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Setting up a Small Office Network? 88

Posted by Cliff
from the for-those-new-to-it dept.
A not-so-anonymous Anonymous Coward asks: "I am embarking on a startup with some business contacts. I'm the only tech-guy in the group so I'll be the one to set up the network for our small office of 5-7 people. I've spent the last 15 years immersed in the development end of things (numerical analysis software and parallel computing codes). The downside of this is that I'm quite naive when it comes to networking: there's always been someone else taking care of revision control, backups, security, servers, etc., even purchasing stuff and running cable. What advice would you give someone who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves, but is starting from ground zero on setting up a small office network? Can you recommend any books that are up-to-date and practical (e.g. "howto")?"
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Setting up a Small Office Network?

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  • by vasqzr (619165)

    This actually would be your best bet. Perfect for your situation. "Networking For Dummies" can be found at almost any bookstore.
    • As far as I can tell the Dummies series jumped the shark about five years ago. It's a great idea, and used to be executed quite well, but lately they seem to be publishing a lot of trash in an effort to expand their titles and franchise as fast as possible. I think they still do a good job of organizing the material, but the content is often a rehashed help guide with no elucidating exposition. It's usually incomplete, and occasionally out and out wrong.

      I can't speak to Networking for Dummies specifical
      • I can vouch for a lot of the newer tech stuff being absolute crap. I check 'em out regularly in hopes of being able to recommend them to people, but no dice.

        Windows Server 2003 for Dummies was a new low, in my opinion. The whole book was pretty much a verbose version of "you do X from the X snap-in." The Win2K3 Server help can tell you more than that, and it's free with the OS.

        Their general life stuff is much, much better. The computer stuff should mostly be avoided like the plague.
    • by dmaduram (790744) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @12:35PM (#13054544) Homepage
      Personally, I've found that the 'x for dummies' / 'x for complete idiots' are about as useful as a rudimentary Google search.

      I like O'Reilly's "Missing Manual" series, so I'd suggest O'Reilly's Home Networking: The Missing Manual [oreilly.com] (coming in july 2005).

      If you don't want to wait until this comes in print, I'd recommend Cisco's "Home Networking Simplified", which was reviewed on Slashdot [slashdot.org] a few days ago. From the review:

      This is an almost perfect book on home networking for the person who has a Windows computer or two (and nothing else) and knows nothing. It pains me to admit that I have a number of friends who fall into this category and I would have no hesitation in lending them a copy of this book. Given the cost, I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to everyone, but I do feel that it is the perfect volume for the local library; borrowing it for two weeks while setting up the home net would be the ideal solution for people like my mate Tim, who (while a pediatric specialist) has trouble hooking up a router, or the neighbours downstairs who can't properly secure a wireless network.

      Table of Contents [ciscopress.com]:

      Part II Simple Home Networks
      Chapter 5 Creating a Basic Home Network
      Planning a Network
      Designing Your Network
      Building Your Network

      How to Build It: Connecting Two Computers
      Decide on the Type of NICs
      Physically Install the NIC
      Internal NIC in a Desktop Computer
      Internal PCMCIA NIC in a Laptop Computer
      External NIC for a Desktop or Laptop Computer
      Configure Windows to "Talk To" the NIC
      Build a Network Between the Two Computers
      Back-to-Back
      Using a Hub, Switch, or Router
      Set Up the Network in Windows
      Troubleshooting Tips: Building a Network

      Chapter 6 Sharing Network Resources
      File Sharing
      Printer Sharing
      Practicing Safe Share
      Sharing Guidelines
      Network Design Guidelines
      How to Build It: File and Printer Sharing
      Enable File and Printer Sharing
      Share a File Over the Network
      Map a Shared File Folder as a Disk Drive
      Share a Printer Over the Network
      Map a Shared Printer
      Add Security Precautions to File and Printer Sharing ...
      • Seeing how you would be the only tech guy in your organization, you're probably going to use Windows on the machine.
        While you're at it you might want to get "Building Internet Firewall 2nd ed" and "Practical UNIX and Internet Security, 3rd ed", both from O'reilly, cause you'll be needing it to keep your user sane from the malware.
        You're going to need some kind of Anti-Virus.
        You can probably build cheap servers out of old PCs for now, and use some UPS to deal with power outage. Or you might want to bid on an
  • May I suggest (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Networking All-in-one Desk Reference for Dummies (For Dummies S.)
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/076454260 5/qid=1121267178/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/202- 7028557-5627019 [amazon.co.uk]

    If you have no experience what so ever it might be a good place to start :)
  • by xtreeman (76067) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:09AM (#13053638)
    Move your revision control, backups, security, servers, etc stuff to India.
    • by spoonyfork (23307) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [krofynoops]> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:41AM (#13053968) Journal

      Move your revision control, backups, security, servers, etc stuff to India.

      Don't listen to him. Look, I can get you a much better deal by nearshoring your IT operations with a Canadian firm who will then offshore to a firm in China. The Chinese firm will outsource to a contract company in Vietnam. Your cost will be next to nothing.

      Uncomfortable with the plan? Think of it this way, you will easily be able to access^Wbuy back your business processes, security, and data at any time through a multitude of interesting and multilingual extortionists. Your company's operations will be mirrored across teh internets in a distributed network of black and not-so-black markets. You'll always have access to your company's IT operations regardless of how bad you mess things up in the USA.

    • Why is it that outsourcing has become a synonym for offshoring which is completely different (and may not even involve outsourcing)?

      Outsourcing in general simply means that you decide that your effort is best spent doing the things you are best at and letting someone else worry about the other stuff (usually defined in quite a bit detail).

      Overall, outsourcing and focusing, as much buzzwords as they've become, are the way most industries are headed. Quite frankly I believe IT is too. In fact I'd go as far
  • by missing000 (602285) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:18AM (#13053720)
    You won't find many better guides to layer one than Cabling: The Complete Guide to Network Wiring [amazon.com].

    While the other parts of the equation are very important, you need to start with a firm foundation, and if you're doing your own wiring, this is the place to start.
  • by FreshMeat-BWG (541411) <bengoodwyn@m e . c om> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:19AM (#13053736) Homepage
    If the network is slow, you can make it faster. If a server goes down for a short time, you can get it back online. However, if you can't restore a backup, you are in deep.

    Whatever you do, pay very close attention to your backup strategy to ensure all important data is backed up (duh). But, a backup strategy is useless if you can't restore it. You should "practice" restoring the systems you are responsible for backing up to a new hard drive and ensure the systems and data are restored correctly. While doing this you should develop a restore guide to help out when it really matters.

    Doing this will provide you with:

    • Confidence that your data is properly backed up and can be restored
    • A guide boot for performing a restore years from now when you won't remember what you did to start with
    • A spare set of drives to restore to when you have a drive failure
    • Good suggestions. I would also invest in something like Norton's Ghost software, because once you get your PCs configured, it's a tremendous pain to have to manually restore your configuration. With Ghost, you have a PC with a big hard drive that contains the image of a brand-new proper configuration, so that when Windows crashes, (not if!) You can give it a ghostie and be up and running that much faster.

      Make sure that you leave plenty of room for growth. Buy bigger than you need; for instance, start
      • Just thought of something else you can check out... I've been a member on this forum since 2002 and I've learned a lot from them....

        http://www.tek-tips.com/ [tek-tips.com] Free registration, lots and lots of forums.
      • Small corallary to this: Use ghost on your servers.. If your running windows servers, be sure to put the main install on a small "C" drive, and all the data on a different drive. Make a ghost image of the C drive any time there is a major change to it. (or once every month or so, in case of patches). Then, if there are problems, you can reghost the C drive, leaving the Data on the other drives intact. Or, in the case of nasty problems, ghost the C drive, and dump the data partitions back from tape.
    • You should "practice" restoring the systems you are responsible for backing up to a new hard drive and ensure the systems and data are restored correctly.

      Can I get an "AMEN" brother!

      This is the most important aspect of running a network, and the least tested.

  • That is, do you you also want basic connectivity and setup info? (Installing LAN cards, or getting motherboards with builtin LAN, is like Step Zero.) Anyway, remember the Internet as a source of data. Sometimes this is better than books, and sometimes not, due to how data-condensing (less pages to look through). For a Windows setup, here [artimedia.co.uk] is a tutorial. For a Linux setup, other places certainly exist. Choosing the network environment is probably Step One....
  • by DaoudaW (533025) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:29AM (#13053818)
    Be humble! Seek help when you need it. It sounds like you have a "can do" attitude which can take you a long way, but I can tell you from personal experience that an inexperienced person can spend a lot of time and resources on problems which a call to someone with a bit more experience could quickly resolve. Be honest with your partners! It's real easy for us to position ourselves as gurus, but more difficult to be honest about our strengths and weaknesses. I've seen many shops where systems were poorly designed because the "tech guy" was unwilling to admit that they were in over their head.
    • by toddbu (748790)
      I agree with the sentiment here, but be careful how you approach this. People are paying you for what you know, so if all you do is ask them what they want then they'll find other avenues to get it. The strategy that I use is this:
      1. Ask them what they are trying to accomplish. Never ask a client "What do you need?", but rather "What are you trying to do?" If you ask them what they need, they'll answer in terms of what they think is or is not available. To get real out-of-the-box thinking, ask them what
    • Get some help. There are lots of very good people out there who can come sit down with you for a day or two and talk with you. It will not cost you a lot. Read a Dummies book first, but don't buy anything until you talk to them.

      Probably check thier references out first.

      They can see issues that you will miss until it is too late:

      Security issues. Can this cable with this type of cover be run through the drop ceiling. Why you want to be sure not to get a kink in you wires while running them (cable run in
  • For a small office setup, you only need a small set of literature:

    - A general practical how-to guide (pick one or two from the dummies books at Barnes & Noble or whatever)

    - A recent copy of a PC Connection or CDW catalog (which mostly targets small offices)

    Then find a good store within 20 miles that specializes in cabling, connectors and electronics (not Radio Shack), and make nice with the guys. You can bounce ideas off them, and they are usually only too happy to give you their $0.02.

    And finally:
  • by AnObfuscator (812343) <onering@phys.u[ ]edu ['fl.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:34AM (#13053892) Homepage

    This is exactly what I am currently doing, so I can offer some advice.

    I know the question is about books, but really, I doubt you need 'em. I personally didn't read any books about the subject. I've found that books are far, far inferior to just playing with the damn thing.

    First, if you are totally lost about networking, just googling "windows networking" or "networking tutorials" brings up wealths of information. (I will assume you are using Windows...)

    Second, I suggest that you review Microsoft's website, and review their excellent documentation. I would suggest, for your needs, that you consider Microsoft SBS: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/sbs/tec hinfo/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

    Microsoft does sell some books about SBS and windows 2k3 server, but AFAIK those entire books are just printouts of the material MS provides for free online... say what you like about MS (I despise windows, honestly), but they *do* provide a lot of well-organized information for their clients.

    Third, join some good technical message boards. These are the lifeblood of self-taught network admins. :)

    Don't be afraid to bug people on message boards... most boards are filled with helpful people who would love to point you in the right direction. Also, I find just going onine and saying, "WTF is this thing doing?" and having a helpful, custom reply is a lot more handy (and educational) than pouring through some clumsy and out-of-date book, not even knowing if the answer is in there.

    All of this, of course, is my experience due to my personal behaviors and tastes, so of course YMMV.

    oh, and don't forget to have fun with it! ;)

    • I've found that books are far, far inferior to just playing with the damn thing.

      Until you need to do things correctly. Just playing with it willl get the basics working, but it won't teach you anything about the best practice for any given situation. It won't teach you the correct way to devise a backup rotation. It won't teach you how to devise an efficient addressing scheme. It won't teach you how to properly secure your network and your data.

      Depending on your level of experience, you may already k
      • Depending on your level of experience, you may already know some of these things, but the OP made it clear that he doesn't. Telling him to ignore the work, advice and experience of the others who have gone before is irresponsible, not to mention likely to waste a lot of time that he probably doesn't have to spare.

        whoa, calm down. I didn't tell him to ignore the advice and expereince of others, for crying out loud, reread my damn post! Where did I say *anything* like that?!

        I merely said that books weren

        • whoa, calm down. I didn't tell him to ignore the advice and expereince of others, for crying out loud, reread my damn post! Where did I say *anything* like that?!

          What you said was, that he doesn't really need books, and he'd be better off to play around with things. Presumably the people who've written books have some experience and advice to offer. In any event it does nothing to counter the point that while there are certainly many other resources available, and somethings may be best learned by tria
  • Documentation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:39AM (#13053944) Homepage
    Having been the tech guy before, doing all the setup, do yourself a favour and document everything you do. Setup a linux box somewhere and install wiki, and whenever you do something/install a system/change the network, just record it. don't worry about formatting etc, just keep it somewhere. Then, when things quiet down, go back and clean it up. Then you'll know in a couple years why it was important that cable X ran to Y after Y has been moved and you go 'wtf was I thinking'.

    Or, if you happen to leave, you're leaving a good legacy for the next guy.

    I know documentation is the bane of everyones existance, but when you're designing a new network from the ground up (including servers, workstations, etc) a little pain == lots of gain.

    Additionally, create (and document) some quick policies and procedures now - things like passwords/external access/storage locations/naming conventions ... going back to fix these things is a pain in the ass later, but is easy to do from the start.

    Good luck.

  • Look at Linksys or D-link products for networking. as for source control, Perforce or AlienBrain are reportedly good. Avoid Visual SourceSafe at all costs. StarTeam and ClearCase usually aren't worth the money for a team your size. You can e-mail me.
    • Linksys/D-Link is a good option for a group your size, but try to avoid SOHO or 'consumer' level D-Link equipment. Their higher end stuff is actually pretty good, but their consumer products have given me no end of headaches. Linksys is solid pretty much no matter what you buy.
    • Yes, perforce is good (very good actually), but it's licenced per seat and while not as complicated as ClearCase isn't the easiest thing in the world to admin.

      If you can setup Apache, I would strongly recommend looking at Subversion instead. Very easy to setup and maintain and has most of features of Perforce as well as a few that Perforce doesn't (like true rename/move support).

      -Aaron
  • Intel Lan cards only. Don't cheap out on this one, buy them used on ebay if you don't have the money for new ones. Netgear 16 port 10/100 switch. Buy a 1000' foot spool of stranded, patch cord CAT5 cable, 200 RJ-45 connectors, a decent crimper and learn how to do your own cables. If you're a windows shop, use XP pro and server 2003 small business. It will work and server 2003 can be set up with hot-swap mirror raid for almost nothing. Keep the server (and the desktops) behind the firewall. Alas, I ha
    • Alas, I have no good suggestions for a cheap firewall router.

      Smoothwall Express (the free version) seems to work decently as a real firewall on older hardware.

      ahref=http://www.smoothwall.org/ [slashdot.org]http://www.smoothw all.org/>

    • "Intel Lan cards only"

      Not to say that Intel doesnt make great networking cards but why Intel only? Is Intel just a brand you prefer to use or have you really had far more problems with others?
      • Re:Hardware... (Score:2, Informative)

        by SaDan (81097)
        He probably says that because of the excellent compatibility with many different operating systems (and versions of said operating systems), they're not that expensive, and they tend to not use nearly as much CPU as a cheap card will.

        But, I'd have to disagree with the Netgear recommendation. Why buy good network cards if you use crappy switches for the back end?

        Used Cisco equipment is plentiful and cheap on eBay, and provides much more funcionality than crap like unmanaged Netgear, Dlink, Linksys, etc un
        • If the guy is trying to wire up 5-7 PC's, I dont think he really needs to look any further than a 16 port netgear (like the FS516 used on ebay). I dont think you need a lot of managing for 5 computers.
          • It's more about reliability, but management has its perks when you're doing admin work remotely.

            I'm not saying I've never had Cisco gear fail on me, but I have replaced a lot of Netgear hardware with Cisco.
    • Alas, I have no good suggestions for a cheap firewall router.

      A cheap PC running m0n0wall [m0n0.ch] would work very well. When I got a DSL installed, I took a spare PC and set up m0n0 to act as the router/firewall and it has been simple and solid.

  • Mac OS X Server packs a heck of a lot of nice functionality - right on spot for what you need to start up your network. Combine that with a nice management interface, virus-free operation and regular upgrades. Lots of the software is open source, so you can extend it more or less in the same way as a Linux setup.

    If you can afford it, get an XServe with everything installed. If not, get the software and install on an older machine cheap from eBay. Mini Mac makes nice clients.

  • What advice would you give someone who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves, but is starting from ground zero on setting up a small office network?

    Don't staple through the Ethernet cable.

    • Don't staple through the Ethernet cable.

      Unless, of course, your company still is using a baseband cable for a backbone, in which case you'll need to drill into it to make a connection.

      Whatever happened to the good old days when you could ruin a $500 cable just by misaligning the tap?

      • No ruined cable. You could always cut the bad section and add two N connectors and a barrel adapter. Then use a TDR to make sure the splice looked OK. Network back up in an hour at most.

  • Find a reliable contractor to come in once a week to set this up for you. You should be focussed on bringing in money, not doing level 1 desktop support.

    • Yeah but... In some parts of the country, it will be a full-time job finding and keeping a "reliable contractor". Learning it yourself will mean you can fix it yourself even if the contractor is in Hawaii on vacation.

      This is a call he'll have to make on his own.
    • "You should be focussed on bringing in money.."

      Quick reality check - Outsourcing does not necessarily equal money savings, especially if you only have 5-7 people in the office.
      • Outsourcing does not necessarily equal money savings

        Right, I am sure that is the case. BUT I can guarantee that if you tie up the only technically savvy person in a company making 10 Base T connections using a crimping tool to save money that company will soon be out of business. Or look at it another way - if you find that outsourcing managing a small in company network is too expensive and costs more than what the real job of this technical guy is, maybe you should be setting up a small business network
      • Reality check - his quote said nothing of the sort.
        Basic office networking is a commodity service. He & his partners should focus on their new business and let this be done by someone who knows what he/she is doing.
        Surely they would think about having one of the partners work on their cars?

        \\Greg

    • That's the best advice in this thread.

      If your company can't afford to build a small network using outside help, you're undercapitalized. That's a nice way of saying doomed.

      Look at it another way. How much is an hour of your time worth to your company? Every hour you spend playing junior network guy takes that much value away. You need to be contributing more to the company that you'd pay a small-time networking vendor. Anything less will lead to serious cash flow problems. That's another nice way o
  • by Bishop (4500) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @12:36PM (#13054550)
    Code development and system administration are completely different skills. If you understand that you will have a much better chance of suceeding.

    The various for dummies, for complete idiots, and similar books are generally good introductions. You are going to need more then one book. At a minimum one that deals with networks, and one that deals with system administration.

    You will need to decide on a maximum budget for IT stuff. You can easily spent that ammount, regardless of how much it is. Like buying a car, it is good to determine you maximum ahead of time.

    You will need to determine what services your network will provide. Just Internet? Will you want a network printer? A file server? Do you need a revision control depot? Do you want full backup of each client over the network? While working out these details remind yourself that you are building a business network, not a home network.

    You will need to decide what OS you will use. A single OS is always easier to work with. A free *nix server will save you money. Your choice of OS must be requirements based. Don't choose MacOS because it is fun when you will need to run an application that is only published for Windows. Don't overlook the alternatives because "windows is the default."

    Once you have a basic design you may want to look at outside help. Chances are you know a sysadmin that you would hire on for a short contract.

    When putting the system together aim for the mid priced solution. The cheap stuff will cost you time and effort to maintain. The cadillac solution is expensive and you will probably want to replace it in a year or two anyway. The mid priced stuff is almost always going to work well enough. Avoid ordering too much through priceline. Building a good relationship with a local vendor is worth more then the few extra dollars you will pay. Alternatively the (business) tech support from IBM, HP, and Dell is good despite the complaints on the Internet. However IBM, HP, or Dell won't sit down to talk about your setup, while a local vendor will. (do shop around for vendors though. too many are cheap discount shops selling crap.)
  • This is a fairly simple operation. Before you begin, you need to ask yourself: How important is your data?

    Let's start with the wiring. Generally, you're going to find that if you are in a VERY small office, like it sounds you might be, longer patch cables will be all you need to hook up PCs to the switches. If you need to maintain some formality, with external conduit and the like, you can still do this with longer patch cables. If it is a larger office, you must buy a box of cable and run it. I woul

  • Before dispensing advice you have not really answered the most important question?

    What do you want to network?

    There are a lot of books on networking, networking a printer, networking work stations, networking computers for internet access, file sharing, IM networking, email server, etc.

    It wholly depends on what you want to setup. If you just want internet access and to share a few files you can do this with a Netgear router and a switch and turn on file/folder sharing in Windows. Simple and it works.
  • Your ambition is commendable, but if you are starting from scratch, don't make the foundation of you new company a first attempt from someone who is learning as they go. From hard experience I can tell you that any "good enough for now" solution will linger on well past when it should have been scrapped.

    Hire a professional company to run your cable if you are doing more than a couple rooms.

    Hire someone to set up your infrastruce. Programmers are Not Sysadmins and Sysadmins are not programmers. They are v
    • Hire someone to set up your infrastruce. Programmers are Not Sysadmins and Sysadmins are not programmers. They are very different jobs with overlapping but different skill sets.

      This is the best advice you will find here. I do infrastructure design and operations for a living, so I get asked to "take a look" at small-company networks from friends all the time. There are always things that seem obvious to me that non-sysadmin/infrastructure people just don't do right. Someone that knows what he or she

      • Quite amusing when someone runs cables poorly or yanks on well terminated cables until the wires pull loose (long hundred foot runs).

        Well, unless they are my runs... then I'm usually quite visibly embarassed, as I have occasionally done late night work, and screwed one or two up. Its fun to laugh about years later, but as a teenager first learning... boy did it hurt.
  • start simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by Darth_Burrito (227272) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @01:37PM (#13055268)
    Start simple and add complexity. Realize that you don't need to start maintaining your own domain controller, file server, web server, mail server, backup server all on day one. You can get by without much of this stuff, and much of the stuff you need like web hosting and email can be outsourced relatively inexpensively.

    If you don't know the difference between a $20 linksys router and a $1,000 cisco monstrosity, buy the linksys. If you want a file server for 6 people, buy the $300 dell dimension desktop and not the $2500 powervault file server. Setup a simple backup script, ignore raid and complex programs like veritas until you are ready to deal with them.

    Other tips:
    • Identify useful technologies and have a plan in place to gradually improve services.
    • Resist the temptation to put everything on one machine. The life of a system administrator is much easier when all the eggs are in different baskets because you can take one system offline without disrupting everything. Also, some server software does not "play nice" with other software even amongst the same vendor.
    • Enable auto windows update.
    • Enable the builtin windows firewall.
    • If you don't know the difference between a $20 linksys router and a $1,000 cisco monstrosity, buy the linksys. If you want a file server for 6 people, buy the $300 dell dimension desktop and not the $2500 powervault file server. Setup a simple backup script, ignore raid and complex programs like veritas until you are ready to deal with them.

      I think the KISS principle is always appropriate but be sure not to be penny wise pound foolish.

      Whether you should choose the $300 desktop or $2500 file server d

  • by adturner (6453) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @01:47PM (#13055356) Homepage
    I'm employee #3 at a small startup. Since I'm the only one with an IT background (Unix, networking and security) I get to do all the IT work + the other work.... Lucky me. Here's what I did:

    Our server is a Supermicro dual Xeon box w/ Adaptec SATA hardware raid controller doing RAID10 (4x250G drives) with a Quantum VS160 DLT drive for backups. Works great and was cheaper then Dell. Linux support is great as I'm sure Windows is if you want to go that route. If you go Linux, you should only consider XFS or ext3 since those are the only journaled, relatively stable FS with a version of dump. You'll need dump (or xfs_dump) to do incremental backups once your data is larger then a single tape and tar/star won't do anymore. (Note, XFS may be unstable under LVM2... before picking it, you should do some research, but ext3 seems rock solid so far.)

    OS is CentOS 4.1. Has been very stable except for doing LVM2 snapshots. :( Apparently 2.6.x still hasn't worked out the bugs for LVM2 snapshots and you can get a hung kernel. LVM2 is still worth it since it allows you to resize partitions. Just don't put your root partition on it.

    I've standardized on putting user accounts in OpenLDAP. Was somewhat a pain in the ass to setup, but now that it's working it's really worth it. Currently we have authenticating off of LDAP:
    - Unix accounts
    - SAMBA
    - Jabber
    - Bugzilla
    - Snipsnap (wiki)
    - Subversion (source control)
    - Apache (HTTP Authentication)
    - WebCal (calendaring)

    Currently we outsource email, but once we bring that in, we'll do that too. Everyone loves having only ONE password which is ALWAYS in sync. Makes creating new user accounts a breeze too since there's only one database to manage.

    Of course there's all the other tools like CruiseControl, Doxygen and ViewCVS which make the developers life easier. YMMV depending on your needs.

    Run DHCP and DNS (I use ISC's dhcpd and bind9) and turn on dynamic updates of DNS via DHCP so you don't get in the trap of using /etc/hosts files. hosts files work fine when you're small, but don't scale at all and getting bind/dhcpd working is easy enough where you might as well do it from the start.

    As for network wiring, get yourself a spool of Cat5e, some RJ45 connectors (make sure they're for solid cable, not stranded), a tester and an Ideal Rachet Telemaster. Yes you can get cheaper crimpers, but they suck and you'll hate yourself for trying to save $15.

    I've standardized on Dlink DES-1026G switches. They're 24 port 10/100 with 2 Gig ports for your servers or stacking. Cost is under $200 if you look on Froogle. According to the specs, they're "real" switches with a decent backplane. I personally prefer managed swithes with VLAN's, but when you're a startup, $$$ matters.

    For small companies, VoIP seems to be the way to go, but once you're around 50 people, going with a real PBX seems to be the cheaper option. Either way, expect relatively high startup costs associated with getting the related phones/etc installed and configured.

    As for firewalls, well run what you know. Most firewall insecurity comes from miss-configurations, not flaws in the firewall itself. If you know how to harden a box and run iptables, I still wouldn't use that since there is a lot of effort involved. Just find some packaged firewall (OSS or COTS) which meets your needs.

    Just remember to do things right the first time. It's better to put in some long hours initially to get things running well then fighting fires each week when problems start happening as you grow.

    -Aaron
    • As for network wiring, get yourself [...] an Ideal Rachet Telemaster. Yes you can get cheaper crimpers, but they suck and you'll hate yourself for trying to save $15.

      Hell yes! I picked up the Ratchet Telemaster several years ago when I was wiring my home network, and it's a wonderful tool. I can't recommend it enough. Between the ratchet and the soft grip, it makes it easy and comfortable to terminate even a ton of cable.

      I really should have picked up a jacket cutter to go with it, though. I tried both t
      • How I make cables... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by adturner (6453) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @05:57PM (#13057851) Homepage
        If you have the IRT, then place the jacketed wires between the dual cutter so that the end goes a little PAST the little stop. Squeeze down until you hear the first click, and spin the IRT around once or so. Pull. It won't be a super clean cut, but it will do just fine.

        Now split the wires and order them (I always do T568A standards since that's what I was originally taught 10+ years ago when I was a desktop support monkey, but T568B is fine too.) Just don't be stupid and order the wires straight since you'll screw up the whole point of an UTP cable.

        Anyways, once you have things ordered, clip off the ends of the wires so that everything is nice and even (which is why you strip off more then you're supposed to in the first step).

        Put the RJ45 end on and crimp.

        Anyways, YMMV... my .02.

        -Aaron

        P.S. I forgot to say how much I *hate* making cables. I'd rather be poked with a stick.
  • At the outset, try and define what it is you're trying to do, on some sort of priority list, and start at the top and work down. Try not to get diverted onto someone's recent "big idea" - keep an eye on the bigger picture.

    Try and avoid overcomplicated solutions to problems. If people are pulling you in different directions, try and get them to talk it through together first.

    If there's a modular way of doing something and a non-modular way, pick the modular way so that you can change one element of a sol
  • I currnetly manage on the side my fathers law firm's network and computers, they currently have 10 computers and one computer acting as a server computer. it sounds like I have something similar to what you are looking to do. the key is simplicity, first thing, don't mess woth a domain, unless you require the security, don't do it.It will only cause you numerous headaches, i know because i currently work for another company with the same number of computers and they are constantly having issues with the dom
  • If you've been in the business a while, you should know 1 or 2 skilled infrastructure guys. Finding someone with the right balance of design, procurement, and build skills that is looking for some side work is an exercise left up to you.

    Once you've identified this person, pay him to do the work and explain it to you at the same time - that where the multiplier comes in to play.

    I've done this type of work for friends/relatives in the past. Just remember that business is business.

  • Get the Unix System Administration Handbook [admin.com]. Some IT guys even call it "the bible" :)
  • by Door-opening Fascist (534466) <skylar@cs.earlham.edu> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @06:29PM (#13058098) Homepage
    They tend to have everything you need. Here's some suggestions: Essential System Administration [oreilly.com] TCP/IP Network Administration [oreilly.com] Check out the rest of the sysadmin selection [oreilly.com] at O'Reilly.
  • If I was stating from scratch I go wireless. No or very few calbe to take care of and it should be fast enough.

    Also I'd recommend getting a preconfigured server.
    If you want Linux then there is
    *SME - http://contribs.org/ [contribs.org]
    *ClarkConnect - http://www.clarkconnect.com/ [clarkconnect.com]

    Both have a free version. Basically they wrap everything to together with a web interface. Things are bolted on as plugins.

    Or if you want to go the Microsoft way there is
    *SBS - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/sbs/def ault.mspx [microsoft.com]

    Anyw
  • What will you be doing on this network? Do you have an idea what operating system you'll be running? What are your storage requirements.

    There are very different requirements depending on the type of work you'll be doing. For example, if you're doing general office work, you'll probably want a bunch of windows machines sharing an internet connection through a firewall. You might want a single computer to act as a file server. If you're running a law office, you'll need all of the same, plus a file serv
  • by Glonoinha (587375) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @07:38PM (#13058621) Journal
    Assuming you are starting from scratch :

    Buy one brand of hardware, and one model of machine for everybody. Get all the same server model, all the same video card in every machine and the same network card in every machine. Personally I am a Dell fanboy, but only because I have been using them forever and am good at navigating their support site for drivers. This makes system maintenance and repairs very easy, no esoteric crap to worry about (one set of drivers, one system gold disk image to restore from, and one set of spare parts.)

    Amen to the guy that said document EVERYTHING. I have seen some of the most freaky undocument hacks this side of the moon - every day was an adventure in discovery (I once saw an extension cord with the ends hacked off used as part of an ARCnet network, spliced to the coax on each side using electrical tape!)

    Amen to the guy that said hire a guy that knows what he is doing to come in and set it up. Shadow him and every other breath you take should make the sound 'why' so you know what everything is when he is gone.

    GigE is cheap enough for you to use now. Enjoy.

    Get LCD monitors and good keyboards / mice. I cringe today watching a $60k / year employee hampered by a $3 keyboard and a old 15" CRT.

    PowerQuest Drive Image Professional, or Ghost. I prefer PQDI, but I hear Ghost is good too.

    Servers get at least three partitions : OS partition, Applications partition, and Data partition. Once you have a DriveImage of the OS and Apps partitions, you really only need current backups (daily) of the data.

    I have no clue how you are going to back up 500G of data each night, but something tells me it isn't going to be by burning it to DVD.

    Even if it is just a closet - put your servers in their own room with dedicated power lines and dedicated cooling. It is going to get loud in there, so plan on sitting elsewhere.

    Resist the urge to buy one-off items because they are cheap. The $300 one-off computer that some kid built in his garage is going to cost you way more than the difference it would have cost going with a single standardized platform - over the life of the machine.

    One person can maintain 300 machines if they are all exact clones of each other. If every machine is unique it would take you 5-6 people keeping the same network fully operational. At $65k apiece fully loaded salary that's a third of a million dollars more per year to support the same 300 machines. At four year turnover on computers, you are talking about an EXTRA $4,000 per computer to save $200 total on purchase price.

    The first line of defense in computers is the users. All the firewalls in the world won't stop a (virus / worm / trojan) if your dumb-ass accountant double clicks on a file attachment he gets in email from his golfing buddy, titled I_Love_You.doc.vbs. Knowledge is power.

    Build it and design it as if you were going to have 1000 users.

    If you wouldn't have a network of 1000 users all using their first name as their user id, why do it at the onset with the original 15?

    If you wouldn't let all 1000 users surf porn from work, why do it with the original 15?
  • I can't recommend any books, but I've been using the SMEServer [contribs.org] Linux distro for a couple of small businesses I'm involved with. Works right 'out of the box' as a SAMBA file server, gateway & firewall, user/account manager, POP3 server, FTP server, and backup/archiver with a nifty web interface. Nice and simple, and all that our businesses need.

    It's a RedHat-based distro, so you might need a good book for that. Install Subversion and you've got a great little repository and revision control system to
  • A book I find quite useful making the switch from PM to Site Mgr was the following:

    "The Practice of System and Network Administration"

    by Limoncelli & Hogan

    Excellent book. It will answer questions that you aren't even thinking about.
  • The best advice I can give is DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT. Document any change you make including date and time. This becomes essential for troubleshooting later on.

    An excellent book is "The Practice of System and Network Administration" by Thomas A. Limoncelli, Christine Hogan. (ISBN: 0201702711) It is theory not necessarily platform specific. It is focused at unix, but can be applied in a windoze environment. I wish I had read that book years ago. It really does a good job of summarizing all the be

  • revision control, backups, security, servers,



    Sounds like you need a book on systems administration. I recommend The Practice of System and Network Administration. The authors have a website [everythingsysadmin.com].

  • I am #7 at a startup where everyone except for the CEO currently comes from a development background. We all agree it would be a complete waste of our time to build our own network: We are outsourcing the job to someone who has a lot of experience creating such networks. He will build and maintain our network for a reasonable fee.

    We believe this is money well-spent, as the alternative is to have one of us learn all the issues from scratch (and there are a lot of issues, I promise you).

    Just because you

  • You didn't specify what your background in network operating systems are, so I am making the assumption you've never setup or used a server before.

    In other words, if you're comfortable with Windows, buy a Windows server and use that. People in here (the Linux freaks especially) will scare you into using their system. (Remember this site is called /. not C:\)

    Don't setup a Linux or BSD server if you've never installed or used one before, unless of course you can afford some downtime reading lots of O'Reil
    • Debian is a good choice. Apt is a fantastic packaging system. Go with a thin client server, too. Rather than LTSP, I would recommend ThinStation booting from CD. If you have a client who does video, you can give them a gigabit connection to a switch. For more security, you may want to use X over SSH or NX technology. Unfortunately, there is no 64 bit version of NX yet. If you do not need NX, I would defiitely recommend a 64 bit server just for the bus bandwidth on the mobo. Use software RAID 1 for reliabili

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