Remote Office, and SQL

Posted on 2011-05-11
Last Modified: 2012-06-21
What I need most is advice. Our office has relocated the operations department to another state and I'm stuck with the task of getting this to work. Our key software runs off a MSSQL backend and Iv found that a basic VPN ( Cisco Client  ) is way to slow, our connection here is wireless but bost T1 speeds, the connection at the other location is also wireless but is much stronger at T1 like 3mb up and 1 down. For Internet its like the best. What is going to be the best way to connect the two. any ideas will be welcome. Hardware, ISDN, somthing ?? We are low in funds since the move but any idea of a quick fix, or other will help. At this time I have the clients setup to use a terminal server but we all know the pain that is for local printing and fax. I do have another server I could put at that location to speed things up but I dont know how to config the local server to update the remote server real time. If I could do that even it the two servers where slow about updateing, the clients would not see the lag. Sort of the clients update the local server than it sends the data to us. ?? Can that be done ??    Thanks for your time....
Question by:GD_GRAY
    LVL 1

    Accepted Solution

    Because you're strapped for cash and the data in question is in SQL, a solution does exist in newer versions of SQL called merge replication, but you're going to have to license an additional copy of SQL to run it in the remote location. This probably isn't feasible for you.

    Honestly, the Terminal Server scenario is probably your best bet, however slightly modified from what you are doing now. Printer mapping is notoriously problematic in Terminal Services. It either works great or doesn't.

    I would recommend putting hardware in place like firewalls at each end to build a site to site VPN tunnel that is always up and running. This will connect the sites together and allow free communication between them. This will eliminate the need for the VPN client on the remote PC's and also get you off needing to use the printer mapping.

    Next, setup local print queues either on the Terminal Server itself or a dedicated print server that users could map to from the Terminal Server but make sure it's on the same network as the Terminal Server. These local print queues can use TCP/IP printing and point directly to the IP address of the network based printer at the remote sites. This is the most reliable way to setup printing. If your printers aren't network based, buy a cheap print server device to connect the printer to the network.

    Faxing can be done with a centralized fax application in the location of the Terminal Server. If you want to use fax lines at the remote sites and the fax software supports standard modems, put a modem with a device like a Digi TS connected to it. You can leverage the RealPort drivers to create virtual COM ports on the fax server that in turn talk over the VPN tunnel to the Digi TS on the remote side that has a modem attached to it. That will allow you to fax utilizing the network. For an even cleaner solution, keep the fax server centralized but look into FoIP service so you don't even need fax lines. If desirable, you could deploy fax servers remotely at any location you need them and share the same FoIP service for a low cost. This can even run off a standard workstation in many scenarios.

    Hope this gives you some ideas. I do this type of thing all the time with the above technology. Also, if you need scanning through the Terminal Server, look at RemoteScan.

    Author Comment

    Wonderfull advice, thank you. I do have another SQL license, and 2003 server. I found a white paper on merge replication and am calling CISCO for help on the site to site VPN. As for the server at the remote location should I set it up as a stand alone or... as another server on our local domain and connect it tru the VPN  so the remote clients can authenticate local ?
    LVL 1

    Assisted Solution

    You'll need to evaluate convenience vs robustness. I think it would be most convenience to join the remote server to your domain to leverage your existing AD infrastructure and cut down on administration and additional user account credentials. That being said, if you don't have a domain controller at that site and there is a problem with connectivity back to the site with the domain controller(s), users will likely have issues logging into the network. Also, be aware of potential performance issues if you redirect any folders for users or map home drives for them as this will go across the VPN as well.

    If you were running a newer OS like 2008 R2, it could be potentially attractive to use Hyper-V to virtualize multiple server roles on one physical server. This way you could build out a remote domain controller, RDS server and even SQL server if you can use merge replication. This way the site can theoretically survive being completely cut off from the primary site. You'd still need to consider potential licensing costs in doing this for the operating systems, however.

    If you cannot work without being disconnected from the remote site anyway, then there isn't much reason to not join the machine to the domain as loss of connectivity would break your application regardless.

    Again, ultimately you should evaluate the pro's and con's, but if I understand what you have, I'd like lean towards joining the remote machine to the domain to be able to manage it and integrate security much more easily across your network.

    Hope this helps!

    Author Closing Comment

    Thank you so much for your advice, it was and is very helpfull. I thought I would just keep milking you for   but since my link to the remote office is not wanting to help I'm just going to let them sink. If and when they pull their head out I just have to repost. Sad to because I just feel you where going to be the right person to contact.   Thanks for your help... !!!
    LVL 1

    Expert Comment

    Well, I hope I at least was able to point you in a direction that will help you succeed when everything becomes aligned to do so.

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