Network setup

Posted on 2007-08-02
Last Modified: 2010-04-20
I am planning to set up a network with the following information:

  a. 1 server
  b. 12 - 15 clients with windows XP ( personally, I am not yet confortable with the stability of Vista but if experts says otherwise please let me know)
  c. router

  a. Is small windows server sufficient or Windows server a better chopice for OS?
  b. Exchange

Basically, what we want to be able to do with the setup are :
 1. Be able to access our files remotely
 2. and the usual one data repository
 3. Be able to connect our plotter, fax, xerox and printers in the network

If you can give me advice what to purchase with the things that we want to do, I will appreciate it.
Question by:airmail
    LVL 10

    Accepted Solution

    Hi there,

    SBS isn't less than Windows Server, it's more (in most ways) !!!

    SBS is an excellent choice for a setup your size. - however, if you're not familiar with SBS then I suggest you familiarise yourself with it or get an experienced SBSer to help get it set up right. It has many components, many capablities and therefore lots of things can go wrong. I'm not trying to put you off it - it's a great product, but one that can do fanatastic things if set up and looked after properly - or be a royal pain if not :-)

    A few quick recommendations:
    - SBS 2003 R2 (of course). Go with Premium if you need (or will need) SQL, and/or if you don't have (can't get) a PROPER hardware firewall.
    - Get a proper hardware firewall! (sonicwall etc) This will be a router and much much more... and they're not that expensive ( Google SonicWALL total secure 25)
    - Server spec really depends on what apps you want to run on it, but bear in mind SBS runs a lot of things with a default install, so get decent hardware (Dell, HP etc). Get a 2-socket server even if you don't get two processors now (unless you anticipate no business growth). Get at least 2Gb of RAM. Get a RAID-5 setup for your drives (the most reliable setup IMHO) to ensure that your business data doesn't die too easily with a single drive failure
    - Make sure you read and follow best practices because a badly set up SBS server is probably the worst thing you've ever faced!
    - Read up and make sure you have good quality regular backups... a single server means that you need good disaster recovery plans, tested backups, off-site (online) & automated are a good addition to your backup plan.

    Vista works fine! :-) And Office 2007 is really great....

    more details later if you want...

    Last but not least, check out
    and you may want to check out any number of SBS-related blogs on a regular basis...

    I'm sure Jeff will give you some more input as well, just thought I'd open this up!

    LVL 42

    Assisted Solution

    just wanted to pipe in here..
    vista does work ok...  but, you'll have to beef up your client computers alot more than if they were just running xp.  vista needs a lot more umph/processing power than xp.

    you might also consider setting up Active Directory and joining all client computers to a domain.  this will give you a central point of control, versus having to go around to each and every client to configure.  in many cases, you can do software installation from one point as well.  if you decide to use Active Directory, the client computers will need to be XP Pro (NOT Media Center unless you want to go through the hassle of forcing each one to join a domain... a real pain the rear), or at least Vista Business

    consider a good antivirus product.  many good router/firewall appliances (like sonicwall), offer gateway antivirus protection, but using such a feature will significantly slow down your internet connection.  my preference is for a corporate antivirus that allows you to monitor, install, repair client computers from a management console.
    LVL 74

    Assisted Solution

    by:Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy
    I agree with all of the above...  just a couple of comments.

    It's not "Small WIndows Server" it's Windows Small Business Server.  While that may seem petty, it really makes a big difference in how you view the product.  SBS includes Windows Server 2003 along with other server components that are not found in a standard Server 2003. And it includes EXCHANGE!   For a 12-15 workstation network, you definitely want SBS.

    You will also need a SWITCH to connect your workstations to the SBS. (Because you don't want or need a 16-port router).  Be sure to get an Unmanaged Gigabit Switch.

    You'll find a terrific guide for to help you through much of the decision making process as well as providing numerous important resources here:

    I would also recommend that you get at least one good SBS book... my recommendations are at

    Be prepared to "test" install the server at least two or three times before actually deploying it live.  Read this article to see why:

    Vista is PLENTY stable.  But just understand that SBS 2003 was released before Vista existed, so you will just need to apply a few patches to the server after installing it in order for Vista Clients to work properly.  See for details.

    LVL 10

    Expert Comment

    Just a bit more nuts n bolts type info whether or not you want it :-)

    As zephyr_hex mentioned, Active Directory is a somewhat (!) useful system. I wouldn't have thought you were even considering buying a server and not setting up a domain so I didn't mention it - but if you're even considering the workgroup option, then don't! SBS without AD is pretty pointless.
    Also, the level of management you get these days from the likes of group policy (only works with AD) is phenomenal, and even on a 15-PC network can save you days of configuration, installation and troubleshooting.

    I would suggest you make sure you get up to speed with group policy and the Grou Policy Management Console before you start setting up any client PCs. Pretty much every setting that you can set manually can be configured via Group Policy  - and it only needs to be done once. This is a big Vista benefit, since GP in Vista is a lot more powerful that in XP. You're best off using a Vista workstation to manage GP since a lot of the new settings don't exist in previous versions (including the servers).

    Lastly, hardware-wise, I believe MS enforce a 1GB minimum on Vista Business.. but I have bought new systems for about 90% of my Vista installs (although am also running Vista in a production environment on a couple of 2yr old P4s). The new hardware has all been at least Core 2 Duo E6400 with 2GB RAM. In short, get 2GB RAM for Vista - memory is pretty cheap and anything less will get users very familiar with the new blue-circle egg-timer replacement! I would much rather spend an extra £40 on processor / memory and over-specify the baseline than save £40 (or £100 for that matter) and have clients sitting around twiddling their thumbs (or coming up with ways to cause trouble / sack me!) while waiting for their PCs to respond!

    Author Comment

    Thanks a lot for the input, and so with the terminology which I pretty appreciate that it does make a difference.
    Just a couple of things that I need to ask:

    The very reason we want to set up this network is for us to be able to connect remotely, TechSoEasy suggests SWITCH, will it matter if we will use SWITCH or ROUTER for us to be able to connect remotely?  We havent try connecting remotely, any further information on this will greatly appreciated.  

    Thanks in advance!
    LVL 10

    Expert Comment

    you will need both a router and a switch... a lot of routers these days come with a 4/5-port switch built into the back. However, since you have 12-15 PCs you will need a separate switch in order to connect all your computers up.
    Without meaning to offend, it doesn't sound like you know very much about networking and if setting up a production network, might it be an idea to get some advice from a local IT consultant?
    Just a thought, and as I said - no offence intended.
    LVL 42

    Expert Comment

    you'll want to have a gateway router/firewall appliance.  you will configure this device to allow remote access to the server by using port forwarding.

    you'll want to consider how many people have remote access to the server at once.  if it's more than one, you'll want to install Terminal Services on the server.  you can use Windows Remote Desktop, but it is limited to one session at a time.  Terminal Services allows multiple people to be connected remotely at the same time.
    LVL 10

    Expert Comment

    With SBS I would recommend either using a firewall-based VPN or using RWW. RWW can let you connect to your PC directly so you wouldn't need access to the server directly (which isn't a good idea on SBS).

    Also, SBS can't run terminal services in application mode (only in remote administration mode), and you are limited to 3 concurrent sessions (2 regular RDP and 1 console), so you would want to give access to (a) either just the network or (b) the client PCs themselves.

    Providing users access to the SBS server itself is a very bad idea in my books!

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