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New Server Requirements

Hi experts

Would like some feedback on what to do for our new office server (what kind of server, what operating system, firewalls and routers etc) - we need to be able to go to a supplier and request all this.
Here are our requirements, also what we currently have, and some idea of what we need.
Your feedback is very much appreciated.

We are a small-medium size corporate.
We have an existing router and switch (That's ALL!)
Our 15 staff members all use their laptops to connect to the internet.

- The ability to store data on the server
- The ability to set up a local intranet
- Possibly Windows Server to control user profiles and privilages. (it would be nice if data could stay on the server so that when clients leave we would have some of it)
- Document management (possibly through the intranet or wiki)

Existing products/hardware:
- Router: Telkom 800 VGT
- Switch: Micronet SP624 EA

Please if we have forgot to provide any information just ask questions!
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5 Solutions
That's a bit of a mammoth question. Are you looking at sending this work out to companies to quote on?
Are you looking at buying new PC's for the staff to use or are they going to continue to use their own personal laptops?

rfwoolfAuthor Commented:
Hi Darren

Sorry if it's a mammoth question. I hope I can simplify it.
We can go straight to the hardware supply companies and do everything ourselves (installing the server etc) - or we can get quotes from contractors. At this stage we are looking at doing it ourselves actually but we might need assistance in choosing hardware specs.

To answer your other question we do not need to buy staff new computers. they will use their existing laptops.
That's alright. The only reason I was wondering is because you asked about Windows profiles and accounts. The problem you are going to have is administration. As you don't own the laptops it is going to make central management very difficult as I can't see your staff allowing you to take control of their personal laptops.

Have a look at this http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r22347566-Microsoft-License-Small-business-server-question
This is a similar setup to you is it not?

If that is the case and I were in your shoes I would a purchase server running Microsoft Small Business (might as well go for 2008) and then go from there in stages. Once the server is in and built you could set up a share on the server so that a few of the staff can connect to and test it, once you are certain that it's working correctly move the rest of the users over.
Once the server is bedded in then you can look at the Intranet, document imaging route.

A word of warning however, If you are storing all the data on the server (which is my preferred choice personally) you will need to consider backup as holding all the data in one place is better for manageability but redundancy wise it's not great. What you use the backup or what you want to do with is up to you but I'd be looking at either some form of tape or external harddisk backup using the backup product built into windows. This will be fine for word documents or you could look at something a bit more complex and advanced like BackupExec but I think this would be over kill and will cost you unnecessarily.

If you do go down the contractor route don't let them get carried away, what you are asking can be done very simply or you could go over kill and install something Active Directory for central management of the data etc. and then join the laptops to the domain but I can't see your staff being very happy about this route.

There are so many different ways on how to approach this and what I suggest will be different to what someone else would suggest.

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I forgot to say in my post that if you go down the Windows server route you may have to purchase CAL'S  (Client Access License).

rfwoolfAuthor Commented:
Darren thanks so much for that answer. We're trying to now justify this server - or come up with reasons why we should get a server - but we keep on thinking that we should just host everything on the web (the CLA's has come back very expensive and are not necessary)
Right now we're leaning towards a "happy medium" and getting a server but without CLA's - and using the server just to store data by sharing folders.
What do you think? Is there any other major benefit of CLA's?
The biggest benefit/reason for having a server is so you the admin know what data there is. Let me pose this question to you.
If two of your users personal laptops were stolen from their car, house, train, etc. how much of a Data Protection issue would this pose to your company? What kind of company data is currently stored on the users laptops? Are there personal details or suppliers, clients etc?

If you were to have a server and all the data is stored on the server the staff don't need it on their laptops unless they were going off site somewhere. Do they ever go off site and need data? I didn't ask earlier.
If the data is locked away in a building it is safer than a laptop on a back seat of a car.

I'm not too familiar with web hosting of files etc. who were you looking at using? The downside I see of this is your reliance on your Internet connection. Has it ever gone down for a period of time? Do you experience regular drop-outs? Most online hosts now offer free backup which is a bonus.

When you say CLA do you mean CAL? I'm not sure if you know that when you buy a Windows server OS it comes with 5 built in.

Another cheap option would be something like a NAS box that the staff can access but this will only give you very minimal features such as file sharing. I've used Qnap NAS boxes and I really like them, they are worth the extra over the cheaper products.

rfwoolfAuthor Commented:
Thanks again Darren.
Right now I'm trying to understand myself exactly what Microsoft Server would actually do for us - and what functionality CAL's actually offer. By your explanation, it seems, everyone's data would synchronise with their account on the server so if their laptops get stolen it would be kept on the server. However, something tells me there are cheapers ways of achieving this than getting all these licenses.
Added to this they have made the licensing so complicated that I'm having a hard time understanding.
If you can explain what the benefit of having a server and what CAL's will even do for us that would be great.

We're trying to consider this all on multiple levels:
1) We might want to host SQL server locally in the server in the office and ultimately switch to a webhosted SQL server. This way we'd have a local testing environment. But this alone cannot justify a Server.
2) We don't have much data but we definitely need a data storage mechanism. We can use a NAS box, true.
3) We are going to be developing Win32 applications and that is possibly one reason why a Windows server might benefit us.
So it seems that a windows server would be "nice" but ultimately seem very necessary. It is for this reason that I need to look to experts and say, well, what do you think?
I'm busy trying to digest all this information.
All the CAL does is provide a licence to run a service. It does not actually give you anything other than that. Have a look here http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sam/lic_cal.mspx
All it does is keeps you compliant in case FAST come and check.

Explaining CALS and licencing is complicated at best, I would call Microsoft and ask. I've called their licencing teams before ad they are really knowledgeable, far more so than me.

Did you want the data to synchronise to the laptops? You didn't mentioned that before. It can be set-up to synchronise using offline files although this is an overhead that needs managing:-
XP - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/mobility/learnmore/offlinefiles.mspx)
Vista - http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-GB/help/93a550df-34cd-4497-85d0-8732602f59591033.mspx

As your PC's will not be managed by you I think some of the things that would normally be performed from a network server are not possible. For example, if you had a server in place and you have 15 workstations on your network you could run login scripts, push icons to desktops, setup mapped drives, set favourites, homepages, install software but this will not be possible in your current situation.

I think your best best is to write down your priorities in order of importance and then the things that can come later, from here you can then decide how you wish to proceed.

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