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Redesign of network - pros and cons

By lynn.huff ·
I work for a small company. I started our network here years ago by connecting two Win95 pc's with coax. Over time, the network has evolved only as fast as my limited knowledge would allow. What I have now is a peer to peer network with the following components: 23 pc's running a mix of Win95, Win98, WinME, and XP Pro; 2 Unix servers (one is a redundant backup); 2 Snapservers; and a device which acts as an internet gateway/firewall/dhcp server.

I use FacetWin for the pc's to connect to the Unix server. The apps and data stay on the Unix box. FacetWin acts as a terminal service.

I utilize one XP Pro box as a fileserver for several database apps that are linked, as well as spreadsheet apps that multiple users need to access. All the pc's backup data to the Snapservers using Datakeeper.

Unfortunately, I am the best IT guy we have. PC's I understand, but I have no experience with server/client setups, or domain controllers. Should I consider migrating to Windows 2003 Server? What are the pros and cons?

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by shawn In reply to Redesign of network - pro ...

Well, first off, why are you looking to change? My feeling is that unless changes are mandatory (mandated by head office, required because of changes in strategy, etc.), I would prefer to leave what's working alone.

One issue that I can see from your current environment is the fact that you are using a client OS to serve files. In small environemtns, this may work well, but you have a limitation - 10 concurrent connections. If 11 people try to access one of your spreadsheet apps, one will be turned away.

I think the biggest issue when migrating to a Windows Server-based network, especially with a small company, is the cost. One suggestion would be to look at using a Linux server with Samba (Windows file sharing) installed. Check out http://www.samba.org for details. (Remove any spaces.)

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Shawn

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by CG IT In reply to Redesign of network - pro ...

I agree with answer #1 in that if it works and most importantly your network meets your needs, don't change it.

I do think that research into migrating your users away from old O/S's like W95/98/ME and on to something like W2K/XP would be a good move. #1. W2K/XP supports NTFS where as W95/98/ME don't. #2. MS will/has/had discontinue support e.g. hotfixes, service packs, updates, security fixes. As far as your servers go, heck like the first answer if it works why change. you know your server, the network, the quirks, all the little things that cant' be learned from a book but only from hands on experience. To go with W2003 server or Small Business Server 2003 or a new unix server and what not requires a learning curve. Some pretty simple, some not so much. Like going with W2003 server or W2003 Small Business Server with Active Directory. Not only will you have to learn the little quirks with W2003 server SBS 2003 Server but learn Active Directory, permissions, group policy, OUs, and if you get the platinum edition of W2003 Server SBS, there's Exchange Server 2003 & ISA Server 2003 to learn not to mention if you go to SQL server.

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by lynn.huff In reply to Redesign of network - pro ...

Thanks for your input. I can see why you question why I would want to change. I'm not sure if I do myself. But, two things make me want to investigate. One, in the near future I fear the 10 concurrent users on my fileserver box will become a problem. I'm up to 7 frequently now. Second, I'd like to have better control over the network from one location. Security, internet control, and limitations on unwanted installs are a concern.

I've upgraded most of my boxes to XP Pro, but still got a few old machines (small budget necessity). I like the security and limits on user activity that XP offers, but administering is a pain. Sounds like you think migrating would be a bigger pain.

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by CG IT In reply to Redesign of network - pro ...

ok well I will recommend this. You can order a Trial version of Microsofts Small Business Server 2003 [costs about $20.00]. SBS 2003 Platinum version offers an "ALL on One Box" solution for small business up to 75 clients. Comes with W2003 Server, Exchange Server 2003, ISA Server 2003 and SQL Server 2003 & Sharepoint services] [at least mine did][If you order it and your copy doesn't have those, contact me. I'll send you my copy that has em].

Load that puppy up and test drive it. . Hook up a workstation to it [comes with 5 CALS preloaded] maybe subnet it and see how you like it. Play around with SQL server, maybe dabble with Exchange Server and Outlook 2003. ISA server is really a great firewall/tool.

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by pittman_jeff In reply to Redesign of network - pro ...

Let me get this right?
# You are only looking for a File server.
# Still keeping your Unix boxes.
# Don't plan on setting up a mail / SQL server.
# Optionaly set Group Policies

I would go with Linux running Samba. The only reason I suggest this is the money you save on CAL's could pay for the XP upgrades for a few more seats.

( And if your place is like some of my clients, the big wig's will all want new computers so they can brag about how many Gogochips it has while pounding brews on the 19th hole at the golf course )

As far as setting up a group policy ( might just have to bite the bullet and restrict all your XP users accts locally if your users aren't too bad by installing virus's, spyware and games )

Linux or MS Small Biz can eliminate your internet gateway/firewall/dhcp server, but I would leave it there tell it dies.

If you want mail / Sql also, just beware with the increase of work this will give you, especially virus's, lost/deleted e-mails etc....

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