Need advice on what network to setup and how???

Zaino

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Jun 13, 2011
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14
Hi.
I have a small business in C.T with 10computers/users all using Windows 2007 Professional. We are all currently working off individual pc's and connected with 2 normal adsl router switches and cables. Every1 does their own thing on their own pc's, but all essential company files get stored on 1 computer who's drive we use as a shared space. (I know this is not very efficient)

Now I am opening 2 branches (DBN & JNB) with an additional 5 users in each branch. But in order for them to operate properly... they need access to this "Shared drive" that we are all accessing. I need advice on what is the best network solution for me to effectively set up and link all these offices. I would also need to have access to this shared drive on 2 roaming laptops.

Some people have told me about REMOTE ACCESS and VPN and WAN but I do not know which would best cater for my requirements. I need some1 who has faced a similar problem, or some1 with a vast understanding of all networking solutions to tell me what is the best way for me to do this.

Thanks
 

Silver-0-surfer

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Hi

Well you have a few options, depending on your budget, but what I would go for is something like ClearOS. Its an open-source linux distro that you install at each site. You can then create VPN's between the 3 sites and effectively would act as one network. When you are on the road you can just create a pptp vpn or open vpn to the site and it would be "as if you were in the office".

This is all really easy to do and very cost effective. You don't need any linux knowledge as its all configured from a simple web GUI.
 

Azrael

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Mar 30, 2005
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Okay, firstly, how big are the files on average that you want to share? Excel and word docs? Or something bigger?
 

TheGuy

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Sep 14, 2009
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My first advise would be to contact someone to help you with this. If you try and do this yourself your just going to end up with unhappy staff and most likely data loss.
 

macxsanity

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Mar 17, 2009
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if you were based in jozi would have liked to help in setting up a windows or linux based server with vpn and all
 

Zaino

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Jun 13, 2011
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Most of the files are Excel and Word. Nothing tricky or complicated. Invoicing, Inventory, customer contacts, quotes and pricing etc. Generally none of the files will exceed 3MB.
And I do intend contacting a professional to set it up... I just wanted to do some research first by asking you guys so that I don't end up falling for some guy's half-baked solution when a much more efficient option is out there.
Thanks Silver-O-Surfer for your informative advice. Sounds like your solution would cater well for my needs and since No-one posted any differently, your idea sounds the best thus far.
 
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the1lumpster

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Jul 21, 2009
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+1 to CentOS setup, very easy to do and very quick... dunno what internet lines you do have at the moment but you def gotta take into account the extra load the VPN's will put on your internet lines...
 

Zaino

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Jun 13, 2011
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for joburg i can set up the clearOS for you in joburg
Ok. but if I understood correctly, doesnt this system have to be setup onsite at all 3 locations? If you can only help me in Joburg... will sum1 else be able to help me setup in CT? Or does it all have to be done by the same company? The less complicated this is for me... the better.
PS: I will contact your company for a quote though as gathering quotes is the next phase of my process to make sure I get the best deal and service.
 

Zaino

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+1 to CentOS setup, very easy to do and very quick... dunno what internet lines you do have at the moment but you def gotta take into account the extra load the VPN's will put on your internet lines...
In CPT I have 4MB ADSL line... but JNB & DBN both are running 512kb modems and lines. What are the internet line requirements for setting up this type of network?
 

ponder

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Someone local to you can actually setup all three boxes, test them and then you just ship them to site with instructions on how to plug them in. Would be better dealing with a single point of contact. If need be someone can assist in dbn/jhb.

Oh, your 512kbs links in jhb/dbn you should try and upgrade to 1Mbs if not already done by Telkom, it's free upgrade they are doing for 512kbs subscribers. Speed is fine for your needs.
 
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hungrybeaver

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Mar 17, 2010
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Most of the files are Excel and Word. Nothing tricky or complicated. Invoicing, Inventory, customer contacts, quotes and pricing etc. Generally none of the files will exceed 3MB.
And I do intend contacting a professional to set it up... I just wanted to do some research first by asking you guys so that I don't end up falling for some guy's half-baked solution when a much more efficient option is out there.
Thanks Silver-O-Surfer for your informative advice. Sounds like your solution would cater well for my needs and since No-one posted any differently, your idea sounds the best thus far.
Sound advice so far. I'm a bit concerned about this 'Shared Drive' that you want all the branches to access though. Waht is your idea for this drive? For example, are the files going to be edited by someone in DBN in the morning and later in the day be edited by a CPT user? Or will many users at any one time edit the same file? Or is this 'Shared Drive' just a way to keep all branch information in 1 place?

I ask because your bandwidth can fill up pretty quickly if files are constantly being opened from CPT all day, not to mention network issues out of your control which would leave the branches 'offline' and unable to work.

I'd also suggest moving the data off the employees PC and onto a server/standalone file PC where it can be backed up and locked in a back room.
 
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AstroTurf

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You could also check out a CRM (Customer relationship management ) site as most do similar to what you want without need for massive amounts of bandwidth (but at a start-up cost).

Check out the options as this would in my opinion be a better solution for what you need. Not very cheap to start with but you will not need to manage servers and fight with telkom when a line drops for 2+days. (most crm's are web based).
 

Zaino

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Joined
Jun 13, 2011
Messages
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Someone local to you can actually setup all three boxes, test them and then you just ship them to site with instructions on how to plug them in. Would be better dealing with a single point of contact. If need be someone can assist in dbn/jhb.

Oh, your 512kbs links in jhb/dbn you should try and upgrade to 1Mbs if not already done by Telkom, it's free upgrade they are doing for 512kbs subscribers. Speed is fine for your needs.
I think I am slowly starting to grasp this vpn concept now. Maybe I should Google it to understand it better. Thanks for the advice PONDER, I did not know 1 person can configure it in one place and then just distribute it with connection instructions. I would also prefer to just deal with one person for the sake of minimising miscommunication. Will also look into the free upgrade on internet lines. You guys have been extremely helpful.
 

Zaino

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Sound advice so far. I'm a bit concerned about this 'Shared Drive' that you want all the branches to access though. Waht is your idea for this drive? For example, are the files going to be edited by someone in DBN in the morning and later in the day be edited by a CPT user? Or will many users at any one time edit the same file? Or is this 'Shared Drive' just a way to keep all branch information in 1 place?

I ask because your bandwidth can fill up pretty quickly if files are constantly being opened from CPT all day, not to mention network issues out of your control which would leave the branches 'offline' and unable to work.

I'd also suggest moving the data off the employees PC and onto a server/standalone file PC where it can be backed up and locked in a back room.
Initially when I started the company... it was only that 1 pc. Then as it grew, I did not want to spend alot of money, so every pc that got added to the network was given access to the main PC (Shared Drive Now) so that they could read off the same info. So basically it is just a way of keeping all the core company operating files in 1 place. As time went on I realised that it might be technologically inefficient, but it worked for us so I never bothered upgrading to a better solution. However, my "McGuyver" technique has put me in a predicament with the addition of other regional branches and I am forced to now emplore expert opinion to make this work. Users in other offices will have to work on (edit and update) just one Excel spreadsheet, so that one file will continuously be changed by users. All other documents are purely for "read-only" purposes.
 

ponder

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81,790
Initially when I started the company... it was only that 1 pc. Then as it grew, I did not want to spend alot of money, so every pc that got added to the network was given access to the main PC (Shared Drive Now) so that they could read off the same info. So basically it is just a way of keeping all the core company operating files in 1 place. As time went on I realised that it might be technologically inefficient, but it worked for us so I never bothered upgrading to a better solution. However, my "McGuyver" technique has put me in a predicament with the addition of other regional branches and I am forced to now emplore expert opinion to make this work. Users in other offices will have to work on (edit and update) just one Excel spreadsheet, so that one file will continuously be changed by users. All other documents are purely for "read-only" purposes.
The box that is to be used as the vpn server in cpt could be a bit beefier than the ones and jhb/dbn and thus also act as a file server, mail server, print server etc etc ClearOS can do all these things and more. You should also put this box on a decent UPS (APC) while you are at it and ensure it has decent automated backup procedures running for your data.
http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/overview.html
 

Zaino

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Jun 13, 2011
Messages
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The box that is to be used as the vpn server in cpt could be a bit beefier than the ones and jhb/dbn and thus also act as a file server, mail server, print server etc etc ClearOS can do all these things and more. You should also put this box on a decent UPS (APC) while you are at it and ensure it has decent automated backup procedures running for your data.
http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/overview.html
At the moment that box is a Core i5 PC box running 4 Gig ram, 500GB Hard drive and Windows 7. Is that good enough or should it be upgraded? And if yes, then to what?
Also, will I have to change the operating systems on all the pc's or can they all remain as is (Windows 7)?
 
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