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Network for a small, mobile workgroup

By Lost&Found in Rome ·
I have just joined a very small non-profit consulting group in Rome, and have been asked to create some network infrastructure for them.

There are currently 4 consultants and 2 operational/admin staff, all on laptops running WinXP Pro, on a relatively unsecure wireless network.
The consultant spend 65% of their time out of the office, and everyone corresponds via externally hosted mail. They use Groove for workflow, but they have problems there as well.

Organizational growth will be limited. At most, we get to 10 people in 1 year. The biggest need right now is a proper file server, Exchange would be great too, but I am very wary of the complexities and cost that come from going to a full Win2003 Server setup. The cost for hardware is manageable - it is the ongoing support that is the challenge, particularly for an english-speaking firm in Italy. I don't know enough to support the network myself (just enough to be dangerous).
Plus, we are in the non-profit sphere, so funds are tight, and revenue unreliable.
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

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by akalinowski In reply to Network for a small, mobi ...

Microsoft Server 2003 SBS (Small Business Server)
there are 2 editions, Standard and Premium, here is a link w/ the differences:

Drawbacks are that you are limited to 75 Users Max (no big deal if you expect to grow very slowly) and you cannot use Exchange on another server (you'll have to buy full version of exchange)
but you'll get everything you need in a nice package,and its affordable (for microsoft anyways)
as for hardware, i highly recomend the Dell PowerEdge Server 2800, i have 2 of them and they are awsome, they cost us about 10000 USD (but dell has cheaper servers that are also great)

to secure your wireless network, i recomend you get a firewall between the wireless access point and the internal network (just like you would between the internal network and the internet) and only allow access to the VPN ports through the firewall on the wireless network, enable VPN on the server and have everyone connect to the WiFi and then to the VPN.

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by Lost&Found in Rome In reply to

Thanks for the good answer.

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by Lost&Found in Rome In reply to Network for a small, mobi ...

A follow-on thought is this: how long could the organization go without a server at all? We could use hosted applications like Exchange and Groove, and just have a simple file server on the network to provide storage.
The downside is the inefficiency of running everything over a pokey 2MB ADSL, which is the max possible currently here.
With so many mobile users, I am wary of going to SBS and getting involved in the administration and support of the server and the external connections (I am not properly trained in IT at all - simply a power-user. We'd have to find reliable 3rd party support to offer as-need support).
Maybe 2003 Server is inevitable, and we had better simply budget for it? Thoughts?

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by Lost&Found in Rome In reply to Network for a small, mobi ...

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