windows offices

I want to help my cousin with his business. He will have about 5 offices spread through out the US. In each office there will be about 4 pc's
I want to securely connect the offices, I was thinking of using VPN's. Since the offices are small, I thought that having a server in each office might be over kill. But having servers makes management much easier.
I'm going back and forth because windows licensing is ( in my experience ) a little pricey. I'm pretty comfortable with Linux, but it's intimidating to link several office with Linux, because if something goes wrong, I don't know if I'm THAT good with Linux. But then Linux would be much less expensive.
Also, linking the offices, I definitely don't want a Cisco thing, because talk about pricey, and I know next to nothing about Cisco.
So, anybody take care of something similar to this? If so, any suggestions from experience?
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JeffBeallAsked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Linux is free of license costs but NOT of training and productivity costs and the software you may want or need to use may not run.  Munich, Germany discovered this - see here: http://www.neowin.net/news/munich-germany-realizes-that-deploying-linux-was-a-disaster-going-back-to-windows

If you have the knowledge and the staff to implement linux, fine, go for it.  It WILL be cheaper.  If you don't you will almost certainly end up finding it's a more expensive option.  That doesn't mean that linux won't have places.  For example, you talk about linking offices via VPN. Untangle - a linux based router that is free (does require hardware or a VM) - can have OpenVPN connections linking multiple sites.   You also have the option of purchasing subscriptions to advanced/improved features.

Pick the right mix of solutions, not one that works in SOME ways.
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rhandelsCommented:
Maybe i might give another suggestion. If you have that less work spaces per office, why not go for some sort of VDI/SBC solution. If you for example go for VDI-in-a-box you could potentially have up to 20 W7 machines within a day, no need for any kind of VPN only a "normal" internet connection. Add a Netscaler to the mainoffice and all sessions will be made over HTTPS/SSL. Also, there is no need to travel a lot because you could give users Thin Clients and also could give them the option to work anywhere anyplace anytime with any device (Citrix client is available on all platforms.

You could offcourse also go for the Windows version of this (RDS). But IMHO i would go for a central workspace environment (whichever you may choose) instead of a server on all places.
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JeffBeallAuthor Commented:
rhandels - VDI is interesting, I've never hear of it. I googled it and read some stuff on Citrix's website, but I didn't see a lot of details. Is there a site that goes into the "nuts and bolts" of setting up the environment? such as, I noticed you could use dumb terminals, which I assume would require a server. So, for instance, what would the server requirements be? If you don't go with dumb terminals, what would the computers need?
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rhandelsCommented:
Hey,

Do you happen to know the concept of SBC (Server Based Computing). The idea behind it is that you have 1 centralized server that holds all desktops (or 1 server version with multiple remote sessions, RDP for example) and therefore all management is done centrally. If you want a very deep explanation please try to read into it more. I will try to give some basics here.

If you want to implement VDI (Which is virtual Desktop infrastructure, everyone gets his or her own personal desktop) then yes, you would need a centralized server. This needs to be a Virtual Hypervisor (Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer or VMWare ESXi). On this hypervisor you would need to install a server that users log into or create a server that creates virtual desktops.  

What server you needs depends on what users's needs are. If you go for a VDI concept you should calculate with 4GB RAM per virtual machine and approx 5 machines per CPU core. Also the overhead server (i believe in the vid-in-a-box concept you need 2 vCPU's and 4GB for the applicance) needs to be calculated.

The thing with Citrix (and VMWare and Microsoft that also have VDI solutions) is that you can use it on any device with any OS. It supports all mobile devices (Android, Microsoft and IOS) and all OS version (Linux, Windows and Apple). So it depends on what you would like to offer your employees.. You could also go for BYOD devices (the user can choose his own device or can use his personal device).

This is a good article to start with. Just to make 1 thing clear. VDI-in-a-Box is just one of many VDI/SBC concepts but i really like the idea that it is for small companies. Easy to set up, up and running within a day (we managed to get it up in 4 hours) and easy to use for your users.
http://www.virtualqube.com/blog/some-straight-talk-about-vdi-in-a-box/
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JeffBeallAuthor Commented:
thank you, we have dumb terminals at work, and a while ago I setup a bunch of computer that ran off a windows terminal server
I meant more details like how much it cost, and licensing, as well as if you have to use dumb terminals or if you could use computers.
the article you reference does seem to cover that though. I will look at the article, thanks again for your help.
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rhandelsCommented:
Okay, no problem. Do bare with me, i'm a technical type a guy so i never worry about the costs :)

Dumb terminals can be as costy as $200 to $500. A normal machine would also do. You could use computers but costs is toatlly up to you. No need for a "large" machine whatsoever so it can be as cotsly as you like it to be.

You do need Microsoft Client Access Licenses ( i though they were $50 a piece) and you would need VDI-In-A-Box (in case you would use that). I believe that it costs $1650 for 15 machines and the server itself but not quite sure about that. Citrix could make a quote rather easy.
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JeffBeallAuthor Commented:
interesting - I have mixed feelings about the dumb terminals - The ones we use here at work are Wyse C10LE's and they do seem reliable, but when they die it seems like there is nothing to do to fix them.
for computers - if just the hard drive dies, it's a simple replacement and hard drives are amazingly cheap now.
So the replacement cost - I feel are in the computer's favor
this whole setup sounds exciting - I am hoping that I can implement it.
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rhandelsCommented:
We also have C10LE's. If they die you can send them to Wyse themselves (if you have support on them,) and they will normally fix it within the week. I must say i'm quite happy with the support. I have no idea if this still will be the case now that DELL bought them :)
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JeffBeallAuthor Commented:
thank you for the help. I've got some planning to do.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would encourage you to look carefully at whether VDI makes sense.  It's often the most expensive form of virtualization.  RDS may be a better route if you want to go that way.
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rhandelsCommented:
<<I would encourage you to look carefully at whether VDI makes sense.  It's often the most expensive form of virtualization.>>

Although this was true a for a long time almost all and every software provider (citrix, VMware, Microsoft) is aiming at VDI these days because it's much more flexible. And tbh there are VDI solution that are cheaper these days then RDS.

Looking at Citrix (still market leader i believe?) they moved away from RDS with Citrix XenDesktop 7.1 and removed the XenApp entirely. To be honest they had to pull back in 7.5 and reimplemented XenApp again, but still.. The market really is going VDI in my point of view..
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
The licensing is what can make VDI expensive.  Last I understood, you needed full Windows licenses for each VDI client and other licenses on top of that.  Further, the hardware requirements to support 5 virtual desktops will be greater than to support 5 RDS sessions.  There are ABSOLUTELY instances where VDI makes sense - All I'm saying is MAKE SURE this is one of them.
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