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Topic # 126763 18-Jul-2013 21:12
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Hey guys,

So I scored myself a new job as an artist/printer operator/database management.  This role has kind of turned more heavily towards IT.  They have cables running everywhere up the walls, switches for Africa and all their back-ups are to external hard drives, half of which I have established are actually dead.

I've told them this is far from acceptable.  If failure struck, they would be in serious trouble!  Invoices, print jobs, artwork, photos, quotes and personals are all stored on one machine which is an 8 or so year old machine that has never been cleaned before.

They have a 4 port ADSL router connected to a switch which connects all the computers, which connects to another switch next door which connects to another switch down-stairs which connects to another switch and so on for the rest of the building.
About the only things that seem good are the fact that the whole network is gigabit and their printers are all on one gigabit switch.

Long story short, lots of cables, no labels, switches everywhere, no way to really centralize anything and I'm desperate to get something backed up before brown matter hits the fan.

I want to set up a small business server to at least back up what drives are in the 10 year old machine, all their external drives and make the information accessible by every workstation in the factory.  I want to have each machine back up to the server at night.  I will also have images of each drive in case of disk failure.  That way, I can re-image and we can continue working at least.

Each work station is separate.  At the moment, the network is really just for accessing the above mentioned and internet access.  Is there anything in particular I will have to look at in terms of hardware for a small business server for running routine back-ups, serving files and perhaps an employee management system in the future?  Should I be installing something like Small Business Server and merging everyone's profile to a central location in the long run?

Apart from the fact that multiple switches mean more points for potential failure, is there anything I should be doing to make sure there are no other issues on the network in terms of speed?

Sorry if this post seems a bit dislocated and all over the place, but I'm a little bit out of my depth I think.  A challenge to say the least.

---

My goals:

- Centralize information being served by old hardware to something new with more storage.
- Back up all external drives to this new server and store images of each workstation on this server too.
- Potentially run employee management systems, Lync for chat and other stuff like perhaps IP cameras for monitoring printers...etc...etc.
- Cut down on switches being used to eliminate potential points of failure and other potential problems with daisy-chaining them.
- Set up some automatic back up system to make sure new information will be available in case of failure.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?  I'm pretty much at a loss for what hardware I should get and what I should be doing to tidy this up to make it more reliable and create redundancy.

Thanks!





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  Reply # 861873 18-Jul-2013 21:33
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OMG rather you than me looking at it, Nothing like a nice clean data centre



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  Reply # 861880 18-Jul-2013 21:43
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johnr: OMG rather you than me looking at it, Nothing like a nice clean data centre


As much as I would like it to be a nice clean data centre, we aren't there yet.  Any ideas as to where I should start?

Also, is storing data and making a shared folder on the server an acceptable way of sharing files?  Or is there a better, faster way to do it with less problems with windows not detecting that the machine is actually connected?  Is there any windows based back-up mechanisms for backing up to a central location, or should I go third party?





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  Reply # 861890 18-Jul-2013 22:07
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Can you give us some idea of your budget or are you trying to use the existing?

Putting in servers is a bit 1997, a local NAS would cause less problems.

Suggest for your backups that you use something like crash plan and push the data to the cloud but that will depend on your data cap and if you've only got adsl your limited on the amount of data you can push each day.


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  Reply # 861894 18-Jul-2013 22:15
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you sound like your outta your depth/comfort zone, it might be best to get a professional in to evaluate your environment but if you want a challenge and to grow ......


-- Windows Small Business Server 2011 or Windows Server Essentials (ignore the Linux Lovers --> for small businesses this is awesome value, and way easier to manage)
-- implement Active Directory, and group policy which can set folder redirection for My Documents etc, and provide central backups
-- decent remote access
-- you might benefit from wireless as well, depends on size of files your transferring
-- oops forgot NAS as someone mentioned above, but I would hook it into the server above (soo not 97...)




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  Reply # 861911 18-Jul-2013 22:44
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nitrotech: Can you give us some idea of your budget or are you trying to use the existing?Putting in servers is a bit 1997, a local NAS would cause less problems.Suggest for your backups that you use something like crash plan and push the data to the cloud but that will depend on your data cap and if you've only got adsl your limited on the amount of data you can push each day.


In terms of budget for the server, low thousands, as in under 2K most likely.  I will be trying to use the existing wiring, but eliminating switches when possible and perhaps running new cable.  With a 6MB/s ADSL connection and a stubbornness with changing to something like fibre and changing the whole phone system, cloud based stuff is out of the question.  The only things that are cloud based at the moment is the customer database, which is just a list of names at the moment.

kontonnz: you sound like your outta your depth/comfort zone, it might be best to get a professional in to evaluate your environment but if you want a challenge and to grow ......


Definitely.  This is a great opportunity for me to grow and expand on my knowledge.  I guess I have to establish what I can and can't do to the building.  Wires are everywhere.  I'd like to get them tucked away and make sure everything is labeled.  A lot of the problem here is that these guys are a bit stuck in their ways and down time is out of the question which means anything serious will need to be done outside of office hours.

kontonnz:-- Windows Small Business Server 2011 or Windows Server Essentials (ignore the Linux Lovers --> for small businesses this is awesome value, and way easier to manage)-- implement Active Directory, and group policy which can set folder redirection for My Documents etc, and provide central backups-- decent remote access-- you might benefit from wireless as well, depends on size of files your transferring-- oops forgot NAS as someone mentioned above, but I would hook it into the server above (soo not 97...)


Will look in to Windows Server Essentials.  I don't like Linux all too much, so not really an option.Active Directory and a group policy will be something implemented over a long period of time as a long term goal I think.  I need to learn much more about it.Remote access I have sorted.  I have VNC installed on all machines, Remote Desktop is also there in case something happens to VNC Server on one of the machines. 

I was going for NAS first, but then decided against it as I ultimately wanted to run an employee management and job tracking software as well as automatic back-up software later.

Also, I need something to check which ethernet cable is which.  Is there something that will send a tone down the line to the other end so I can identify the cable run and label it accordingly?Thank you for the suggestions!  Keep them coming!





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  Reply # 861916 18-Jul-2013 22:50
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DravidDavid: ... I'm desperate to get something backed up before brown matter hits the fan.
I want to set up a small business server to at least back up what drives are in the 10 year old machine, all their external drives and make the information accessible by every workstation in the factory.  I want to have each machine back up to the server at night.  I will also have images of each drive in case of disk failure.  That way, I can re-image and we can continue working at least....


nitrotech: Can you give us some idea of your budget or are you trying to use the existing?

Putting in servers is a bit 1997, a local NAS would cause less problems.
...

+1 to backup before doing anything else
+1 for NAS
+1 for budget as the biggest question is how much money you have to work with at the moment. I suspect there won't be much.

Unless you've got money to burn a business server is overkill unless you need integrated support for networked applications. If you're mainly wanting a file and backup server then NAS is easy to implement plus there are a wide-range of cheap options. For example, I use FreeNAS which is free software based on FreeBSD and runs on many PCs/servers. It usually runs on a cast-off PC stacked with old drives. I use software RAID to protect the data.

[Edit: DravidDavid, I noticed you replied and I'd still recommend a NAS and save the budget for improving the infrastructure before adding server apps]

gjm

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  Reply # 861919 18-Jul-2013 22:56
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2k really ain't gonna get you much I'm afraid. I would still start with a NAS, something like a Qnap box with as much storage as you can afford, and then set this up as a central file store and backup repository for the workstations. Then back this up to external USB or similar. There are plenty of apps that can be installed on these types of NAS as well, consult google for a few examples. Network wise you're on the right track. Try and simplify it and get rid of 2 switches where one will do and tidy up cables. Cheapest cable tester is to unplug it and see who complains :)




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  Reply # 861922 18-Jul-2013 23:04
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Thanks Hammerer,

Backing everything up is priority number one for sure. Say I go with NAS, I guess I could go with a separate client I can install on each machine to back them up separately that way? Is that clumsy?

As much as I would like to implement something like Active Directory, upon further thought, each machine is a workstation that operates either a printer cutter or a flatbed printer the size of a room. There isn't any roaming that needs to be done. Each machine just needs its appropriate printer software to queue prints properly.

The office machines are for general accounting CRM and other stuff while two other workstations just handle the sales side of thing basically. I guess what I'm saying is that Active Directory isn't really all that necessary. A reliable gigabit network in order to access large project files and back ups is the main thing.

Server apps can come later I guess. The trouble is, the boss man always wants these things "Now now now!" Haha!

EDIT:

gjm: 2k really ain't gonna get you much I'm afraid. I would
still start with a NAS, something like a Qnap box with as much storage
as you can afford, and then set this up as a central file store and
backup repository for the workstations. Then back this up to external
USB or similar. There are plenty of apps that can be installed on these
types of NAS as well, consult google for a few examples. Network wise
you're on the right track. Try and simplify it and get rid of 2 switches
where one will do and tidy up cables. Cheapest cable tester is to
unplug it and see who complains :)


Sky is theoretically the limit with the budget.  I was given the company card and told to go nuts, but cheaper the better in this situation.  I don't want to abuse it!  As above, I think I'm over-thinking this a little bit.  What they need is access to project files in a FAST and reliable manner as well as a solid back up solution in case of disaster.

Qnap boxes look a bit pricey especially since they don't actually come with the storage.  Maybe I have my dutch hat on.  Would these just show up on the network as a shared folder or network drive?

I see a lot of other brands on TradeMe with more storage which do the same thing.  I guess I'll need to do more research.





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  Reply # 861923 18-Jul-2013 23:10
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a few things, if the current policy is external drives for backups, and the environment is one of those that have grown "organically" then I would probably keep it simple and do as others have suggested and put in a decent NAS solution, as for the rest of it unless their is real need I would be tempted to just leave it, maybe label things but I would leave things alone if they are still currently working; as they say if it aint broke don't fix it.

another thing is that  with everything make sure that you have buy in at every stage of what ever you do, small business/companies can be very reticent over change...

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  Reply # 861928 18-Jul-2013 23:28
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Hi David,

Interesting challenge you have!  My thoughts...

Cabling - absolutely centralise it if you can back to a small wiring rack.  This will increase reliability.  But this is likely not the first priority.  It will pay off in the long run, but protecting your data may pay off in the short term.

NAS - They have their place bit I definitely recommend against it as the sole storage device.  I'm currently repairing a (quality brand) NAS setup gone bad for a brand new customer.  The backups have not been working for ages so a firmware update was tried, and now the jolly thing won't start....

PC as a Server - You can make a new dedicated Windows PC work fine as a server for a 3-8 computer network.  File sharing only, no security, etc but we've made it work fine for customers on a limited budget.  Back up locally AND to the Cloud cheaply.  Perhaps chuck a large drive in and configure desktops to back themselves up to that, copying the results to a pair of USB drives every now and then (as this information is probably not going to be captured in a daily backup routine due to the time involved).

Server 2012 Essentials - Gives you up to 25 users and will back up Windows PCs with de-duplication which is very nice.  Enforced folder redirection to force MyDocs and Desktop files onto the server can be used.  The machine does not need to be expensive.  An low-spec'd HP ML310e or even an HP Microserver may be ideal.

Small Business Server 2011 is still available but will be pulled soon by Microsoft if I remember correctly.  Licensed per block of 5 users.  Gives you Exchange email in-house (which I like - hosted Exchange fees add up over time) as well as sophisticated file sharing with security.  A slightly beefier server is recommended to handle Exchange.  An HP ML310e with a bit more RAM and a RAID card that has flash-backed cache may be ideal.

Any of the above options should have some sort of fault-tolerance in the drives.  This does not need to be expensive.  All should have a UPS - please avoid cheap brands.  Backups should be tested regularly.

I'd not bother with Lync unless you felt there was something compelling for the business.  There are a number of free alternatives.

Consider checking whether VDSL is available in your area, now it is not much more expensive than ADSL.

We use a couple of sub-$100 IP Cameras for stuff we want to keep an eye on and just have easily accessible shortcuts to launch the viewing web page.  My cameras allow you to set motion-detection zones and it sends an image to a gmail account when there is movement in that region.

I would encourage you to engage a professional, to bounce ideas off, for tidbits of advice, and to help with persuading the boss.  I believe our office is only a couple of minutes from you.  :)

I've just seen your tight budget on another post.  Please please please kill the NAS idea.  If it goes toes up you are stuck dealing with hard drives with a linux file system, and backups become more of a handful than they need to be and finding a compatible UPS can be nearly impossible on our side of the globe.  I suggest making the PC-as-a-server option work - you already know how to operate this solution!  A quality PC like an HP 6300 Pro with a 3 year on site warranty and with the cheaper i3 processor (sharing files does not take any horsepower), low-end quality brand UPS, big 3rd party internal hard drive, big external backup drive to swallow the lot every now and then and we'll resurrect the existing backup drives for the daily backups.

Good luck
Mike




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  Reply # 861929 18-Jul-2013 23:28
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Thanks kontonnz,

I tend to agree. External back up is working (somewhat) at the moment. But a lot of the drives they think they have been backing up to aren't working that well if at all. I need to get rid of all the bottle necks, switches and external hard drives then Re-purpose the working ones later.

In terms of change, with a NAS they won't notice the difference. What they have at the moment is a 10 year old computer running Windows Server 2003 and a shared folder. As long as the information remains accessible over the network, it should be fine. I want a central location to store local images of each drive on each workstation and back up the existing data on to another drive in case of local disk failure.

Automated back-ups are a bonus for now but will be critical in the future if I'm to keep my hair from falling out.

Printers can be running 24 hours if it is busy. They can't afford to keep a printer sitting idle while I do a new windows installation and get their software installed again. I'm surprised they haven't experienced catastrophic failure yet.

I guess I could re-purpose the super old machine as a "server" for server apps as a test to start and see if it works with the employee management and data-base management systems to start.





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  Reply # 861938 19-Jul-2013 00:33
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Dynamic: Hi David,

Interesting challenge you have!  My thoughts...

Cabling - absolutely centralise it if you can back to a small wiring rack.  This will increase reliability.  But this is likely not the first priority.  It will pay off in the long run, but protecting your data may pay off in the short term.


Yes!  Again, I think I'm over-thinking this.  I know you have no idea how the network is layed out, but one part of the building is particularly bad with regards to daisy chaining routers.  I think what I will do is re-situate the servers in a cabinet where there are less switches, less points of failure and ultimately more reliability!

Dynamic: NAS - They have their place bit I definitely recommend against it as the sole storage device.  I'm currently repairing a (quality brand) NAS setup gone bad for a brand new customer.  The backups have not been working for ages so a firmware update was tried, and now the jolly thing won't start....


If I were to buy a cabinet and use a rack mounted interface to host multiple drives, would that be more reliable?  Is that essentially the same as a quality NAS?  As far as I knew, NAS was just a fancy way of saying network drives that you could store stuff on.

Dynamic: PC as a Server - You can make a new dedicated Windows PC work fine as a server for a 3-8 computer network.  File sharing only, no security, etc but we've made it work fine for customers on a limited budget.  Back up locally AND to the Cloud cheaply.  Perhaps chuck a large drive in and configure desktops to back themselves up to that, copying the results to a pair of USB drives every now and then (as this information is probably not going to be captured in a daily backup routine due to the time involved).


I thought about local back ups, which is what I do at home, but in a business situation if a power board blows during a lightening storm and the drives die, I've essentially wasted my time.  A central back up behind a UPS and decent surge protector would mean loosing information was less likely, right?

Dynamic: Server 2012 Essentials - Gives you up to 25 users and will back up Windows PCs with de-duplication which is very nice.  Enforced folder redirection to force MyDocs and Desktop files onto the server can be used.  The machine does not need to be expensive.  An low-spec'd HP ML310e or even an HP Microserver may be ideal.

Small Business Server 2011 is still available but will be pulled soon by Microsoft if I remember correctly.  Licensed per block of 5 users.  Gives you Exchange email in-house (which I like - hosted Exchange fees add up over time) as well as sophisticated file sharing with security.  A slightly beefier server is recommended to handle Exchange.  An HP ML310e with a bit more RAM and a RAID card that has flash-backed cache may be ideal.

Any of the above options should have some sort of fault-tolerance in the drives.  This does not need to be expensive.  All should have a UPS - please avoid cheap brands.  Backups should be tested regularly.

I'd not bother with Lync unless you felt there was something compelling for the business.  There are a number of free alternatives.


I will consider Server Essentials. There are some UPS's on the important machines, but not all.  I will look in to this for sure.  I only suggested Lync, because that is what I am used to.  What free alternatives have you used?

Dynamic: Consider checking whether VDSL is available in your area, now it is not much more expensive than ADSL.


Probably not the way the line is now.  Will most likely hold out for fibre.  It just might take some convincing.  I believe the wiring is pretty terrible in the place and would be too much hassle and money to get it sorted.  Their telco bill is $250.00 per month for three lines and internet with a cap.  They could probably cut that down going VoIP.

Dynamic: We use a couple of sub-$100 IP Cameras for stuff we want to keep an eye on and just have easily accessible shortcuts to launch the viewing web page.  My cameras allow you to set motion-detection zones and it sends an image to a gmail account when there is movement in that region.


I will be looking in to this too!  Low priority of course.

Dynamic: I would encourage you to engage a professional, to bounce ideas off, for tidbits of advice, and to help with persuading the boss.  I believe our office is only a couple of minutes from you.  :)


That is certainly on the cards!  Where is your office?  My case must be pretty damn special if you can guess where we are based out of at the moment, haha!  Maybe you know more about the way it is set up than I do? ;)

Dynamic: I've just seen your tight budget on another post.  Please please please kill the NAS idea.  If it goes toes up you are stuck dealing with hard drives with a linux file system, and backups become more of a handful than they need to be and finding a compatible UPS can be nearly impossible on our side of the globe.  I suggest making the PC-as-a-server option work - you already know how to operate this solution!  A quality PC like an HP 6300 Pro with a 3 year on site warranty and with the cheaper i3 processor (sharing files does not take any horsepower), low-end quality brand UPS, big 3rd party internal hard drive, big external backup drive to swallow the lot every now and then and we'll resurrect the existing backup drives for the daily backups.


This was the original idea.  Re-positioning the server would mean placing it near cutting machines which generate dust.  I'm thinking the rack mounted/cabinet idea might be a better option with that in mind.  At least it has a bit more of a shield against it getting in.  A rack mounted blade type server is similar to a regular PC, is more compact, can be mounted on the wall out of the way close to wall mounted switches and you can fill them up with hard drives to your hearts content.  I would also be able to run the management software off it as well.

I know the budget is tight and I probably shouldn't be buying second hand without on-site assistance, but TradeMe have a few rack mountable units that would be pretty good for my application.  The ability to add later in the few slots down while keeping it all nice and compact sounds appealing as well.

Thank you for all the suggestions so far!  Keep them coming!





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  Reply # 861941 19-Jul-2013 02:25
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If you just want centralised storage, a NAS is ok. Synology and QNAP are both good but IMHO I have found Synology to be slightly better, more polished, better support. Of course at least Raid 1 the disks.

As pointed out NAS's can crash and your files are on a Linux formatted disk, but we wont have a single point of failure as the NAS should be rsync'd out to a external disk for offsite backup, raid1 disks and UPS the NAS.

I use Storagecraft shadow protect desktop for backup on each workstation with a full backup weekly and 2 week retention. Daily incrementals are done every 60min M-F or whatever. I don't bother with the cloud as I use offsite backup disks on weekly swap. It has excellent email reporting on failed backups etc etc. Can restore to diff hardware and very easy to mount images and cherry pick files from backup.

Don't scrimp on your NAS. The cheap ones will have low throughput, wont sync out to external disks, single gigabit etc etc.

If your company grows a server maybe better as you have centralised control. If users start asking for folders on the NAS, creating SMB shares and user accounts and passwords starts to get messy very quickly! How many people are we talking?

+1 for sorting out your cabinet and server room.

Lync could be done through Office 365 small business.

Happy to help onsite if you PM me and your in Auckland.



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  Reply # 862013 19-Jul-2013 09:55
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A little late to the party here: but my recommendation to backup a ton of random mess is MS Storage Server. You can get it in a NAS like this http://www.ascent.co.nz/productspecification.aspx?ItemID=416609 for pretty cheap.

That little box will do RAID 5, file serving and has a backup agent for up to 25 PCs. (install a little piece of software on each PC and then the server will do backups of the entire thing automatically). An ideal solution for most small businesses without all the complexity of doing a proper domain. This would solve your 'if computer X fails' problem. It won't solve 'what if the place burns down'.

It took my one 3 days to build it's RAID array (although I was waiting on 12TB of disk there) so be prepared for that.




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  Reply # 862212 19-Jul-2013 15:46
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Yeah I think you should aim for progressive improvement over time with priority #1 being put in a NAS/storage server and get their files centrally stored and backup up. Then #2 software agents on each machine doing an image backup to the NAS/server.

I'd go 4 bay Synology with 4x WD Red with a couple of sets of large external USB drives so you can rotate an offsite copy (backup of the NAS).

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