Small Business Requires Networked Storage Solution

I have a small real estate business with about 5 networked computers that is in need of a storage solution.  We will be using the storage for sharing and storing company documents and pictures of houses.  I want to have a solution that is sufficiently fast so it sounds like I may need a server as opposed to a NAS?  I have $1,000 to $1,500 to spend and would like to get a solution that can work with us as we grow and can support working on documents remotely.  I have looked at some of the Dell solutions and would like something that supports Windows (storage server 2003??).  Maybe a NAS without Windows would be fine?

I am a former IT consultant so I am pretty technical but I would rather purchase a solution that is easy to implement.  Ask any clarifying questions if needed.

I would prefer a link to solutions with specifications.  I was thinking of 500g or 1TB in RAID1.
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here is a couple of ideas, i think you would be better off using a NAS solution rather than a Windows Box. You could setup a Raid 5 with some of these, fast and reliability. Super easy to implement, all you need is a network connection
This would be my suggestion.  It comes with small business server 2003 R2.  Even though you don't need the whole small business suite.  Cost wise, the OS is very resonably priced.  It will also allow you to start working with a domain so that when you get to that point all you will have to do is add some ram an away you go.  I have included a backup Powervault tape drive. but it will still need backup software.

With this server you would do the following..
1. Install the base OS and leave the exchange server uninstalled.
2. FInd backup software or use microsoft backup. (Symantec Backup Exec would be my suggestion)
3. Join clients to the domain or forthose that own their own laptops just have them connect via VPN.  VPN setup is VERY easy and is part of the initial to-do list on Small Business Server.

When your business grows you would do the following...
1.  Add a gig or 2 of ram.
2.  Rerun the sbs setup and add the components you want to upgrade to such as Exchange.

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jpomrankyAuthor Commented:
What are the pros or cons with going with a NAS or a server?  

Would the server be faster for access?  Obviously the server would be better for adding on additional functions in the future but is it something that I should look at now or just purchase a new server in the future when my business gets to that point?  My company is growing rapidly and in the next year $2,000 for an additional server wouldn't be too much.

Is the question whether I get something that can be flexible or just purchase a storage device now or will the server make a better storage device now?
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jpomrankyAuthor Commented:
What do you think about the Netgear RND4000 diskless system: suggested by cbmm

With 2 Western Digital Cavier 750g hard drives with something like this:

The Netgear NAS is $900 plus $340 for 2 Hard Drives gives me $1240 as opposed to the 1.5TB Netgear solution for $1300.  I'm guessing the Western Digital Cavier Hard drives are better than what's coming with the packaged solution.
Depends on where you see your business in a year.
Do you want your own Domain, Exchange Server/ mail ?
Do you want a VPN solution and the ability to access any desktop ?

Then an SBS solution may well be the way to go.
NAS and Server solutions will probably supply about the same speed, since both are essentialy limited by Network bandwidth.

A server can have lots of other uses though.

Get at least RAID 1 ( hardware mirroring ) on the server.

I hope this helps !

jpomrankyAuthor Commented:
I would prefer to outsource most of my technical needs such as an Exchange server as I do not want to support the solution and don't see adding on support personel in the next couple of years.  While I do want to stay up on the technical curve with our company, I also want simplicity.  I have been on call for support and don't wish to handle that until my business is large enough where I can hire tech support.  That will be a couple of years down the road.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Frankly, I agree - go SBS.  Also, don't overthink this.  Have you worked with SBS?  It's a very easy system to manage and is designed for non-admins to administer.  Most businesses using SBS do NOT have any kind of employed technical staff - they have consultants who stop in periodically and manage it.

I would recommend hosting your own mail (but not web site) in part because SBS expects you to and frankly, to properly utilize it's abilities, you really need to.

No NAS device I'm aware of is going to give you remote access to your data unless you do something foolish like sticking it on a public ip address.  A server running SBS can provide VPN services and the remote web workplace to allow full remote access to everything you need.

I have some links and how tos on a web page you might find useful:
I have implemented on several occasions for small business the Netgear Infrant ReadyNAS. It will provide very little management overhead, as opposed to a server. It also provides easy expansion if you use the X-Raid feature. Just plug in another disk and it automatically expands the storage capacity without having to rebuild the entire raid array. This is a huge feature that can save serious headaches. Low initial cost, with a very strong lifecycle. When and if you ever graduate to a full server-client environment, the ReadyNAS can directly integrate into Windows AD.
Remote access is simple enough but has nothing to do with the NAS, just setup VPNs between the remote clients and a local firewall, then they are effectively inside the LAN and can use the printers as well as the NAS.

A cheap RAID 1 NAS box will be fine for sharing photos, they're probably backed up on the laptop of whoever took the pic anyway. I wouldn't trust it with the accounts or contracts though but that's probably done by external accountants and solicitors anyway so not your problem.
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