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Best IT-infrastructure For a Small Company?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the ground-up dept.

Businesses 600

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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Do my job please. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299690)

Can someone else please make the first post for me?

Re:Do my job please. (4, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299702)

No, but I'll take the Second Post...

Re:Do my job please. (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299930)

I need a new way to get to work. Should I get a car, an EV, a bike, a motorcycle? What kind of which?

Re:Do my job please. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299964)

The first question to ask the NGO management and staff is: What applications or functionality is required? Who hires these bozos who subsequently post to ./ asking for information about how to do their job? Egad, Master Richie!

Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (5, Interesting)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299730)

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

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Insightful)

CrudPuppy (33870) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299924)

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:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Informative)

Pop69 (700500) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299748)

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

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299766)

Not that hard to keep an Internet connection working...

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299818)

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

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299936)

Correct. But it's trendy to try to get the first post whining about lost connections and the cloud. Of course those are the unemployed /.ers snacking on Cheetos in their mom's basement.

The rest of us professionals know how to make "the cloud" work, and get paid well for doing so.

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Insightful)

sco08y (615665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299778)

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 /.

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299786)

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:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (2, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299982)

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?

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299986)

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.

It sure is getting CLOUDY (4, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:It sure is getting CLOUDY (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299944)

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...

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (5, Insightful)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300022)

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.

Re:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Don't buy any servers. Use the cloud. (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300138)

What happens when the "cloud" company goes belly up without notice and takes your data with it?

Just remember (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299706)

Just remember the golden rule, and you'll be fine. "K.I.S.S Keep it simple stupid"

Re:Just remember (2, Interesting)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299928)

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)

What hardware is in place now? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299710)

What hardware is in place now?

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

Why do you want to keep webserver inhouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299724)

I dont understand why do you want to keep the webserver inhouse? Why not rent a cage in a service provider's place?

Re:Why do you want to keep webserver inhouse? (5, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299800)

Yup, agreed. You could have your webserver in-house. You'll need a safe room to lock it away in, ideally with some aircon, maybe a halon fire suppression system. Plus an UPS, obviously. And you'll probably want to hire another cupboard, with the same systems, a few hundred miles away, for an off-site backup. Oh, and make sure your ISP provides you with a sufficiently fast uplink.

Alternatively, pay someone $50-$500 dollars a year for the same. It's a no-brainer unless you've got some really, really pressing reason.

Ask Slashdot (1, Informative)

Dark_Matter88 (1150591) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299728)

Ask Slashdot: Why do your job when you can ask others to do it for you?

Re:Ask Slashdot (5, Insightful)

Jahava (946858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299914)

Ask Slashdot: Why do your job when you can ask others to do it for you?

Why indeed?What reasonable motivation could he have to poll a well-established base of computer experts for advise? Could it be that an infrastructure is a hard thing to get perfectly right? Maybe up-front decisions made right will negate hours of work and wasted productivity down the line? Remember those security and infrastructure failings we've been so critical about all these years? Those clueless IT guys who screwed up royally and condemned employees and management to countless hardships? Maybe he doesn't want to end up in that position... maybe he wants to do things right?

That lazy bastard!

Re:Ask Slashdot (3, Insightful)

rocketPack (1255456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300122)

Why indeed?What reasonable motivation could he have to poll a well-established base of computer experts for advise?

Maybe they should just hire one of these "computer experts" who knows the answer instead of someone who can't even seem to use Google?

Seriously, they're paying him to get the job done. If he doesn't know how to find this information for himself and make an informed decision, he should not have accepted the job in the first place.

Let someone who has the requisite knowledge have the job (or contract) and get the job done using well established procedure and expertise.

Even if he does know, he should come to the table with options and ideas and ask (say, on a forum) for some expert opinions about specific products (or at least brand names/vendors!) This shows that you have at least done some homework.

Re:Ask Slashdot (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300140)

Well, all I have to say is that if this bastard has polled a well-established base of computer experts for advice, then he should at least share what those results were with us here at slashdot.

FYI. There is a big difference between asking advice on the pros and cons of something specific and asking advice on "what's this big red button on the wall?"

Re:Ask Slashdot (5, Insightful)

Mr. Jerry (1323215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299974)

I get the whole "he should do his job thing," but I'd agrue that he is. His job is to improve/develop that company's infrastructure. It doesn't matter that he doesn't have ALL the knowledge in his brain to do this from scratch. He's researching using the tools he has avaiable and one of those tools is the knowledge base at slashdot. Except unfortunately it seems everytime someone asks the slashdot "community" for help with anything. They immediately get thrown under the bus for asking the question in the first place. So much for the "community" and helping colleagues in the field.

Re:Ask Slashdot (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300124)

So what you're saying is he's getting the same old answer..... RTFM. It would be nice to know a bit about the company's needs though, elsewise how do we know how to answer the question. Look forward to seeing the requirements.

Did anyone else read this thread as.. (2, Informative)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299732)

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."

Re:Did anyone else read this thread as.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299784)

YES. Sounds like this guy B.S.ed his interview and the wrong idiot got hired. If he had any experience at all in this field (IT is for failed engineers anyways) then he wouldn't have to have slash dot do his job for him.

Let's have fun! (1, Offtopic)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299940)

It's an NGO - 20 employees. NGO? Non-Governmental Organization? Some do-gooder type of company?

They hired this guy based on, let's say, "stylish" reasons and not by his qualifications. Because if he were a real geek, he'd know exactly what, how, and how much off the top of his head. So, let's fuck with him:

"Dude. You need a Mac Pro server and a 12-Core Mac Pro on every desk AND every one absolutely needs a 64GB WiFi 3GS iPad AND an iPhone. Otherwise, you will FAIL and children will starve!!!"

Re:Did anyone else read this thread as.. (3, Insightful)

YottaVolt (1206356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299946)

"IT is for failed engineers anyways"

A bold statement on Slashdot where IT is a large part of the community. Oh but I see you posted as Anonymous Coward...

Re:Did anyone else read this thread as.. (3, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300006)

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.

lack of information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299736)

Well, first you should ask the people who employed you what they actually want to DO, i.e. what they will use their brand new computers for. Since we here do not know that, it is hard to give any recommendations. For example, if those 20 employees plan on taking their computers to customers and show stuff / do some work there, they will not be very impressed if you hand them thin clients. And it is hard to recommend anything for the servers without knowing what they want to put there (i.e. are we talking about 100GB of data and 10GB more every year, or 20TB data and 10 TB more every year? Do they need immediate access to everything within seconds?)

Re:lack of information (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299804)

Indeed. The critical thing is almost certainly the back ups and network connection. They've presumably already go the software for doing their jobs picked out and everybody knows how to use it, at least partially.

However, it's almost certainly the case that they haven't gotten their backup system in order and finalized the network.

Asking them what they want should guide things along the way. It might be acceptable to use a service like backblaze [] to handle the back up process or more likely they'll need to keep it in house for reasons related to regulatory requirements. Without knowing more information it's hard to know what sort of advice to give.

Why? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299740)

Why did they hire you when you don't know what you're doing?

like took some with a BA over some with 2-4+ years (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299788)

like took some with a BA over some with 2-4+ years in the field with out one.

Re:like took some with a BA over some with 2-4+ ye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299866)

I'm guessing English wasn't your major.

Re:like took some with a BA over some with 2-4+ ye (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300054)

As for someone with a BS, I'd never hire someone with a BA in IT related fields unless it were (maybe) a project manager, their knowledge was commensurate with a BS, and they had work experience.

And "2-4+" years of experience is inferior in your mind to some schmuck with a 4-year IT-centric arts degree? I will take someone with 3 years of solid IT experience over someone with a BA, any day of the week. Experience, with demonstrated competence, trumps formal schooling unless additional demonstrated competence is provided by said degree holder.

Conceptual stuff is important, but if they can't get the job done, they're useless (and cost more).

FreeNAS (2, Interesting)

thirdhatch (1944822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299744)

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. []

I don't like laptops as primary machines (3, Interesting)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299754)

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.

Re:I don't like laptops as primary machines (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299912)

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. :)

Laptops only when needed (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299768)

Go Cloud. All other options is so nineties.

Don't want to be rude or flamebait but... (2, Insightful)

JazzyMusicMan (1012801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299776)

Do you have any clue what you're doing?

Your answer depends on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299780)

What needs you have to serve.

Without more specific details, I would say you need to use whatever software you're comfortable with. But wait, you're asking for answers on Slashdot, so why on earth would we expect you to be comfortable with anything?

Linux, Windows, MacOS, you can succeed or fail with any of them, but qualifications matter, and we can tell you have hardly any.

Seriously.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299782)

If you have to ask, they've obviously hired the wrong person. You're talking about a very small network with very basic needs.. If you can't do that without having someone hold your hand, you're most definitely in the wrong field.

Maybe you should resign? (0, Flamebait)

MikeDataLink (536925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299790)

I mean seriously. Have you considered resigning? You don't know what you're doing and asking slashdot for instructions?

Try this for inspiration: Epic Bill Gates Rage Guy []

What are the user requirments? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299802)

Is it a mobile population? What applications are they running? What propitiatory software are you running (or will you be running)? What is the budget?

The list goes on. For the client end looking at what the users are doing will give you the answer. If they are running million plus record pivot tables or doing 3d graphic design... thin clients are probably out of the question. What would be interesting is possibly looking at software as a service solutions for the "business applications" and you mentioned media applications. Reducing the IT support by focusing on that/those application(s).

As for the backend server if you are just going for a file/web server, go with Apache, linux, I am assuming there is a database somewhere in there (hopefully it is MySQL or Postgres or something cross platform). If it is high I/O plan for that. There really isn't any mystery to this.

Bottom line - pay attention to the business requirements. If you don't then, frankly your an idiot.

Re:What are the user requirments? (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300004)


Poor NGO (0, Flamebait)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299806)

They hired someone who has absolutely no idea what to do.

How did you get that job? Why did you get that job?

I'd understand if you didn't know ONE thing, but ALL OF THEM? Seriously?!

P.S. You didn't ask for advice on which mice to buy - laser or IR, and if they need to be a special brand, and USB/PS2, and if the mouse cable needs to be braided, and how many buttons it should have.

Re:Poor NGO (1)

revlayle (964221) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299872)

Duh, mice need to have "buzz cuts" not braids. That creates shorter distance mouse com-fibers that have the fastest response time to user input.

Keep it simple (5, Informative)

L473ncy (987793) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

We need details! (1, Informative)

snow_mac (1944824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299822)

You've given us very limited to work with. But making a couple of assumptions, you're all on the same site. Here's what I would do, buy a Dell or HP server running Windows SMB 2008 for all your clients, file server and user authentication; I'd get two servers, one a PDC and one as a BDC. I'd go laptop on the Thinkpad end with Windows 7. In house wireless would be easy vs networks and switches, get a couple of Apple BaseStations or go Ruckus Wireless access points (which totally ROCK btw). As far as backups go, clients sync files to PDC, the BDC acts as a backup for files, archives and domain. A couple of local HDD's and maybe one or two stored at a bank for backups, then using something like Mozy pro for offsite file backups. That way you have onsite, near site and offsite-- lots of redundancy. Web hosting, unless you need something fancy like posting something into some local database, be cheap ass and pay the $5 a month for Godaddy. Phones: Go with Phonebooth or use cell phones. Email: Google Apps for your domain. If you're starting from the beginning: Laptops $15,000 - $20,000 Servers and network gear: $10,000 Software: $10,000-$50,000 depending on what you need.

Re:We need details! (1, Insightful)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300034)

get a couple of Apple BaseStations

You're seriously advising a business to use consumer grade wifi? I don't use wifi, but if i was forced to, it would be on a different VLAN from the company and secured to the hilt and with a RADIUS box, not WPA2.

Don't go cheap with hardware (4, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299834)

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).

Re:Don't go cheap with hardware (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300002)

Remember - they wont be paying corporate rates for MS products. The difference is huge.

What do the people need to get their job done? (1)

Peganthyrus (713645) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299848)

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's actually within the budget?

Ask them (1)

halfaperson (1885704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299852)

Remember, your job is to make sure everything works smoothly for them, and if that means more work for you, well, that's what they pay you for. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. By asking them what they want and expect, you'll get something to start from.

Plan on your needs now and tomorrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299854)

Just remember that right now it be a small company but it could always grow. Keep the technology flexible enough so that the you won't be stuck without some way to move out of whatever you set up. Plan on when the system will be decommissioned as well so you have a full picture of what kind of support you'll be looking at. Laptops are great for keeping people mobile but they break more often and increase the chances that you'll lose sensitive data due to a stolen laptop. Also terminated employees sometimes take a while to return the laptop to you. Don't be skimpy on hard disk space. Buy plenty of room to spare so you do not have to go back to your manager in the future because you planned on what your current needs were.

wow (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299858)

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 could end up badly.

Seriously. It's 20 people. You can't really screw this up unless make their media server world-writable to the internet.

Re:wow (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300062)

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 [] or Zentyal [] . 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.

It's said when people like this get jobs over peop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299864)

It's said when people like this get jobs over people who know what they are doing.

What did you do to get the job? Took alot of cert tests and passed with no idea on how to do the real work? 4 year degree? took CS classes and not tech school classes?

Worked best buy for years not doing real IT work?

NGO status (1)

Lulfas (1140109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299868)

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.

Erm, need more info... (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299870)

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.

- 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 option to hire additional help on demand?
- Are the people in the NGO dependent on applications or software that needs to be ported to the new environment?
- Do they have specific hardware requirements for specific parts of their work, that necessitates ruggedized or other non-standard equipment?

The first 4 questions determine how much leeway you have in speccing exotic software. If you have to outsource or hire, get whatever the rest of the market is getting. Otherwise you have *some* leeway there. But not much. IMO, NGO's and other non-hightech organisations just can't deal with fancy stuff, even if it is much better than the non-fancy standard stuff. It's like selling cars in Africa: yes, the latest Mercedes M-class is a beautiful car, but if I bring one to the village smith, he won't be able to repair it. Get an old Toyota Landcruiser and more often than not they have the parts lying around and can just weld something together that will get you home. Which beats dying in a remote village in an airconditioned but very comfy Mercedes.

Also, you need to know which legacy apps to maintain: if they run on Windows and you're going for Linux, good luck with that.

Finally: a web server in-house? Why? You're asking us for advise on the OS etc: the onliest reason I can think of for getting a webserver in-house these days is if you have very special requirements for the stuff you want to run on it. And since you're asking *us*, that doesn't seem to be the case. So don't do it. I've dropped our webserver like a hot potato and never regretted it, even if the hardware was free. Just securing the thing, running a firewall, configuring the firewall, maintaining the webserver, backups, etc. are very expensive compared to outsourcing it.

As for clients: I have a client (a person, not a computer) who standardizes on Apples. Cost a bit more to purchase, costs MUCH less to maintain. But here as well: you need to deal with legacy applications, training and other issues.

So without more background, any advice is meaningless. It will be great for someone, but possibly disastrous for you in your situation.

Re:Erm, need more info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300084)

you're a BI project.

With questions like these (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299876)

Given the questions being asked, I think your first step should be to turn down the job and take some courses at your local college. Then go about setting up a network. If you had one or two specific questions that would be fine, but if you're at the point where you're asking about recommended books and hardware, you're really in the wrong job.

Few things to consider (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 the best supported and implement that. When possible, make sure there is external support, like buying from a big company with an onsite warranty or hosting with a dedicated hosting service. Reason is that they will not have in house IT at that size, and can't count on a reliable person who also knows what they need. Means that as much as possible you want someone else dealing with the problems.

Keep it simple, keep it supported, and be pragmatic not idealistic and you should be able to build a good system that has minimal problems and does what they need.

Golden two-punch (1)

wedsxcrfv (1662699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299890)

I say use Google Apps for email and Dropbox for Teams for file sharing Everyone can use their own clients and platforms (Mac, Linux, Windows) and can access their email and files whenever and wherever there is internet Google Apps: [] Dropbox for Teams: [] Plus, a lot of people probably are familiar with GMail and they can use Outlook, and Dropbox is just easy to use Also, for a website, just use a host like GoDaddy or something, the cloud is the way to go (IMHO)

Info for NGO (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299896)

Check you Cheap and free software for 501.c3 organizations.

use what you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299900)

Use the technology YOU are most comfortable with, YOU need to support, configure and understand exactly what each piece of hardware and software is doing. Just because it is a small job, in terms of numbers, it should be treated with the same degree of professionalism and expertise as any other job.
The easiest thing to do is to set up an insecure and flaky system, it takes true experience and expertise to set up and maintain a secure and reliable system.

Ok, let's be realistic. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299904)

If you can't even pick out the equipment on your own, how the fuck do you expect to administer and maintain it? This makes me sick, considering how many QUALIFIED people would jump at the opportunity to take on this job. Shame on you.

Be prepared to change your mind later (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299910)

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... though be careful: using an open standard like ODF seems nice, but you will find the rest of the business world pretty much 100% on MS Office.

If you plan to use technology or software with which you are not too familiar, I would seriously consider hiring a competent contractor to help, even if it's just for a few weeks of design work.

I can't say much about hardware. Whatever brand you pick, some people will praise it while others will have their horror stories about that brand. Desktops or laptops? That depends a lot on who will be using them. Why not let the users choose?

Budget (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299916)

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 definitely shouldn't be your highest cost. FOSS is usually free or close to it. But commercial software should also be inexpensive. Microsoft for example gives crazy discounts to non-profits.

What type of machines are best for people to work, depends a lot on what they do and how they do it. We have very few people in our offices that use desk top machines. Mostly graphic arts/video editing folks. Almost everyone else is using laptops.

Our area offices are close to what you describe in size people wise. We recommend that they have as fat a pipe as possible ( not much in some parts of the world ) and that's the most important piece. We encourage them to buy a good switch, good wireless access point and some printers that can connect to the network without requiring a print server.

Our financial/donation/HR apps are hosted remotely and accessed via Citrix. They all have batch modes for those areas with intermittent connections to the web. This alleviates the need to find people for every office that can take care of all the technical needs a local network and software generate.

This isn't exactly the same as you describe - but I'd recommend looking at the full cost of ownership of any option - not forgetting what competent people will cost.

Anything not on the list? You mean EVERYTHING? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299918)

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 the outside at all - you'll almost certainly want to give them Windows and the latest version of Microsoft Office.

Servers... hard to think of a reason not to run Linux. Well, actually, again - who's going to be maintaining the boxes (is it you)? What's your comfort level with Linux or Windows servers?

Has anyone associated with this organization actually asked these questions?

This is not a good time to experiment, or to push your own agenda regarding how the world should be versus how it currently is. You're obviously young, and new to all this - if you're hoping to make this a career, you want to make sure the client ends up happy with your work.

Total Cost of Ownership, right? (1)

xkr (786629) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299920)

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 the users need? (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299942)

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 [] .

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 server, how much traffic? The same thing applies, RAM is good, and Ubuntu will work for you there too. Also, how much traffic are you looking at? You should also look at tuning Apache (or whatever server you end up using) for best performance.

And of course, if a GNU/Linux solution isn't your thing or Ubuntu isn't your thing, adjust accordingly.

why have you been hired... (1)

heatseeker_around (1246024) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299950)

... if you need to ask slashdot how you should do your job... ???

Are You Serious? (1)

theilluminated (1610471) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299952)

If you aren't able to figure out the question at hand yourself I doubt your expertise for actually doing the job. Even if you get it running I suspect something will fail along the way. Unless I am wrong I urge you to look in the mirror and be true to yourself, your boss and the employees that count on you.

S.T.A.R. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34299972)

Before you follow *any* advise on here, you need to be clear on what the company requirements are? This could influence both the hardware and software that you choose.

Also, as much as I'd like to suggest you go down the open source route, be careful. If they are expecting to open MS Office documents and you choose Open Office, it will be your fault when they discover open office isn't quite 100% compatible.

Choose carefully, it's your neck on the block, not the /. community's.

First thinks first... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299978)

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 people don't complain about, but Dell and HP are generally fine.

If you're a real Linux whiz and you want to save money on licensing costs, then Linux is certainly worth considering. Assuming you want an office suite, web browser, and email, it should be fine. Watch out, though-- if someone absolutely needs Adobe CS or MS Office (or other Windows specific software), you'll probably want to use Windows or Mac clients.

Macs: I like them. Imaging is easy. Administration is easy. They run Unix tools. Users like them. You can get major commercial software like MS Office and Adobe CS. I actually like iWork quite a lot. If you want to, you can run Window or Linux on them. On the down side, they're expensive and there are limited configurations. Most configurations are not upgradable. Also, it's worth noting that Apple is stopping production on their only rack-mount server.

Where does all this leave you? I don't know. I'm sad to say that if you're running a small business with limited tech capabilities, Windows SBS with Windows clients is a pretty safe bet. People are familiar with Windows, it's well supported, Windows domains provide an easy single-sign-on, and Exchange works well. I stay away from Windows, though, because I refuse to buy software which requires activation. Also, windows licensing can get expensive (don't forget about the CALs!).

Re:First thinks first... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300074)

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 expensive and less upgradeable. They're also a nightmare as far as ergonomics go, unless you buy external peripherals and use them as desktops anyway. Also avoid all-in-one machines for some of the same reasons.

Beware of roaming profiles; make sure you know how the syncing is working, or you'll lose data. Oh, and I mentioned this earlier, but avoid software that requires activation. I don't say this for ideological reasons, either. Activation is all well and good until something goes wrong, and then you might find that you're screwed.

Here's how we do it (same size company) (1)

fsck! (98098) | more than 3 years ago | (#34299988)

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 gets a $100 USB drive for TimeMachine backups, so a damaged or lost laptop is at worst a few hours of lost productivity. If a user wants to run something other than MacOS X they're welcome to do so on their own.

We have no servers in-house other than a small Linux box which serves as a router. The network is managed with the goal that it be no more complicated than anyone's home network. "Network is down? Reboot the router." Granted, we have a symmetrical 10mbps RF link via TowerStream [] so it's pretty fast, but still, K.I.S.S.

All email, calendaring, etc are handled by Google Apps. $50 per person per year is ridiculously cheap for what it gets us. Most file server type needs are met by either Google Docs or DropBox.

For phones, we have an old PC running an Asterisk derivative and some VOIP desk phones from craigslist. We also have a GSM booster on the roof, and most people who need phones to work have company-funded iPhones. We're also looking at moving to Google Voice now that it's included in Google Apps.

Seriously reconsider the wisdom in running an authentication server for 20 users. You will spend more time configuring, patching, backing up and fixing that directory server than you would managing a spreadsheet of 20 local admin account passwords.

Run your corporate web server in-house? No effin' way. EC2 or a co-lo, never in house. You cannot cost-effectively match what a decent colocation provider can give you with regard to cooling, power, network capacity, redundancy or room for growth. They's what they do and they almost certainly do it better than you.

Need Help With Infrastructure -Shame on You (1)

dontgetshocked (1073678) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300008)

Wow,this is what happens when someone asks for help from an open source crowd! The ones who are all for sharing and showing love to one another so as to make software better and work relations better as well.Open source and Freedom seem to have got lost in the frenzy.Makes me sad to be on Slashdot and see this.

Re:Need Help With Infrastructure -Shame on You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300090)

Easy solution: leave.
You seem to have a problem with honesty.
If somebody is clearly in over their head, the best answer is "You are clearly in over your head. Do something else." rather than handing them enough rope to hang themselves and helpfully teaching them how to make a noose. If you can't see this through your pathetic bleeding heart, you do not belong in a culture that values competence, so GTFO.

Hire someone better than you? (1)

k31 (98145) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300020)

You might be able to do the job, but you lack confidence...

We might be able to do the job, but we lack details and motivation.

So, hire a more experienced consultant to help you out.

Or just think some more about it, and enjoy learning by doing.

SunRay (1)

alfetta (92122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300040)

make it supereasy, SunRays for everyone.

Enterprise solutions scale down too (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300048)

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 software if you grow above 75 users...

Only challenging element here is the media server (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300050)

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) mightly backups to another machine with a big RAID will do fine, if not, you need mirrored servers, and other complications.

Ideal solution: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300064)

Go with dell for the server, get a poweredge, 20 users? get something with at least 8 GB of ram and a raid 10 array with at least 1 TB on it, or 500 GB at the least. also invest in dell powerconnect switches.

Why dell? Warranty, that's why. Dell has a damn good warranty, and is the only reason I suggest it, shit breaks? you can have them ship the part or ship the part with a tech (great if you're on vacation and the system goes down during your vacation and it's a hardware failure, dell has a great turnaround time)

Next, windows small business server 2008, I know, this is sacrilege around these parts, but ideally, you want to have something up quickly. Though I would recommend something like VMware ESX server below that so you can virtualize your services out (have a SQL server, linux if you want to reduce cost on licensing, same with quickbooks, no need to run it on the DC. or windows for that matter..) But SBS is great if you need to have activedirectory up and running quickly, have an e-mail server up, and connect new computers easily.

Next either get dell precision desktops or, optiplexes if on the cheap end, again, make sure to get the 3 year onsite warranty with these. If you dont go dell, go with HP workstations, make sure they come with windows 7 pro. Home editions dont cut it with AD.

Next, if you have people working from home only or out of state, get a terminal server as well, which can be virtualized with vmware ESX. I'd recommend server 2003 for this, it's not as resource heavy as server 2008, and you can find copies fairly cheap these days if you know where to look.

The other good thing about dell is you can put it all on a business credit as well.

for 20 users, a bonded T1 with a DSL line as a backup would be ideal. I ran a setup like this at one location at one of my previous jobs, and it worked well, in fact what I did too was all the little things like online radio streaming and other things users will invariably do during the day, even if you dont want them to, can be directed over the DSL, leaving the T1 free for business purposes (VPN, E-mail, remote access, and other activities, a T1 can do it, but you want to consider growth here, and 20 users can clog things up quickly)

Invest in printers as well, you can lease huge all in one multifunctions from Ricoh, Oce, Panasonic, and a few others, these can do scan to file (you can say, send a scanned file directly to a user's redirected my documents folder on the server) and have everyone use that as their primary.

For personal printers, invest in brother printers, cheap, ink's cheap, they're great quality, and they also have opensource drivers for their equipment in case you have any linux systems for any reason. I *always* leave this option open. Also why I suggest the big leased printers as well.

Now for the router, I'd suggest something based off of pfsense of m0n0wall, and as an appliance, I'm looking at building a small one myself, or for the sake of being cheap, you can buy a small used computer (slimlines with PCI slots are ideal) and load it up, save some costs, you can get cisco-like functionality out of something with a linksys-like interface. though I recommend getting an appliance with chipsets that allow you everything you will need (vlans, etc)

Also, when running cable/having cable run, make sure to run extra cable, even if it goes unused, cat5e/cat6 cable can be used for fax lines, phone lines, etc.

for phones, used nortel systems, SAAS phone systems using VOIP, or even a PBX appliance would be ideal. if you go the VOIP route, you can probably go the business dsl or business FTTP route instead of using a T1. just get a static IP.

that should get you started.

We have several customers on various versions of the above configuration. I hate SBS for the little issues, but it makes the customer happy, they dont want to deal with ANY issues in regards of random windows hacks not working to make things work with samba, and you sure as hell dont want to have to recreate and manually sync profiles when people change computers. and they can run all of their business software on windows.

Linux can still be used, and I recommend it for things that you could use windows for, but linux can do better (SQL server, etc)

But the keyword here is WARRANTIES. make damn sure you have warranties on all of your hardware as much as possible, it means less costs and headaches to you and the company owner.

Avoid custom as much as possible, things get expensive when custom bits explode. I only recommend custom when it comes to the router. If you dont want to go custom on that route, go with a Linksys RV042 or RV016.

OffiServ for administration processes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300066) for tickets handling like service desk, and for resources management including reserving conf rooms, and for address book

Hire me? (5, Informative)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300096)

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 do you actually do? (1)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300100)

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.

My two cents ... (1)

erikjan (1157147) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300108)

Probably a lot more detail is needed to give a useful answer to your question. However, there are some issues not mentioned yet. First, what is the budget for system administration and maintenance? Is there a budget for that at all? I do (volunteer) system administration for a couple of small human rights organisation (about the same size as yours). They are cash strapped and don't have the money to pay for a system administrator, or to contract for the work as needed. The rely on volunteers, and these are really hard to find. So, ask yourself what kind of expertise is available before you decide on a system. makes no sense to design a superb system when you have no one to keep it running. Hardware is generally kind of uninteresting. I would go for wireless (RADIUS) for as many clients as possible, and don't buy unnecessary powerful PC's. Waste of money. One system I build was based on Google Apps (Education license available for non-profits) for mail and remote access and a local NAS with LDAP that synchronises with Google. Create an account locally, a Google Apps account will be created automatically. Clients Windows XP / Windows 7. What makes this a good system is very low maintenance, easy deployment (everybody knows Gmail, etc) and good support for remote users. Office staff can deal with almost anything needed to keep the system running. For the NAS I used a Intel SS4200 NAS with 4Tb raw storage and installed a core version of Ebox (zentyal) on it for filesharing. LDAP and RADIUS. Web interface, office staff can deal with that. The second system is a MS Small Business Server 2003 with about 12 clients. That works well, problem is you need someone who knows SBS, and can handle sysadmin tasks. (And no, in my experience most people working for non-profits can't handle that). Licenses for SBS (and Windows) can be purchased through the Microsoft program for non-profits. it's cheap, and the money should be no problem. Mail runs on the SBS server, remote acces to the office PC's too. be ware that security is a bitch in this setup. Much harder to keep it safe that the first system. You say you want to run the website from the office. I have no idea why you would want to do that. It's a headache. If you go the Googel Apps way, use Blogger for a website (if simple is good enough) or create your own website with Joomla (host it somewhere) and handle authentication for your website through Google Apps.

File server strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300114)

File server: ubuntu 8.04 or 10.04 with samba network shares. Get two of them (basic reliable hardware ~$600-800 each) and put one in a local colocation host. Run rsync (or unison) over ssh nightly to sync. We do this, syncing a media library that is updated at the office to remote, and syncing the web server/mysql database in the reverse direction. Maintenance-free for over two years. RAID mirror those drives, obviously. Add additional servers at the colocation host for web and/or database if you need the performance.

Hire a consultant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34300134)

There are MANY reputable consulting firms that can work with you to understand your needs, then recommend appropriate design considerations. The biggest constraints to the perfect environment are cost and the needs of your organization. Professional consultants can work with your needs and budget to recommend the best plan of action. Since you clearly don't know what you're doing, I think professional help is best.

Simple (1)

Sometouw (1793458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34300142)

Start with he network; Cisco ASA5505, Cat 3750-24, UC520 + 1 6965 phone per desktop. Servers and Desktops Buy a dell power edge 905 server. Toss Small Business server on it, setup roaming profiles, wsus, and windows deployment services. Buy dell optiplex 980 desktops, build windows 7 deployment image, sysprep and upload to server. Deploy image to all the desktops at once, lock down admin privileges, setup deep freeze and with a nightly or weekly maintenance mode. But then again, they should have hired someone who already knew this.
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