Setting up Small Business Server?

Urmoms Computer
June 1, 2007 at 02:12:35
Specs: Windows 2003, 2Gb
I am about to set up a Windows Server and I have a few questionmarks Id like to discuss if someone is interested in helping me.

It will consist of:

* Small Business Server that will function as a Windows Domain server with Active Directory.
* Some means of running VPN.
* Exchange Server
* Backup

And possibly some collaboration group ware, like DotNetNuke or Sharepoint ( even thou I really hate and despise all kind pf groupware).

The network will have at most 10-15 users from three offices from different cities - which is where the VPN part comes in.

Ive talked to a computer consulting company and they suggest a HP server for about 5000$. A VPN package for 1000$ and BackupExec for 500$.

The Questions:
Is a server of that price really needed to set up a network of this size?

What is important when you are running a Windows Domain server (to which clients log in every day) when users connect to the domain server through VPN? I know the clients will be connected through 10Mbs Ethernet so speed will not be an issue.

What about VPN. Is it really needed to buy a VPN package? How about just running a OpenVPN server instead? Does anyone have experience from that? I had given Hamachi some thought, but I seriously dislike the idea of being dependent on Hamachi servers.

About Backup: I have expeirence with BackupExec and I know for a fact that it is a horrendous peice of sh*t software. Its huge, its complex, its stupid and backup fails because of bugs in the software. I have not seen any alternative thou. Any suggestions for backup software that works with tape recorder and easily backups a Windows Domain with an Exchange Server?

Any other tips for me?

Thanks!


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#1
June 1, 2007 at 07:45:08
Is a server of that price really needed to set up a network of this size?

Are they offering to sell you the server? I suspect they are since you can get a much better server for less money if you buy a custom built one. I think for about half that price you could get a good dual server that would do everything you need it to.

Also, I've had extensive experience with HP/Compaq and you couldn't give me anything they produce. Nor a Dell either. The support for either is a joke. If you want a brand name server that actually comes with decent support, go with IBM. At least IBM can, and does, offer second level support with technicians that actually have experience working on the equipment. HP can only offer help desk idiots who don't have a clue and are useless if you ask a question that's outside the scope of their Question/Answer database. The same can be said for Dell.

What about VPN. Is it really needed to buy a VPN package?

I haven't touched SBS in a couple years now as my position as a network technician is taking me in a different direction but if memory serves, SBS has a toned down version of ISA server that would allow you to create a VPN. I'm sure there are much less expensive solutions than what they're offering you. You could check into dedicated VPN hardware like a Cisco PIX and other hardware or software options.

As for backup, Windows has a built in backup utility. It's not the best out there, but it is included in the OS and therefore doesn't include you spending any more money. However, it's not that good with databases. They usually require something to suspend the database operations during the backup process (windows ntbackup can't do that and cannot backup open files). However, if you're using an MS based database program, they usually have a built in backup utility. So what I've done in the past is have it do it's own backup, path it to a backup folder and include that in the ntbackup set. If you're going to consider using ntbackup, here's a link to a tutorial/guide you will definately want to read over: Scheduling Unattended Backups with ntbackup

Barring that, if you're looking at spending money on backup software, I suggest you take a look at what Computer Associates has to offer. Their BrightStor ARCserve software is one of the best packages I've used myself.


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#2
June 1, 2007 at 08:46:04
I have had nothing but problems with IBM service and delivery. Especially IBM direct, they are incompetent. Servers are crap with ibms not giving you all the memory in the system [4gig is reported as 3.6gig]. Love HP switches and servers. They have run flawlessly from the p200 dual cpu netserver to the latest 365 dual core. IBM will never get any of my business ever again.

Rule #1: don't put all your eggs in one basket. VPN should not be on the server but the server should be behind a vpn appliance. Sonicwall, watchguard, Cisco and many others provide VPN appliances. If you have the server, knowledge and time OpenVPN looks to be a good product. Appliances like my sonicwalls can also include subscriptions for AV and spam filtering. The wkst remote client is easy to use.

Even with SBS you should have a secondary DC for fault tolerance.

I would suggest you reevaluate some of your strong prejudices [I'm one to talk after my rant on IBM :) ]. Things progress and if you have closed your mind there can never be a good result. Backup Exec has issues but it backs up and restores just fine. It has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. $500 for BE doesn't sound right. No open file module, exchange or database modules could be included in that price.

Actually concerning the price of the server if it includes a LTO2 tape drive and max ram/cpu plus well stocked disk subsystem [don't let anyone sell you raid5 with 3 disks with both OS and data - difficult upgrade path if you need more disk space] than $5000 sounds about right. Highly recommend mirror the OS and raid the data with the array containing a hot spare as failover to either array. Do NOT get SATA! It can not sustain heavy loads like scsi can.

BTW 10mb is not fast. Server will come gigabit enabled. Consider upgrading your local switch to 100/1000.

Something to consider, since you have remote user access, is the internet pipe at both ends. What is the bandwidth at the remote ends? Without knowing that you can't properly figure on your local internets bandwidth requirements. Don't just assume since everyone has internet that they will get to your server just fine.

Imagine the power if you knew how to internet search


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#3
June 1, 2007 at 09:34:38
LOL - Wanderer, just goes to show, different folks get different results.

I've had nothing but good experiences with IBM support. Of course, I haven't dealt with them in over 2 years now and when I last did, they were in the process of transferring all the PC support to some Chinese company (if I remember correctly). Perhap's they've done the same with server support, I don't know.

All I know is, where I work now, we use nothing but custom built 1U rack mounts with dual - dual core Xeon CPU's and I love them. Because we're such good clients, the company that provides the hardware also provides spare equipment and most repairs are done in-house. To be honest, if it were me and I had the $$$, I'd go with custom built as my opinion of any brand name (including IBM) is pretty darn low comparatively speaking.

Love HP switches and servers.

You want to try some nice switches........check the Nortel Baystack 55x0 series. The 5520's are PoE capable while the 5510's are not. Otherwise, they're basically identical switches. After having worked with more Cisco switches than I care to recall, 3com, and various other brands, I've come to really like Baystacks.

[don't let anyone sell you raid5 with 3 disks with both OS and data - difficult upgrade path if you need more disk space]

Highly recommend mirror the OS and raid the data with the array containing a hot spare as failover to either array. Do NOT get SATA! It can not sustain heavy loads like scsi can.

I couldn't agree more on both counts! Solid advice.

Having never used Backup Exec I have no opinion, but before purchasing I highly recommend you compare several packages.....what you get for what cost. Like I said, I've used Brightstor ARCserve and found it reliable and very easy to use and all the modules Wanderer mentioned are available for it.


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#4
June 1, 2007 at 10:40:19
Right on CurtR! I love my Nortel 8010 passport backbone switch. Better design than Cisco or HP. I will have to check out the Baystacks. Always willing to purchase something new :-)

Imagine the power if you knew how to internet search


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#5
June 1, 2007 at 12:08:43
Cool, we have dual 8600 passports here at work and yep, I love em! Presently they're only 1 GB but we're upgrading the backplane to 10 GB sometime this coming year.

We use the 5520's for our VoIP (they're PoE) and the 10's for data mainly. While they do have an IOS type command line interface, their http and Device Manager GUI's are far superior to anything Cisco puts out.


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