites, for reasons I probably don't need to explain to you.  There are some less expensive options - I recently purchased a couple Watchguard SOHO 6tc units and ran a VPN across them without a whole lot of setup required.  I can't remember if site-to-site VPN came with the standard 6tc or if it was an add-on, but you could probably get everything you need for both sites for under $1k total.  I'm sure there are other products out there which will do the same; this is the one I've worked with, so I speak more from experience than from a recommendation perspective.

You'll want to run some kind of remote desktop, be it Citrix or Terminal Server or whatever.  There are generally no SLAs on broadband internet connections, and when (not if) you see temporary blip to the internet connection at either end, you don't want to have to cope with the branch clients trying to reconnect, then figure out what transactions failed where due to the client issues.  With a terminal server at the central office, the branch users would lose connection to the TS but the data in the application wouldn't be compromised.

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Jandakel2Author Commented:
Thank-you all for your very informative responses.  To answer a few of the questions/remarks:  I currently have a Linksys Firewall/Router at the Central Office which functioned perfectly well for a single office (15 PC Network) where Internet was the only issue.  I recognize the need to upgrade this router, significantly, and I would like to but the same router I install at the central office in at the branch office also, for obvious reasons.  The program that they use is on a Linux platform, and is ultimately an Automotive Management application.  It runs databases for their parts, sales, service etc.  It is not very robust at all, having an almost DOS like "GUI" ( I almost refrain from referring to it as a GUI).  The two networks both have broad band internet via Time Warner Cable (Road Runner), business class connections and I was told that the max upload was 256K.  I am definitely considering Cisco products, given my LAN familiarity and their reliability.  I have been looking at both the 1700 and 1800 series of products.  Let me know if you would like more information regarding the project....I greatly appreciate your efforts....if I could give 1000 points I would!!


Jandakel2Author Commented:
Okay, update.  The 256k uplink is their dirt floor package.  I am looking at a 512kb uplink and 3MB download line.  The broadband package includes their own VPN endpoint routers for their management, and then I am going to purchase a router for each location, most likely from Cisco.  I'd love to hear your recommendations for this aspect as I have seen several solutions.  I am going to register static IP's for both routers, and plan on sharing the Internet Connection of the Central Office out to the Branch Office via the VPN connection.  So, all I really have is their Automative Management App (Linux based very small packets) Internet and email for 10 users going through the pipe, so I don't think it should be that bad with the 3MB up and 512 down.  Hardware selection may dictate speed considerably though given the distance (45miles), that's why I'm thinking Cisco.  Any other suggestions out there?

Thanks in advance,

A Cisco based branch office vpn tunnel sounds good to me.  Be aware that this type of connection will be limited by the slowest speed - what is upload for one is download for another.
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