The best way to upgrade the network in my office.

Posted on 2008-11-14
Last Modified: 2012-05-05
I work in an office with 15 PCs and in the near future we will buy at least 4 to 5 new PCs.

We already have a Server running Windows Server 2003 where I have a domain.
And all the terminals work with files from the server and save files from the server.

Now we want to upgrade all the 15 Dell PCs and I am wondering which is the best way to get this done.
I was thinking of the possibility to change all the PCs to thin clients and buy a better Server with more CAWS so everyone gets directly to the server.

Another thing I was thinking is the choice to run Virtual Machines but I need to research more in the subject of virtualization.  

Now the problem is that some PCs have their owns printer and scanners, but I think I can solve this with a printer server right?

Can anyone make some suggestions or tell me your experience in upgrading your network to a better one?

Question by:KupuAnd1
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    I am not a fan of local printers for many reasons: maintenance costs, operating costs, management headaches, print-sharing headaches, etc.

    The only people that need a local printer are folks like Finance and HR where printouts may be confidential.

    Get yourself a couple of good network printers and be done with it.

    Note: when talking to Dell, get with a business account rep, not just the genereal sales people.


    Author Comment

    I just saw in the web a company named ThinPrint which sells a software name .print for victuals environments.

    But I am pretty sure it must be a free solution for this.

    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    If you are thinking of going to Terminal Services and thin clients there is really no need to change the PC's at all and buy thin clients. By installing a terminal server all "work" will be done on the server itself. As a result the PC's become dumb terminals. Except for the fact that the new sever will be 2008, the PC's could be 486's running windows 98. With Server 2008, the PC's need to be XP SP3 or Vista to connect, unless you "dumb it down" to accept less secure connections. This way you can use the current PC's and gradually replace them only as they actually die.

    The other advantage of using a terminal server is you can add it to your existing domain and not have to change the current server in any way.
    This also eliminates the need to add print servers, however what ever route you go I would recommend gradually switching to network based printers as it is much easier from a management point of view.

    As for vitalization, there is little advantage in this scenario to virtualize the workstations.

    Author Comment

    Thanks RobWill for your value comment.

    I am changing the old PCs because they actually are dying gradually, I just build two new clones and I will be buying new PCs because the company is growing.
    In the management point of view I think virtualization have one great advantages and this is the less effort IT maintenance of the network.

    And with thin clients I don't know if I can have one printer connected to the thin client because are section in the company that are at a very long distance from another one and they need their individual printer and scanner.

    I still don´t know if I want to use terminal server or virtualization. What is for sure is that I want to change all the hardwork that is for me as the only IT guy in the company to take care of +15 old PCs in a hostile enviroment.
    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    I am a huge fan of virtualization and I agree deployment and management is much easier, but how were you planing on implementing. I can see advantages, but the costs are much greater in this scenario for virtualization?
    -"So far", you cannot create a virtual workstation on a physical box without a host operating system. Therefore if running on the PC's, you would still need to buy new PC's but also 2 operating system licenses, host and VM. This is affordable if you can run a free host O/S like Ubuntu, but there goes your "easy to manage" option.
    -If you were to create the virtual workstations on a remote box and the users log into it much like a terminal server, that will work, but with more than about 8 workstations the licensing for terminal server will be less (each VM needs an O/S license). I think Terminal services is also easier to manage than multiple workstation VM's.

    Many tin clients have USB and/or LPT1 ports allowing printer connection. I would still try to move toward network printers. The thin client has to have a network connection, therefore if necessary you can add a $10 5 port switch at that location to add a network printer. Attached printers were a great savings years ago when the network version of the same printer was $400+ more, but to day they are <$50 more.

    Author Comment

    Hi RobWill,

    I must tell you that I already know Ubuntu and I worked with it in the past so that's not a problem for me and I already have the license of windows for each VM (the license of windows which I will remove from the actual clients I had)

    Now, what you think about virtual box? Can I access a VM from a PC to a Server  with Virtual Box like with VM ware?
    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    If you are familiar with Ubuntu, that is great. I was just suggesting if you are trying to simplify things, that is an other OS that has to be managed and maintained. Also to install something like VMware on Windows is a simple click on an .exe. To install on Ubuntu it took me 3 hours of research, and 1/2 dozen text commands to configure. Works well, but much more elaborate to configure.

    Microsoft has hinted they may release a version of Hyper-V in the future that will install on "bare metal" workstations. They just released a couple of months ago, the server version which is free and works well. It might be something to plan for.

    >>"I already have the license of windows for each VM (the license of windows which I will remove from the actual clients"
    I assume these are not OEM licenses, ones that came with the PC? Those licenses are not transferable. Volume, or FPP (full box versions) can be transfered.

    >>"Now, what you think about virtual box?"
    I am all for it. The only downside was the cost of the licensing. I have a colleague doing it for his users and it is great. He can replace an image in minutes, and restore to new hardware without a problem.

    >>"Can I access a VM from a PC to a Server  "
    Absolutely. Anything you can do with a physical machine you can do with a VM, except touch it :-)
    The bigger advantage of virtual on a workstation is the ability to run multiple VM's on the same machine simultaneously.

    Author Comment

    Yes I have the Volume license.
     Yes I know that VM Ware is a pain in the ass to install in Ubuntu, but Virtual Box is much easier, the only thing I cannot get it to work with virtual box is to connect to a virtual box machine in the server from a client. If I manage to do that then I think I will go for the virtual enviroment because Virtual Box is free and is easy to install in ubuntu.
    LVL 77

    Accepted Solution

    Sorry I didn't realize by "what you think about virtual box" you meant a specific product. I have never even heard of it Virtual Box.
    To be quite honest I am not a Linux fan. Not suggesting for a minute Microsoft is perfect, but I started to go down the Linux road, but quickly formed my own opinions that in the office environment, it's "not ready for prime time", especially in a mixed environment. I will also admit, that is just my opinion and thousands will tell me I am wrong, but my list of reasons is very long.

    Regardless, VM's on Virtual Box should definitely be able to interact with servers and PC's on the network or it would have no use in the real world. I am sure it is just a network config option you were missing. The network config, though not complicated, is a common issue with all VM versions. You just need to figure out the different connection types.

    Think it through carefully though. Other than the need to replace old hardware your primary goal was to simplify your network. Adding Ubuntu hosts, A lesser known and supported virtual software, and newer technologies (virtualization) on a small network, may actually increase your workload.
    If you want to simplify your life, I would be tempted to look at Small Business Server and a physical or virtual terminal server. That gives you one central point of management and monitoring. I have a dozen sites running it. The server sends me daily reports and  I seldom ever see the clients. As a matter of fact the downside to SBS is there is little income from those clients. As an example, if the company hires a new user, the office manager logs on to the server, clicks on an "add user" wizard, it prompts for 1/2 dozen questions, and it automatically creates the user, the user's mailbox, and assigns their computer. When the user logs on to the PC, their desktop is configured, outlook configured, redirected my documents configure, specific apps added, printers added, and much more. If their PC was to die, they just move. Everything is already backed up on the server and re-synced to the new desktop.

    Author Closing Comment

    Man thanks for all the info!
    I will take your recommendation and go for the terminal server.
    You are a real professional and I will like to talk with you in the future.
    Thanks a lot my friend!
    LVL 77

    Expert Comment

    by:Rob Williams
    Thanks KupuAnd1. Good luck with it.
    Cheers !

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