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Inherited bigger LAN, where to begin?

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Inherited bigger LAN, where to begin?

james.jones
As far as Windows environments go, I'm used to administering very small businesses. Some clients were still at the workgroup level, with no dedicated server. Most clients had one server and a handful of workstations running as a domain. Now I'm into a slightly larger business where I have an actual rack with 3 Windows servers (one of which has yet to be turned on and integrated) and a Linux box acting solely as a fax server. There are about 20 2K/XP workstations present. E-mail and web serving are handled from without by a rather flaky budget hosting service (DreamHost, so at least I have some level of control).

The former sysadmin left something of a mess for me. Things basically work from day to day here -- I'm not running around putting out fires -- but it's a pain to implement anything new, though. There are no working backups, so I've taken that up as job #1. None of the servers had ever been defragged, and the PDC is incapable of defragging its system drive for lack of space. There's no group policy, roaming profiles, application management, no clear delineation of tasks amongst the servers (though their various hardware configurations are highly suggestive of how it could be).

I feel a little overwhelmed. My gut says to format everything and start from scratch, but I can't really see how one can do so with a running business. I'm tempted to ask the owner to shut down from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day just so I can go to town. With how slow business is during the recession, that could be viable.

The question I'm asking of you folks is, where would you begin with cleaning up someone else's mess? Where can I find a good checklist of the basic functionality that any Windows domain-based LAN should provide? I'm looking at a set of articles at TechNet right now on Infrastructure Optimization ( http://technet.microsoft.com/en-ca/library/bb944804.aspx ). It seems promising in this regard. Any other suggested reading?

Given my move from single to multiple servers, how do most small businesses divy up the work? I'm tempted to take two of the servers and make them into redundant primary and secondary domain controllers, and use the third as a dedicated file server. They have a lot of data here, and the one box has monster disk capacity (Raid-1 mirror for system & Raid-5 of 7TB for data). I could start by making the unused server into the new PDC, which would free up the current PDC to wipe and rebuild into a SDC. This seems sane.

I'm grateful for anyone's thoughts. Thank you, and sorry for being so long-winded.

-Jim Jones
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    0 Votes
    CG IT

    There are no working backups, so I've taken that up as job #1. None of the servers had ever been defragged, and the PDC is incapable of defragging its system drive for lack of space. There's no group policy, roaming profiles, application management, no clear delineation of tasks amongst the servers (though their various hardware configurations are highly suggestive of how it could be).

    So first off, there is no such thing as a primary domain controller or PDC in a Windows Active Directory Environment. PDCs exist in an NT enviroments but do not exist in a W2K Active Directory environment. Sorry mate but that's just how it is. All domain controllers in an Active Directory environment are peers with each other.

    Second is that you say there is no group policy. The question is does there need to be. If so, what is the company policy?

    Third is roaming profiles. Again does there need to be romaing profiles? If so why? Roaming profiles takes lots of system resources.

    Fourth: no clear tasks among servers: Have no clue what this means. If you are running Microsoft Active Directory Services, then the server do have clear tasks and roles.

    Defragging and backing up data all are just admin tasks that can be scheduled to run at certain times. if a server can't because of a lack of free space, do what's necessary to create free space without bringing down the system. Getting rid of Log files might be a place to start.

    As far as application management, what does this mean? Controlling what users can install on a machine or what software they use? The answer to that question is, what is company policy ? or if there isn't any who can make company policy? If they decide on no company policy, cya.

    The bottom line is, you gotta know what you got before you muck with it. Since is sounds like you don't know what you got, find out and document it.

    As Rear Admiral Josh Painter said: "Son, the average Ruskie doesn't take a dump without a plan"....

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    0 Votes
    james.jones

    1.) "All domain controllers in an Active Directory environment are peers with each other."

    True enough. Regardless of the wording, I'm still inclined to think that my current DC is rather shot, and that redundancy would be a wise precaution given the extra available machines.

    2.) My take on GP was that it amounted to centralised administration, saving me from running around to 20+ machines to set things like "Don't show the last username on the login screen." It seems like common sense to use it. I always have at previous shops.

    3.) I've always implemented roaming profiles along with folder redirection everywhere I've went. For one, it's what users seem to inherently expect. One of the most common questions I get at this new shop is "Why is my desktop different in the board room/shipping door/reception desk? I need all of my icons and applications!" Secondly, it guarantees centralised backup of user files. Right now, I've got 20 users with 10 profiles each, some of whom are saving files to "My Documents" and wondering why they can't get to them from anywhere.

    4.) "Fourth: no clear tasks among servers: Have no clue what this means. If you are running Microsoft Active Directory Services, then the server do have clear tasks and roles."

    Here's where my inexperience with multiple servers comes in. I loaded up the AD Sites & Services MMC just now and had a peek. The domain controller is acknowledged as such, but the other servers have no details under them. This is something I'll read about & learn. Thanks for the tip.

    5.)When I say application management, I mean the software installation extension of GP, "providing on-demand software installation and automatic repair of applications. Users benefit from reliable access to the applications that they need to perform their jobs on any computer they use on their network." I pilfered the quote from the TechNet Library. Again, it goes back to the expectations of users -- even those who've never even worked in such an environment. Consistency of experience from machine to machine seems to be such a no-brainer that users are shocked that it's not the default situation, and that it takes some work to set up. I see it as my duty to provide this consistency.

    Thanks for your feedback. I do in fact mean to plan this out to a high degree. My two big problems are just that I'm not used to dealing with more than one server, and I've usually been blessed with a clean starting environment.

    If anyones else has further tips & advice, I'd love to hear it. Thanks.

    -JJ

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    0 Votes
    1bn0

    My first wuestionm would be:
    "What the **** is running on the sever that needs 7 TB of storage?"

    Sounds like someone has implimented or planned to implement a large scale database application.

    Production software? CRM? Shipment tracking database?

    You may have more running on the servers than you have realized at first glance.

    WE have lots of stuff that runs in the background without being apparent to the users. One example is a multi user application that runs a server licence management utility. Limited number of concurrent users but install it anywhere you want. Take down the server and all of a sudden the application doesn't run any more for anyone.

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    0 Votes
    james.jones

    We do run ERP & CRM packages, but the databases aren't huge - 5GB & 1GB, respectively. This firm is a niche manufacturer owned by an engineer, so a lot of prototyping goes on. There's 15 years of photographs & CAD drawings that take up more space. Only about 2.8TB is used up so far, and >2TB of that is just backups (which I presume the previous guy must've run manually) & disc images.

    This particular server was obviously built in-house, and I think the former guy just loaded up because drives were cheap. I think he actually has 8 1TB drives in there, one being a hot spare, one lost to parity, leaving 6TB (5.5TB actual).

  • +
    0 Votes
    CG IT

    There are no working backups, so I've taken that up as job #1. None of the servers had ever been defragged, and the PDC is incapable of defragging its system drive for lack of space. There's no group policy, roaming profiles, application management, no clear delineation of tasks amongst the servers (though their various hardware configurations are highly suggestive of how it could be).

    So first off, there is no such thing as a primary domain controller or PDC in a Windows Active Directory Environment. PDCs exist in an NT enviroments but do not exist in a W2K Active Directory environment. Sorry mate but that's just how it is. All domain controllers in an Active Directory environment are peers with each other.

    Second is that you say there is no group policy. The question is does there need to be. If so, what is the company policy?

    Third is roaming profiles. Again does there need to be romaing profiles? If so why? Roaming profiles takes lots of system resources.

    Fourth: no clear tasks among servers: Have no clue what this means. If you are running Microsoft Active Directory Services, then the server do have clear tasks and roles.

    Defragging and backing up data all are just admin tasks that can be scheduled to run at certain times. if a server can't because of a lack of free space, do what's necessary to create free space without bringing down the system. Getting rid of Log files might be a place to start.

    As far as application management, what does this mean? Controlling what users can install on a machine or what software they use? The answer to that question is, what is company policy ? or if there isn't any who can make company policy? If they decide on no company policy, cya.

    The bottom line is, you gotta know what you got before you muck with it. Since is sounds like you don't know what you got, find out and document it.

    As Rear Admiral Josh Painter said: "Son, the average Ruskie doesn't take a dump without a plan"....

    +
    0 Votes
    james.jones

    1.) "All domain controllers in an Active Directory environment are peers with each other."

    True enough. Regardless of the wording, I'm still inclined to think that my current DC is rather shot, and that redundancy would be a wise precaution given the extra available machines.

    2.) My take on GP was that it amounted to centralised administration, saving me from running around to 20+ machines to set things like "Don't show the last username on the login screen." It seems like common sense to use it. I always have at previous shops.

    3.) I've always implemented roaming profiles along with folder redirection everywhere I've went. For one, it's what users seem to inherently expect. One of the most common questions I get at this new shop is "Why is my desktop different in the board room/shipping door/reception desk? I need all of my icons and applications!" Secondly, it guarantees centralised backup of user files. Right now, I've got 20 users with 10 profiles each, some of whom are saving files to "My Documents" and wondering why they can't get to them from anywhere.

    4.) "Fourth: no clear tasks among servers: Have no clue what this means. If you are running Microsoft Active Directory Services, then the server do have clear tasks and roles."

    Here's where my inexperience with multiple servers comes in. I loaded up the AD Sites & Services MMC just now and had a peek. The domain controller is acknowledged as such, but the other servers have no details under them. This is something I'll read about & learn. Thanks for the tip.

    5.)When I say application management, I mean the software installation extension of GP, "providing on-demand software installation and automatic repair of applications. Users benefit from reliable access to the applications that they need to perform their jobs on any computer they use on their network." I pilfered the quote from the TechNet Library. Again, it goes back to the expectations of users -- even those who've never even worked in such an environment. Consistency of experience from machine to machine seems to be such a no-brainer that users are shocked that it's not the default situation, and that it takes some work to set up. I see it as my duty to provide this consistency.

    Thanks for your feedback. I do in fact mean to plan this out to a high degree. My two big problems are just that I'm not used to dealing with more than one server, and I've usually been blessed with a clean starting environment.

    If anyones else has further tips & advice, I'd love to hear it. Thanks.

    -JJ

    +
    0 Votes
    1bn0

    My first wuestionm would be:
    "What the **** is running on the sever that needs 7 TB of storage?"

    Sounds like someone has implimented or planned to implement a large scale database application.

    Production software? CRM? Shipment tracking database?

    You may have more running on the servers than you have realized at first glance.

    WE have lots of stuff that runs in the background without being apparent to the users. One example is a multi user application that runs a server licence management utility. Limited number of concurrent users but install it anywhere you want. Take down the server and all of a sudden the application doesn't run any more for anyone.

    +
    0 Votes
    james.jones

    We do run ERP & CRM packages, but the databases aren't huge - 5GB & 1GB, respectively. This firm is a niche manufacturer owned by an engineer, so a lot of prototyping goes on. There's 15 years of photographs & CAD drawings that take up more space. Only about 2.8TB is used up so far, and >2TB of that is just backups (which I presume the previous guy must've run manually) & disc images.

    This particular server was obviously built in-house, and I think the former guy just loaded up because drives were cheap. I think he actually has 8 1TB drives in there, one being a hot spare, one lost to parity, leaving 6TB (5.5TB actual).