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Best IT-infrastructure For a Small Company? 600

Posted by samzenpus
from the ground-up dept.
DiniZuli writes "I've been employed by a small NGO to remake their entire IT-infrastructure from scratch. It's a small company with 20 employees. I would like to ask the /.-crowd what worked out best for you and why? I came up with a small list: Are there any must have books on building the IT infrastructure? New desktops: should it be laptops (with dockingstations), regular desktop machines or thin clients? A special brand? Servers: We need a server for authentication and user management. We also need an internal media server (we have thousands of big image and video files, and the archive grows bigger every year). Finally we would like to have our web server in house. Which hardware is good? Which setup, software and OS'es have worked the best for you? Since we are remaking everything, this list is not exhaustive, so feel free to comment on anything important not on the list."
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Best IT-infrastructure For a Small Company?

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  • Do my job please. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#34299690)

    Can someone else please make the first post for me?

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:33PM (#34299704)
    Media server? How about S3. Web server? How about EC2. Seriously, why spend time and $ on procuring, powering, cooling, backing up, and upgrading all that gear? Give everyone a laptop and a gmail account. Put the rest in a public cloud.
    • by suso (153703) * on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:36PM (#34299730) Homepage Journal

      Maybe that's indeed what he should do since he already doesn't know enough to do it himself, have other people do everything.

      • by CrudPuppy (33870) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:57PM (#34299924) Homepage

        I did exactly this when building out my recent company. Google mail service is fairly good, but hosted exchange is far better in terms of operating like a normal company with blackberries, etc. We outsource our web serving also. We basically have a fileserver and a pair of ADS boxes for inside services, and a redundant Internet connection.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by aaarrrgggh (9205)

          We use gmail for our company as well, and I have only recently hit the wall with it. I get a mew hundred MB of messages, and there is no method of deleting (or archiving) attachments off the system.

          I am still surprised that there is no popular "appliance" type server for this purpose: something that supports file, print, authentication, accounting, and phone system out of the box. Go extra fancy and allow for painless mirroring and snapshot backups with a second (and third) unit if desired. It seems like

        • by lymond01 (314120) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @06:48PM (#34300988)

          far better in terms of operating like a normal company with blackberries, etc.

          How Smartphone Users See Each Other [androidandme.com]

          His question begs more questions -- do his employees travel? Do they stream video? Do they do heavy processing? What OSes do their applications run best on? Can you virtualize OSes or will that overhead affect the heavy-duty nature of the applications? Do you have the know-how to build your own central authentication service using LDAP, Kerberos, etc? Or would you better served with an Active Directory? And would it make more sense to pay for Cloud-based AD from Microsoft rather than maintaining in-house servers? How much people-power do you have for IT?

          You just have to know the right questions to ask, then your infrastructure defines itself.

    • by Pop69 (700500) <billyNO@SPAMbenarty.co.uk> on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:37PM (#34299748) Homepage
      If you want to completely abdicate responsability for it all than that's the way to go.

      Then you can concentrate full time on keeping your internet connection working because you'll be screwed without it
      • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:45PM (#34299818) Homepage Journal

        The way most people work today, that's the case whether the server is in your building or not.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138)

        It's a 20 person company. Do you really think he's going to have the proper power conditioning, cooling, and remote-access setup for lots of live servers for basic stuff like e-mail and chat?

        Keep it as simple as possible. Don't use docking stations, as they will be useless the moment laptops change. Just have people use laptops. Bog standard local NTFS file server with Raid1 for safety, and backed up offsite. Use hosted exchange if they must have meeting requests, or Gmail if not. Chat over skype.

        IT i

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sco08y (615665)

      Media server? How about S3. Web server? How about EC2. Seriously, why spend time and $ on procuring, powering, cooling, backing up, and upgrading all that gear? Give everyone a laptop and a gmail account. Put the rest in a public cloud.

      Kinda like instead of hiring an IT guy to redesign the infrastructure, you can just post the question to /.

    • And when Joe Farmer runs his backhoe through your Fiber line? Send everyone home for the day? Tell your clients that their media is stuck on Amazon?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And when Joe Farmer runs his backhoe through your Fiber line? Send everyone home for the day? Tell your clients that their media is stuck on Amazon?

        And how often does that happen? Often enough to pay for server hardware, power, cooling, upgrades every 18 months, backups, and sysadmins to run it all?

      • by socsoc (1116769)

        And when Joe Farmer runs his backhoe through your Fiber line? Send everyone home for the day?

        That's pretty much my experience with SMB. Especially with multiple locations or a datacenter elsewhere. The local staff just go home because they cannot fathom working without access to the Internet, even if local services are still working.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by peacefinder (469349)

        And when Joe Farmer runs his backhoe through your Fiber line? Send everyone home for the day? Tell your clients that their media is stuck on Amazon?

        Easy! Just fall back on your emergency operations procedure (likely involving paper) until service is restored.

        You do have an emergency ops procedure, right?
        (Or you will after another next ask /., at least? :-p )

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by d6 (1944790)
        >> And when Joe Farmer runs his backhoe through your Fiber line? Send everyone home for the day? Tell your clients that their media is stuck on Amazon?

        Dual connections with different topologies and hardware fail over. It isn't that expensive.
        Having said that, I still would hesitate to put core assets (or even email) in the cloud.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jon3k (691256)
        I find it humorous that you assume people still work a world where you can operate when disconnected from the Internet. Even if everything's hosted locally you can't use the web or send e-mail. So yeah, you just go home for the day, I don't care if your servers are down the hall or the other side of the country.

        But the obvious answer is redundancy [cisco.com] with physical diversity, of course -- regardless of where your IT infrastructure is hosted.
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:43PM (#34299798)
      And the CLOUD is so in right now. Everyone is using the CLOUD. Just say "CLOUD" and you'll be swamped with job offers. Women will be... ok never mind.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Am I the only person who doesn't trust the cloud? I want my data where I can physically touch it (well, physically touch the media, that is).

        Maybe it's because I recently lived through a year with very spotty internet access (in the middle of a city), and anything on the cloud could only be accessed for a few hours every week. And with the internet disconnections for downloading songs, putting anything you need on the cloud seems like a really bad idea to me...

        • You are not alone (Score:2, Insightful)

          by MDillenbeck (1739920)

          Should a company really put proprietary or sensitive information in the "cloud"? Is trusting your data to a remote location with a 3rd party, and thus constantly transmitting and retransmitting the data, really the best solution rather than maintaining your own infrastructure?

          For a company that has no such data, the "cloud" may be a viable solution. However, when I routed my university email to gmail for my smartphone (since it did push, rather than pull every 15 minutes), I remember my bosses musing. He

        • by laron (102608)

          There is no cloud. Your data are just on somebody else's server. If you are lucky, you and your data are important enough to them to warrant a backup.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:10PM (#34300022) Homepage

      Great idea, except:

      1) S3 performance is poor. You've got to pay a LOT for performance.
      2) Non-hardware (administration) costs are still going to be the same.
      3) Cloud services are dependent upon connectivity. Which do you trust more: no link failure in thousands of miles of cables, fiber, and networking equipment, -or- the volatility of your local network and attached storage systems? You will need at least 2Mbit of low-latency throughput for something like this.
      4) You will need redundant outside-network links. This may not even be possible in his locale, and if it is, there's no guarantee something upstream won't die (and in many places, the certainty of something failing upstream is fairly high due to shared carrier).
      5) Are connections of sufficient throughput and latency even locally available? There's no mention of things like: mail use, type of work performed, etc. What if they do CAD work? What if they do a lot of email with attached documents? Graphic or sound work? These are use cases which are horrible for cloud computing.

      That's just a starter list. It's suitable for some purposes, but for most day-in and day-out stuff, it is not good as a primary source of IT infrastructure.

      For general purpose daily cloud computing, S3 isn't even a good/best option.

      As for the OP... this guy should obviously not be in IT. The most notable thing missing from his list is: competent and experienced IT personnel. Obviously this was not considered as a requirement by those paying the bills, but it is important.

      Hint: use requirements are the first thing to consider. Everything is based off of that. The vendors picked depend on experience and available purchase agreements. What I do for 90% of my customers will likely be a poor fit for many of your customers. And so on.

      Fucking amateurs. They make us MSPs look bad.

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:17PM (#34300056)
      With very few specific exceptions, I would never put my business "on the cloud".

      GMail? Nothing wrong with that... as long as you don't mind all your internal memos being examined by data-mining software.

      S3? Cool. Let's just put the video about our upcoming IPO on somebody else's servers, where others can have access to it.

      EC2? Yep. All of your financial reports and graphs will look just great coming from somebody else's data store.

      Okay, so I'm being a bit sarcastic. But not much. I wouldn't care much if it weren't for the fact that we know they actually do mine data.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by larry bagina (561269)

        GMail? Nothing wrong with that... as long as you don't mind all your internal memos being examined by data-mining software.

        Not to mention state and federal laws (SOX, HIPAA) that require controlled access to certain information.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LurkerXXX (667952)

        Amazon S3's website has a nice spiel on how to make HIPAA complaint web apps accessing it. Encrypting your data before putting it in the cloud isn't exactly rocket science.

    • What happens when the "cloud" company goes belly up without notice and takes your data with it?
    • by Max_W (812974)

      The current Gmail administration seems to be OK, but what if it changes and what if they do by this time the same business?

      It would be difficult to compete with guys who host your e-mail accounts and documents.

    • Host your internal media in the cloud? Are you crazy? Would you really prefer to have your large media files, gigabytes in size, at the other end of a 1-10MB/sec Internet connection, or hanging somewhere locally at the other end of a gigabit Ethernet connection?

  • Just remember the golden rule, and you'll be fine. "K.I.S.S Keep it simple stupid"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bhcompy (1877290)
      Basically, for 20 people, you're going to want to run an MS implementation with Dell PC's under a maintenance contract. Simple to implement and simple to manage, even if they get rid of you(which may not be in your best interest)
      • Re:Just remember (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:31PM (#34300144)
        Why spend twice as much as you need to? If you're halfway competent at your job, you will have Linux machines (definitely not MS if you want to manage cost). Open Office for your basic office work (regardless of whether the individual workstations are Windows or Linux). MySQL or PostgreSQL controlling your database(s). Apache as your web server. Today, this is all simple, cheap to implement, there is plenty of support FREELY available (unlike Dell or Oracle or any company that uses MS-based solutions), and it all works, just fine.

        These days, bloated Microsoft solutions, Oracle, long-term service contracts, etc. are just plain foolish, unless you have lots of money to just toss around.

        For 20 people, you only need 1 good server for all your internal needs, unless it's a software development house and the server gets hit heavily. 20 people? No need for video streaming. Just link to the video file.

        Of course for serving web pages OUTWARD, to the public, you should have a separate server. That's another matter and has as much to do with security as anything else. But it can still be set up with Apache, which is relatively simple and is the most used server software in the world. Yes, even counting Microsoft.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by VinylPusher (856712)

          For mercy, sir!

          You want to muck about with user training to get them to use OpenOffice? I know it's mostly compatible and lookey-likey with MS Office, but 'mostly' doesn't cut it with office workers. Office workers despise change, hate the unknown and will go into mutiny if you take the usual and replace it with something different just to save a little (OK, a lot of) money.

          Dell server, DROBO filestore and a bunch of really cheap desktops will cover many usage needs.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Yes, I would most definitely go about such. At several hundred dollars -- at least -- per each full Office install, hm. Let's say $300, although I know for the full version it's more. So 20 x $300 = $6,000 which will buy a really, really nice Linux server.

            AND, the workers will benefit a a result. Unlike MS Office, Open Office works on Windows, Linux, and OS X, so no matter what company they go to when they leave they will be able to fit right in. And it works with files other than Microsoft's, so it's mo
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Overzeetop (214511)

              You're a few years behind. MS Office works great on Win and OSX, makes PDFs straight from "save as" dialog, and costs less than half a day's employee cost (often north of $75/hr, burdened) - which is barely enough to show them that 90% of their stuff sill work as usual, and that the other 10% either doesn't exist or works differently/is incompatible with all the legacy documentation they have.

              As for worrying about someone going to a shop with linux on the desktop (the only place where Office doesn't exist n

        • by Giometrix (932993)

          Why spend twice as much as you need to? If you're halfway competent at your job, you will have Linux machines (definitely not MS if you want to manage cost). Open Office for your basic office work (regardless of whether the individual workstations are Windows or Linux). MySQL or PostgreSQL controlling your database(s). Apache as your web server. Today, this is all simple, cheap to implement, there is plenty of support FREELY available (unlike Dell or Oracle or any company that uses MS-based solutions), and it all works, just fine. These days, bloated Microsoft solutions, Oracle, long-term service contracts, etc. are just plain foolish, unless you have lots of money to just toss around. For 20 people, you only need 1 good server for all your internal needs, unless it's a software development house and the server gets hit heavily. 20 people? No need for video streaming. Just link to the video file. Of course for serving web pages OUTWARD, to the public, you should have a separate server. That's another matter and has as much to do with security as anything else. But it can still be set up with Apache, which is relatively simple and is the most used server software in the world. Yes, even counting Microsoft.

          I'd think the cost of a couple of dozen Windows licenses & office Licenses would be dwarfed by the training cost for OO and Linux, plus the salary premium of a Linux admin vs Windows admin (and depending on region, the extra time required to find a qualified Linux admin when the current one leaves). I do agree that they should go with an open source database, because licensing tends to be expensive and MySQL devs are a dime a dozen and even if you can't find one, it's not much of a leap to go from Orac

        • Re:Just remember (Score:5, Insightful)

          by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @05:50PM (#34300642)
          I hear people throwing around "Linux + Openoffice" as if you can just walk in one day and announce to the legal and finance departments, "Good news! We're turning your world upside down" and make it happen. Having tried OpenOffice in a few places (didnt have MSOffice available at the time), and the employees gave it a shot. Checking in with them a few weeks later, looks like they went out and got MSOffice. When asked why, they said, no lie, "OpenOffice sucks. Its hard to use, and its ugly".

          And tbqh having used Calc, I tend to agree-- Calc really is no replacement for Excel for serious usage (though I use it for my once-a-week time accounting). There are times to avoid MS, but I would be INCREDIBLY cautious about thinking you can install Linux+OOO everywhere and have everyone be OK with it. You may find your solution replaced just as quickly as you are.

          And lets keep in mind this is ask /.. We dont know what this guys company does, or if they have other vendors that provide web interfaces requiring IE-- they DO exist, and you DONT want to have to explain why the entire network needs to be redone on week3 because you knew better than those stupid backwards vendors and now they cant run payroll in the morning.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            "You may find your solution replaced just as quickly as you are. ... And lets keep in mind this is ask /.. We dont know what this guys company does, or if they have other vendors that provide web interfaces requiring IE-"

            I agree. BUT I can only give opinions on what I would do, given certain assumed circumstances. If I tried to give advice on every possible contingency, I would be either writing forever or not at all.

            But as for usability, I simply disagree. Sure... someone in Word Processing will prefer Word because that's all they ever learned and they have used it for 10 years. Anything else is a challenge they don't want to take. But that's their failure. It's not a reflection on the software. And I could say the same

  • What hardware is in place now?

    big image and video files = a poor thin client setup.

  • Do my job for me?

    "I've been hired by a small NGO. They have about 20 employees. I do not yet know enough about what I have been hired to do, so I am turning to Slashdot. Please, do my job for me and help me look good."

    • by grcumb (781340) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:08PM (#34300006) Homepage Journal

      Do my job for me?

      "I've been hired by a small NGO. They have about 20 employees. I do not yet know enough about what I have been hired to do, so I am turning to Slashdot. Please, do my job for me and help me look good."

      No. but that's only because I'm not afraid of other people's opinions. I actually like trying to see things from others' point of view. It makes me better at my job.

  • FreeNAS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thirdhatch (1944822)
    Get a stable release of FreeNAS on commodity hardware. It will fit the bill for all of the features you are looking for. SMB for Windows clients, NFS for Linux/Unix/BSD, iSCSI targets and initiators, support for several raid cards and drive types, software raid control, several other features. http://freenas.org/ [freenas.org]
  • I tend to shy away from using laptops (even with docking stations and such) for primary machines. I'd go with regular desktops. The costs of upkeep and such will be more predictable that way. I don't prefer any one brand over another, but I typically tell my clients to stay away from Dells (because of all the issues with capacitors on motherboards over the last several years). My clients tend to go local, even if it costs a tad more, and those that do tend to be happier with their purchases.
    • by kimvette (919543)

      Dell Precisions have been pretty good. The failure rate on the Precision line of laptops in particular is incredibly low, and the performance is fantastic thanks to their shoehorning a desktop chipset into the laptop form factor. :)

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:10PM (#34300024)
      Agreed. Laptops only when needed. Do people need to be mobile during the day, moving from place to place taking their computer with them? At a 20 person company having one person visit the office of the person with the computer in question does not seem prohibitive. Taking your computer to meetings and such, vastly overrated and usually a distraction.

      If you like the idea of people taking their work home do you accept the increased costs of lost and stolen laptops and the decreased lifespan that frequent travel brings? Is your data secured on an encrypted volume? Even if IT creates an encrypted volume are users actually using it rather than saving files to the unencrypted desktop? Have you planned training to address this sort of issue?

      When traveling overseas these lost/stolen concerns magnify. Furthermore is there anything on the laptop that your country does not allow to be exported or anything that the visited country does not allow to be imported? Perhaps even that state-of-the-art encryption software you normally use has export/import issues. Not to mention the "personal" folders where porn was downloaded. Have you planned training to address these issues? Even when a laptop is clean customs may hang on to it for some reason, its fully within their power to do so. Will having a person lose their day-to-day computer be an issue?

      When a person takes work home are they on the clock? Do you live in a jurisdiction where unpaid overtime is becoming more and more of an issue even with salaried people? You may be setting your company up for an unpaid overtime lawsuit once someone becomes unhappy and quits. I've seen it happen. I've seen companies in California switch all their engineers and lower level of management from salary to hourly due to this sort of thing.

      The list goes on ...

      Laptops can be great and they can be required while traveling. Perhaps have a few than can be checked out on rare occasions when people *must* work at home or travel. Have them copy only what they need for that day or trip, and wipe the laptop when returned.
  • Do you have any clue what you're doing?
  • Keep it simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by L473ncy (987793) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:45PM (#34299816)
    Keep the whole thing simple, the next person who comes in will thank you for it. Don't introduce any weird convoluted things into the system and make sure to make it so that the whole system is modular, easily upgradeable, and when the time comes and they need to expand that it's expansion friendly.
  • by kimvette (919543) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:46PM (#34299834) Homepage Journal

    For servers: Use Supermicro-based servers with LSI hardware RAID cards. Run CentOS with SMB so that you can get domain support in place for the Windows workstations, but avoid having to pay obnoxious per-seat/per-connection licensing ON TOP OF server licensing as you would have to do with Microsoft's solutions. If you need a full feature alternative to Exchange, check out Scalix or Zimbra (both are very inexpensive compared to Exchange) and run either one on CentOS. For backups, I've become partial to just writing bash scripts to back up to external drives. Get three or more external hard drives and rotate through them day by day. If Windows is required for your server, I would recommend the same hardware, but be aware that the total costs are much, much higher when you factor in Server+client access licensing + groupware solution + realtime antivirus (annual subscription) + email gateway antivirus (annual subscription unless you want to wrestle with perl to get ASSP running on 64-bit Windows) = your new server is incredibly expensive. Another problem with Windows licensing is eventually Microsoft will pull the plug on client access licenses for your installed version, which means that you will be forced into an OS upgrade if the current OS would otherwise be perfectly adequate for your purposes.

    For workstations: to decrease total cost of ownership (the pain of maintenance. If you are not married to Windows, consider using Macintoshes instead. Mac Minis offer pretty decent performance and take up a lot desk estate than PCs of comparable quality, plus you can also run Windows and Linux on Mac hardware if you need to. Why OS X? You can escape the insanity of malware/virus/trojan horse breakouts, maintenance is a heck of a lot easier, and backup and restore is far easier on a Mac than it is on Windows.

    For laptops if maximum reliability and desktop-like performance are the priority: I would recommend Macbook Pro, or if you want real mobile workstations and if the budget allows it, Dell Precision M6500. I have a Dell Precision M6400 and it's great- they cram a desktop chipset into the laptop form factor and performance is excellent, plus if I enable all the power saving features I can still manage to get 3-4 hours of use on a charge (about an hour if I turn off power management for max performance). The M6500 is far better than my M6400 performance-wise as it uses Core i5/i7 processors and a newer generation nVidia chipset. If portability is a concern I would still go with the Dell Precision line, but the M4500. If budget is a concern and rules out the precisions, some of the Latitudes are pretty good as well, but I would stay far away from any of Dell's other laptop lines as the other lines are not built nearly as well (their netbooks are okay though).

  • Let the new desktops vary according to what needs to be done; the needs of someone who's going to be editing a ton of video files are very different from someone who's going to be writing text in Word. There's only twenty employes, I don't think it's an onerous task for you to sit down with each new person who needs a new machine and talk about what they're going to be doing and how they'll be doing it; what's the setup of their dreams for doing their job if money's no limit, what can you get together that'

  • by MagicM (85041)

    New desktops

    Get 20 desktop machines. For those employees who sometimes work remotely buy a laptop with docking station instead.

    We need a server for authentication and user management.

    Buy one server for authentication and user management.

    We also need an internal media server

    Buy one media server with lots of hard disk space.

    and the archive grows bigger every year).

    Make sure you will be able to add hard drives (possibly external) to the media server in the future.

    OS: get what the IT admin (you?) are able to administer. A 20-employee company might not have a dedicated network administrator, so setting up a Linux environment in a MS-centric company coul

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grcumb (781340) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:18PM (#34300062) Homepage Journal

      OS: get what the IT admin (you?) are able to administer. A 20-employee company might not have a dedicated network administrator, so setting up a Linux environment in a MS-centric company could end up badly.

      Baloney. Use SME Server [theregister.co.uk] or Zentyal [theregister.co.uk]. I run a nearly identical organisation and my headaches have been significantly reduced since we stopped relying on Windows servers.

      And to all those who derided the OP for asking others to do his job for him: This is why you ask others' opinions: because sometimes what you think you know isn't always true.

  • I think Microsoft still gives a bunch of free licenses for NGOs for Windows and maybe Office. Consider looking into it, as it will help you avoid a training budget.
  • In a BI-project I now assess the maturity of the organisation before I implement anything. I've had bad experiences with implementing advanced solutions in non-technical environments: they just don't get used.

    So:
    - Who will be maintaining the IT-infrastructure after the project is done, and is that full time or parttime?
    - What are the skills of said person(s)? Windows, Linux, or non-existent?
    - Is it the intention or even a possibility to outsource the maintenance?
    - Is it the intention or desire to have the o

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:52PM (#34299884)

    First off is keep it simple. The simpler the better. This is not an enterprise, they don't have a lot of people to call on for support. So don't build anything complex.

    I probably wouldn't bother with central authentication unless there's a reason, just do it per computer. Ask yourself what it gains you to have. If the answer is just "simpler administration" then don't use it. 20 computers is not a problem to administer without it, particularly since not everyone logs in to all computers. However the central servers are a point of failure, a place for problems.

    Also have someone else host all your servers unless a file server is needed. There are plenty of good server hosts out there. For the web, depends on what you want. Pair is a top notch web host I used for many years. Top flight quality in every regard. Hostgator is who I use now to save some money and I'm perfectly satisfied. It works well, is reasonably fast, and they don't bitch that I do like 100GB of traffic a month.

    For an internal file server, something simple and reliable. A computer with RAID-5 or RAID-10. Make sure to do offsite backups. An easy option for that is Acronis Trueimage. Great backup program and they will do network backups for a fee. It can encrypt the backup so no security issues. If their service is too expensive, use the software to backup to external HDDs and lock them in a safe or something.

    Thin clients: You must be joking. Don't do thin clients unless you understand it well and are willing out lay out a lot of cash to make it reliable. Remember that if a desktop crashes, gets corrupted, whatever one person can't work. If the tin client server goes down EVERYONE can't work. There are some situation where they make sense. If you aren't experienced enough to know when don't use them (yours isn't one BTW).

    As for computers, get something from a major supplier. Dell or Lenovo are my recommendations. They don't have an in house IT department they can't really be faffing about with repairs. Get them from someone that'll do onsite service and get a nice long warranty (unless you are sure they'll be replaced sooner). Make sure that there is a company out there that backs up the hardware that people can just call to have shit fixed.

    Desktops vs laptops depends on the usage. If the intent is that these are used in the office, then desktops. They are cheaper to purchase, cheaper to find repairs for out of warranty, and harder for someone to walk off with. Don't get a laptop unless there's a real need to get a laptop. If people are going to be walking around with them for work reasons then fine, though it still might be good to have a desktops as well in case they forget their laptops at home or lose them or something.

    For OSes, depends on your needs. I'd say Windows unless you have a reason not to. Yes, yes I know MS evil and MS tax and all that jazz. Forget all that. These computers are tools to get a job done, the users don't care past that. Get them the best tools for the job. That will probably mean Windows for running MS Office, and for working with media since Linux tends to fall down in that department. Only do Linux if you are sure it will meet their needs (and by sure I mean you've tested it) and they can get the support they need.

    In general I'd stay away from Macs. They cost more per unit, and they are not good with business support. Their idea of support is generally "Take the system to a store, we'll look at it and get it back to you." Fine for a consumer, not for a business. For a business you want "I call you and a tech shows up tomorrow with all the parts to fix it." Only go with Macs if you have a real reason and if you can't think of one, then you don't have one.

    Remember to keep pragmatism in mind above all else. Get people the tools that do the job they need. That is all computers are to non computer people is tools. You are just being asked about expensive hammers or saws or the like. Your job is to figure out what they need, what will do the job the best, what can be th

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's not very well known, but Apple will actually do on site repairs. Seriously, look in your AppleCare terms, it's in there. I've heard of people who know about it getting on site repairs with great success. They also allow you to mail in your repairs without going to an Apple Store.

      Optionally, if you do have an on site IT department, you can get certified in doing your own repairs. Apple will send you a new part, you install, send back the old part.

      That said, unless the office is already using Macs, don't

  • You can build a stable and scalable infrastructure with any of the major OSes out there, so I would no be afraid to choose. The catch is: you have to know what you are doing. If it is just going to be you designing and supporting the infrastructure, pick whatever technology you are most competent with. Same for video servers and web server technology... but in this case, try and use server software that does not lock your content to that particular software, so you can change later. Standards help... th
  • I work for a large non-profit, though we have offices all over the world with a pretty wide range of technology and budgets among them. One of our biggest drivers is cost and what a lot of people forget is that people are more expensive than just about anything else.

    Everything you decide to do for yourselves means that you'll need more people who know what they are doing and that's expensive. If someone else can provide the level of expertise you need as part of a service, that can be huge.

    Software definit

  • What's typically used in this sort of organization? What types of collaboration have to be done with folks on the outside?

    Really, that defines the desktop choices. If, for example, a lot of publication or graphics work is going to be done - you'll want a Mac for those people because that's what the outsiders they'll coordinate with will be using (believe me - we didn't do this and it's been one annoyance after another over the years, thanks to my PHB!). If the support staff will have to work with folks on t

  • Your TCO having the users on Macs will be lower, as explained in prior post. Less help desk issues, almost no viruses, better backup, higher user satisfaction, and 3-year h/w service from Apple. Have your employees sign up for swimming or cooking at the local CC for one quarter and get 10% educational discount on the hardware. Run VMware Fusion on select machines that HAVE to have Windows. 20 employees? Put what you can in the cloud.
  • What do your users need to run? Is it basic Web/Email/word processing, or is there something else thrown in? If it's something like that you could probably get away with a bunch of thin clients and a big central server. Check out LTSP [ltsp.org].

    As for servers, from the information you gave it seems like a basic file server would work as your media server. Make sure you have enough RAM, and take a look at something like Ubuntu server, should be pretty straightforward to get going for 20 people. For your Web serve

  • The first question is, who will be supporting these servers and what kind of expertise do they have? Second question: what are your needs? What kind of software will you be running? Third question: what does your budget look like? Answering these questions may answer your questions.

    If your users are comfortable with Windows and you only know how to admin Windows servers and your business needs MS Office and Exchange, then you'll be buying a bunch of Windows machines. You won't find a manufacturer that

    • Oh, and I forgot: if possible, use the same *exact* hardware on all client computers, and develop a good imaging solution. This will save you some headaches down the road. If you buy a bunch of Macs, then getting different configurations for different users will hurt less; thanks to EFI and OSX including all the drivers for all their configurations, imaging a Mac is simple.

      I would generally stick to desktop machines unless people really are going to be taking them places. Laptops are generally more expe

  • I am responsible for IT decision making for a similar-sized startup. I have around 15-years of IT-like activities behind me. At my current job, I keep costs low and the organization agile with a few simple rules.

    Everyone gets a refurbished MacBook Pro with AppleCare. If it breaks (pretty much never), the user takes it to the Apple Genius Bar. Once the warranties run out, there's an Apple-certified support center near by. We replace computers every 2-3 years and keep a spare around just in case. Everyone get

  • You never mentioned a platform, so I'll assume you will use the same infrastructure as 95% of the world, Windows.

    Windows offers many useful tools and functions (group policy, WDS, etc), and in it's small business server form gives you an extremely robust solution for a good price, up to about 50-75 (75 hard limit). It includes Exchange, Sharepoint, and internal media serving via Streaming Media Services should suffice. It also includes wizards for nearly all it functions.

    The pain is the need to re-buy softw

  • The only element of this which really needs any non-standard thought is the media server, and that depends. If you're just archiving stuff, even that isn't a problem, but if you have multiple people doing video editing, for instance, you will need some serious power
    in the server and it's network connection. You also need to assess what level of reliability you need in that media server -- for instance can you afford to lose a few hours updates if something bad happens. If so, a standard server plus (say) mi

  • Hire me? (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:24PM (#34300096) Homepage

    OK, seriously, I've done a couple dozen of these 10 to 50 user installations. Half the time is spent at the beginning to determine what the customer needs and wants, and what the budgeting will be. Things invariably cost a lot more than the customer anticipated so your goal is to manage expectations. If you don't do that, your life will either become a living hell (if you will be providing long-term support) or you will leave behind an unhappy customer.

    Some of the basic things that were not considered when customers brought me on:

    Are there remote employees? Will they need VPN access? What platforms are they using to connect? Can you verify that the endpoints are secure?

    What is the anticipated volume of mail? In this day, it's often much cheaper to outsource to Google for smaller installations, but in some cases it makes a lot of sense to keep in-house.

    When hosting your own web server how much downtime is acceptable? Do you need 24/7 uptime or will you have maintenance windows? What if your primary site burns to the ground? Do you have the floor space and adequate cooling? How much traffic is anticipated at the beginning of the project? How much do you expect to grow?

    What applications do you need in-house? Accounting packages? Company intranet? Database? How will you separate your LAN for security purposes? Do you take credit cards as part of business?

    What infrastructure applications do you need? Can you afford downtime on these? How many ports/switches do you need? Wireless? Separate backup LAN? OOB management for your servers?

    Before you even start pricing hardware, find out what your customer needs and wants and willing to pay for.

  • What software do you currently use?
    This decides a thin-clients vs. fat-client approach.
    I'd second giving MacMini's a thought, while outsourcing as much as possible.

  • The only answer i can give you is: 42!

    The problem is, that you don't understand your own question.

    E.g. Thin Client vs. Desktop vs. Notebook is not a universal truth. Nearly everything on the IT market exists for a reason. If you are mostly working on large images, thin clients would usually not be the very first choice. A desktop PC may not be well fitting for your much traveling CEO. Laptops in call centers have a tendency to disappear.

    I can counter every question you ask with a dozend questions you have

  • My firm is a pretty small shop, with everything running off ClearOS [clearfoundation.com]. It's a really fantastic server/middleware package with a great configuration, plus domain services, etc. Honestly, it can do everything you need, and you even have options (can use local clients, etc, or the well-configured horde/kerberos install). It's running CentOS so if you want to branch into more advanced stuff, then it's all there and relative simple (as simple as anything is with SELinux). They also offer a $1000 box with certified

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