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building a network

Hi!
I haven't got a problem as such I just need some advice.
my company has 15 computers all conected to a hub with internet access.However, there's no domain controller.

Since they want to be able to manage user accounts,peripherals, internet access from one computer I suggested
getting windows 2003 server.

Now, I have been asked to install the server on one of the computers and organise the network.
(I did work with win2000 server a few years ago but haven't had any practical experience since.)

I really enjoy the opportunity to do something like this for my company but I have a few concerns:

1) will it be possible for someone of such limited experience to build a network( 15 comps and a server) and how hard will it be?

2) will there be problems with internet access for all the computers once the server is installed or is every computer configured pretty much automatically by the server? (internet access is crucial for my company)

3) will the company be able to automatise installation of any new software (say we need to install sage on all the machines. is it possible to do all the installation from just the server?)

4) all the computers are quite old but there's one which is pretty decent (3ghz,512 ram) and I was thinking about installing the server on that one.
 Would this computer handle the demands of win2003 server and will it be enough to manage a network of 15 computers?

5)what will happen if after installing the server the machine fails? will all other computers stop working and there will be no internet access or is it still going to work?

6)all the computers are currently connected into a dual speed hub. is that an issue will it handle the demands of the network? (we do some file transfer but mainly it's the internet that we use our computers for)

7) do microsoft offer any guidance/user support in case s...t happens?

cheers guys
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martinesque
Asked:
martinesque
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1 Solution
 
SaineolaiCommented:
Lot's of questions I won't deal with them all but will give some advice...

Seriously consider using Windows Small Business Server 2003 and not just the standard version of Windows server 2003.  Details on http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/sbs/default.mspx

1.) Everyone has to start somewhere. I would try to get someone to assist you with this who will advise you and you can learn from.  Perhaps a local IT company who can help you if the going gets tough, but best to involve them from the start.

2.) SBS can configure all computers to have internet access, try to get a broadband connection.

3.) SBS does support automatically installing applications on PCs.  Check the microsoft web site for documentation and specific instructions.

4.) Invest in decent server hardware as you can operate off it for the next number of years, check the recommended specifications for SBS and purchase above them.

5.) If the server fails users will not be able to access the data stored on it.  Purchase a RAID disc system for the server and a back unit to avoid data loss.

6.) Switches are better than hubs.  If you can afford it replace the hub.

7.) Documentation on their website and through a local Small Business Specialist you should be able to find one through their website.

Think I've answered them all now!
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Jay_Jay70Commented:
Hi martinesque,

1) you will be fine - best way to learn is to get in and do it :)
http://www.petri.co.il/how_to_install_active_directory_on_windows_2003.htm

2) you can set up DHCP with windows 2003 to provide DNS and gateway settings so internet will be no problem
http://computerperformance.co.uk/w2k3/services/DHCP_Configure.htm

3) they sure will, group policy will provde that for you
http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Group-Policy-Deploy-Applications.html

4) thats fine although i would reccomend a min of 1GB or RAM

5) If the domain controller goes down you are introuble which is why you need to look at backup options

6) Switch will be fine

7) ms offer a monster database as well as Experts Exchange! evreything has been asked before!

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JoeCommented:
Hi  martinesque,

This can be accomplished using Active Directory / Group Policy. Installing Windows server with this will give you the ability to push down software and policies to your users. You would be able to lock down user work stations from a central location without having to visit each machine. When pushing down software to the clients they would have to be in MSI format which would either have to be downloaded like this or created from an exe. I find that Windows 2003 SBS is very simple to install with Active Directory and a handfull of other things which most are stup automatically for you, plus I beleive SBS gives you exchange license's. Yes the machine you are talking about would be able to handle 2003 server. Do you plan on just using this machine as a server?Do you plan on setting up DHCP? DNS will need to be installed in part with Active Directory. So to break it down in your questions.

1) will it be possible for someone of such limited experience to build a network( 15 comps and a server) and how hard will it be? Yes, I would recommend using Micrososoft 2003 SBS server.

2) will there be problems with internet access for all the computers once the server is installed or is every computer configured pretty much automatically by the server? (internet access is crucial for my company). You can setup a DHCP server, this will lease out IPS to all of your computers on the network.

3) will the company be able to automatise installation of any new software (say we need to install sage on all the machines. is it possible to do all the installation from just the server?) Yes, this can be accomplished by using Active Directory / Group Policy.

4) all the computers are quite old but there's one which is pretty decent (3ghz,512 ram) and I was thinking about installing the server on that one.
 Would this computer handle the demands of win2003 server and will it be enough to manage a network of 15 computers? The specs sound like it would be ok with a little network of 15 machines but should be upgraded at some point and time if your business plans on growing. Dell offers good deals on servers.

5)what will happen if after installing the server the machine fails? will all other computers stop working and there will be no internet access or is it still going to work? Depending on what roles your server is playing but in most cases yes if the machine failed you would most likely have problems on your hands.

6)all the computers are currently connected into a dual speed hub. is that an issue will it handle the demands of the network? (we do some file transfer but mainly it's the internet that we use our computers for). Shouldnt have a problem here.

7) do microsoft offer any guidance/user support in case s...t happens? Yes, they do offer support. Guidance I would stick to this forum :).

Joe




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JoeCommented:
Forgot to add to the above recommendation with upgrading to the 1 Gig of ram would be great :), which has already been mentioned above.
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JoeCommented:
I forgot to ask what your network consists of. What are the OS's on the 15 machines?
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martinesqueAuthor Commented:
JOEZ430- some of the PC's run windxp and some of them win2000
would that be a problem?


also
is setting up the dhcp server a difficult thing to do?
my understanding now is that once you configured the server all the other computers will get the ip addresses automatically. but where do I get the address for the server itself?

cheers
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martinesqueAuthor Commented:
got one more question L:)

as I'm installing the server will the network stop working with no internet access?
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Hi martinesque,

I'm sure I'm repeating what others have said to some extent, but I'm pretty sure I'm giving at least a little new information:


> 1) will it be possible for someone of such limited experience to build
> a network( 15 comps and a server) and how hard will it be?

I would think so, but keep in mind, we don't know you and don't know exactly what you know or how easily you learn it.  If you are not experienced, than I would encourage you to get a few consultants to make proposals, then check their references, then have them put in the system (do it right the first time and you won't have to do it again, causing interruption and other issues).  No problem with you being the "at the site" guy who handles day-to-day maintenance, and SBS if you get that, if setup right, should not require more than an hour or two of consultant time per month.

If you do decide a consultant is just out of the question, you're going to do this, then do it -- but do NOT expect the first install to be THE install - install it a few times to practice and get familiar with it and ask questions when you're not certain about something.

SBS includes Microsoft Exchange and offers options for Remote Access (Remote Web Workplace) that Server Standard does not.  It also offers licensed copies of Outlook 2003 for each Client Access License (CAL).  For your environment, it really is the best option.  If you already bought AND opened the Server 2003 box, then you have little choice, but if not, get SBS.

And if you use SBS, USE THE WIZARDS FOR EVERYTHING!  If you remember how you did a few things with 2000 and try to do it likewise with SBS you can create problems.  It's almost better you don't know how to manage a server if you have SBS - that way you don't end up doing things wrong, at least not as easily, if you remember to look to the wizards.

> 2) will there be problems with internet access for all the computers
> once the server is installed or is every computer configured pretty
> much automatically by the server? (internet access is crucial for my company)

Regardless of SBS or not, KNOW how important DNS is and what the various roles of a Domain Controller are - the FSMO roles and global catalog.  (Definitely do some reading if you can't afford a class or other training materials).  You'll likely have to change how DHCP works and all the clients should use DNS from the SERVER.  


> 3) will the company be able to automatise installation of any new
> software (say we need to install sage on all the machines. is it possible
> to do all the installation from just the server?)

Yes, but will it be worth it?  Some programs that come packaged in .msi files can be be deployed using Group Policy with little or no user/administrator intervention.  Other apps would need to be repacked.  The repackaging process can take a little time - it's a no brainer for a company with 100's of PCs, but for 15?  you'll probably be able to install locally faster than if you tried deploying the software.  (NOTE: NOT ALL msi software can be deployed via group policy - I've seen some (Copier/Scanner related) that hung the system - so ALWAYS test the MSI on one machine before attempting to push it to everyone else).


> 4) all the computers are quite old but there's one which is pretty
> decent (3ghz,512 ram) and I was thinking about installing the server on that one.
>  Would this computer handle the demands of win2003 server and will it
> be enough to manage a network of 15 computers?

As I know others have mentioned, up the RAM.  ESPECIALLY if you get SBS.  For just a file server and domain controller, 512 is fine.  For ANYTHING more than that, I'd definitely get to at least 1 GB.

> 5)what will happen if after installing the server the machine fails?
> will all other computers stop working and there will be no internet
> access or is it still going to work?

Yes, if the server fails, you'll have problems because all your clients MUST, repeat MUST use ONLY the DNS server of the server.  So if the server's DNS server fails, your clients won't be able to access the internet by normal means.  You can change the DNS AFTER the server fails, provided you change it back when the server comes up.  The solution to this is to have a SECOND server running as an additional domain controller and DNS server.  Note: users who have logged on to a machine at least once (up to the last 10 users by default) will still be able to log on regardless of the server being available as the systems "cache" their logon information.  But as already indicated, there will be other issues.
 
> 6)all the computers are currently connected into a dual speed hub. is
> that an issue will it handle the demands of the network? (we do some
> file transfer but mainly it's the internet that we use our computers for)

In my opinion, with switches as low as they are in price, replace it with a switch.  You CAN keep using it, but you'll be better off with a switch.

> 7) do microsoft offer any guidance/user support in case s...t happens?

Yes.  $245 per call.  Or, you can PREPAY for 2 calls (or so) and get a subscription to Microsoft Technet Plus, which will provide you NON-PRODUCTION licensed copies of a variety of software as well as resources to manage the network, training, and a 20% discount on additional calls.

Cheers!
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
martinesque,
> JOEZ430- some of the PC's run windxp and some of them win2000
> would that be a problem?

Not at all - 2000 and XP Pro are what you want for clients.  They are completely manageable via an Active Directory domain (what you would be using with either SBS or standard server.  9x clients and NT4 are not as manageable.  Linux and Mac are not manageable at all without additional software (and I'm not even sure what that would be).



> also
> is setting up the dhcp server a difficult thing to do?
> my understanding now is that once you configured the server all the
> other computers will get the ip addresses automatically. but where do
> I get the address for the server itself?

It's probably more difficult disabling it on the router.  You have a nice graphical tool in Windows, just a web page on the router.  You would set the server to use a static IP - for example, if the router is 192.168.1.1, then I'd set the server to 192.168.1.254, then I'd setup DHCP on the server to hand out addresses from 192.168.1.100 through 192.168.1.200
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JoeCommented:
>>as I'm installing the server will the network stop working with no internet access?

I am assuming all of your machines are set with static addresses, so you should not have any problems while initially setting up your server for the switch over.
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Jay_Jay70Commented:
ha! well my essay of 11 lines  now looks like a childs scribbling attemp at a response
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martinesqueAuthor Commented:
big thank you to all of you guys
you helped me a great deal
the points go to joez430

cheers
and regards
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Jay_Jay70Commented:
i am confused, is that not the same answer that was given originally by two previous comments? and you were given a monster in depth answer from leew that you are just ignoring?? why arent you splitting the points here? i dont care if you leave mine out but the answer you selected is just repeating what was already said (no offence to Joe)

Jay
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