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Need options for continued easy access to data

Posted on 2006-11-28
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Last Modified: 2013-11-21
Our company is moving most functions from one local office to another remote office.  There will still be a handful of staff at the downsized (local) location still remaining.  There will no longer be any onsite IT support, so the plan is to remove the need for backups of any type locally.  We currently have a Fractional (512 Kb/s) T1/MPLS connection to our head office 2,000 mi away - which is then connected by another 512 Kb/s connection to the remote office in question (another 2,000 mi away).  We have trusted domains, so we can access each others files, but it takes literally up to 100 x longer to save a file opened remotely than locally.

My options so far are:
1. Have local users open all files on remote servers and suffer under the pain of slow performance.
2. Upgrade our bandwith, but incurr the many $1000's of extra dollars to upgrade (the local office is not near a major exchange, so higher costs are incurred for WAN connections).
3. Keep files locally on a file server, but have a script run each night to copy data over the WAN to the remote location so they can backup the data on their system.
4. Pay an online backup provider for backup services.

I would like to go with option #3 - HOWEVER - I did an iperf test between the local and remote locations, and the best response time I got was 447 Kbps - with a daily incremental backup of at least 7 GB, it would take over 30 hours every day to backup one day's modified files!  So I'm thinking that option is a no show - especially for the full backups.

Does anyone have any other ideas that would work well for a situtation like this?  The main concern is data availability for the local location in case of lost data - but also speed and integration.
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Question by:lundca
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by:dlangr
dlangr earned 200 total points
ID: 18031770
Get an adsl line at the local and remote locations, or use an existing internet connection and secure the data transfers by means of an VPN. (see http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Q_21182122.html?query=VPN&clearTAFilter=true for an explanation of what a VPN is)

You can keep the fractional T1 if you like ( or have to because of your contract / availability guarantees), or discard it all together to save money.
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Hypercat (Deb) earned 200 total points
ID: 18032302
First, have you considered setting up a terminal server in the office where the larger number of staff will be housed?  This would do away with the performance issues you have with a simple remote connection.  The speed gain is tremendous, since all of the processing goes on at the server end, so there is no actual data transfer between the client and the server.  There is some cost involved, of course, depending on the number of users, as the server hardware needs to be robust enough to handle processing for x number of users simultaneously, plus there is the cost of terminal server CALs and possibly additional software CALs.  It's an option to consider, though. It would allow you to centralize file storage easily in that one location for backup purposes.

Also, if there is either SDSL or cable service available in either or both locations, a switchover to one or the other of these options would give you equal or greater speed for probably less cost. ADSL is an option too, but not as desirable since it usually involves much slower upload speeds.  But it is a lot cheaper.  With this option, you would use a VPN connection between the offices for securitiy purposes, but have the users connect to the terminal server over the VPN connection.  

Hope this helps!
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by:laramp2004
laramp2004 earned 100 total points
ID: 18034621
You can setup a Terminal Server to handle this. If the Terminal Server is a 2000 box and the clients connecting are Windows 2000 or better the cal is included and you will not incur the cost pruchasing additional cals. I have not dealt with this on a 2003 box so I am not able to say much about it.
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by:lundca
ID: 18036316
Hmmm . . . terminal server, I'm not sure why that didn't occur to me before.  We used to have an old TS in the local location, so I'm familiar with it.

My only concern with that is the nature of the users remaining in the local office.  They are VP's and sales people that travel alot and will require settings/shortcuts/files to travel with them.  I don't want them to have to use a VPN wherever they go to have access to that.

Can TS be setup so that while in the local office they use TS - but while on the road (if no internet connection for VPN is available) they can use the files they need locally (provided they had the foresight to copy them over before disconnecting)?

The other issue I have is Lotus Notes.  All our users (if you're familiar with Lotus) use a locally replicated mail file on their hard drives - it replicates to the mail server 2000 mi away in our head office.  If we use TS, then the TS will have to have a copy of their mail file and run Lotus in the remote office, however when the user is disconnected from the network, I would like them to still be able to open their local mail file without any hassle . . . some of the executives are rather technically challenged and I would like this to be as easy on them as possilbe - they already hate technology, but at least recognize it as necessary.

I hope I haven't lost anyone in a trail of confusion.
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by:Hypercat (Deb)
ID: 18037546
The answer to your first question is easy - yes, as long as they copy the files down locally, and the necessary software is locally installed, there's no reason they can't use files locally on their laptops.  These days it's pretty rare to go anywhere (at least any business office) that doesn't have a Internet connection. However, if they're likely to run into this issue, then they can plan for it.

The Lotus notes issue is obviously a lot more complex.  First of all, just because you have TS doesn't mean everyone has to use it.  So, the users in the main office, where the file server is actually located, could continue to use their workstations connected locally to the network without having to go through the TS.  For the remote users, it might be simpler, rather than trying to figure out how to have their email replicated to the TS, to have them do a "mix-and-match" where they do all their documents, etc., on the TS and run their email locally on their workstations.  Do you think this would work?  

Hope this helps!
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by:lundca
ID: 18037581
I suppose that could work - users can always just minimize their remote desktop window to access their email on their actual desktop.

I'm having a meeting with the remote IT staff to go over our options and figure something out later today.  I'll keep you posted.
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by:lundca
ID: 18037591
There is, of course, with this option a learning curve for the technically challenged among us - but hey, if they wanted things the way they were - they wouldn't close the local office.
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by:lundca
ID: 18037678
Here's a thought, would roaming profiles work with both TS and the client computer to keep their favorites/shortcuts/user settings in sync?  That would definitely help.
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by:Hypercat (Deb)
ID: 18037992
The answer is....no, but there is somewhat of a workaround.  Although theoretically roaming profiles would work, Microsoft doesn't recommend using the same profiles for workstations and terminal services.  I know that people have had problems with profiles getting corrupted and not working properly when trying to use the same profiles for both.  My guess is that changes in the ntuser.dat file when logging on to the terminal server cause this to happen.  

You can designate, either individually in each user's AD properties or through group policies for all users, a separate set of roaming profile folders for use when logging on to the terminal server.  I usually place these profiles directly on the terminal server itself for simplicity's sake.  What we have done in the past is initially to copy (use backup/restore rather than straight copy - it works better) the users' existing roaming profiles to the TS profiles folders, so that everything is duplicated.  Then, from that point on they need to be aware that any changes they make on the TS will not affect their regular desktop and vice versa.  This usually isn't a problem since most users don't make a lot of changes on their desktops except for wallpaper, etc., which we prevent them from using on the TS anyway.

Deb
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by:lundca
ID: 18114537
Well, here's the scoop - what we'll probably be doing is going with IBM Tivoli software to process file changes at the bits and byte level and send that small data over the WAN - so if we make a 1 byte change to a 100 MB database, then the single byte change would be sent, not the entire 100 MB db.

But technically, I did ask for options - which you all provided - and good ones I might add . . . so points for all!
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