Setting up a remote site.

By ACIcomputerservice ·
Well, I've been lurking around here for quite a while, and now I've got a question. One of my clients runs a small accounting firm, and they want to open up a branch office in a larger population center two and a half hours away. The local office runs two Dell Win2K3 servers and a blade, which do the usual print, file sharing, and data backup services. One of the servers acts as an application server and the other is the host for the Symantec Endpoint Protection. There are currently 10 computers on the local network, and there will be four computers at the remote office. What my client is looking for is a means of connecting their proposed (not going to open for another 2 months) remote site to their local office here, so they can access data from the servers and access the programs on the application server. A T1 Line is out of the question, and the local ISP won?t do a fractional line. So I need to find a way to connect these two sites with high security and performance needs over the Internet. I have CompTIA?s Server cert (Along with A+, Network, and Security), but I?m feeling a little out of my depth here. Can anyone recommend anything?

I?ve been looking at Cisco?s WAAS, but I?ve never done anything like this before so I?m not even sure what to look for or what it?s going to cost. And yes, I?m aware that I?m not really qualified for this sort of thing yet, but for some reason this client really likes me, and is actually willing to give me some leeway while I get up to speed. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for relevant certifications I?d really appreciate it.


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All Answers

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Thin Client

by Churdoo In reply to Setting up a remote site.

Welcome ACI, thanks for coming out from lurking. If you can't get fat SLA grade bandwidth, then go thin -- thin client.

Get a new terminal server at HQ and publish all required apps on the TS (or can the app server handle the TS load given appropriate RAM and/or proc upgrades?). The thin client connections will be easiest on the limited bandwidth, and the performance will be as good as whatever server you have hosting the TS connections.

Get the best business-grade static IP broadband connection they'll spring for at HQ, and don't slouch too much on the connection for the branch site either. Branch site should be static as well (for the VPN tunnel), and stable since obviously the branch office staff will be completely dependent upon said bandwidth connections.

Security? Keep the TS on the HQ LAN (as opposed to exposing the TS port 3389 on the public IP) and install decent grade VPN router/appliances at each end like Sonicwall TZ170 series or better ($500-$600 per end). Since you have the entire branch site relying on that VPN tunnel, don't skimp for the $300 price point or less VPN appliances.

This solution will also support "work from home" functionality just the same, if that's a selling point.

edited: typo

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Thick Client

by ACIcomputerservice In reply to Thin Client

Actually my client already went ahead and purchased four Dell XPS 420s, great little workstations with Quad Core procs, 4 gig of ram, and Vista Ultimate. The client only really wants the branch office to rely on the "HQ" server to run a few programs like Simply Accounting, Quickbooks, and a few other accounting programs. They also want to be able to back up to the HQ server. These guys do have some access to funds and would be willing to pay a few extra grand to get what they want, but I obviously have to be sure what the **** they need before I can request additional funds.

The HQ server should be able to handle it, but to be honest I'm just getting familiar with their current HQ network. My client just canned the tech that set the network up a few years ago because they could never get him out to the site to do any work. I used to work for these guys as a file clerk before going off and getting certified, so they wanted to give me a shot and they?re giving me some leeway. But both they and I know that I?m not really qualified to be doing this just yet. It?s fairly likely that we?ll have to hire a consultant to set up the VPN for us, and then teach me how to run it. But I?m trying to do everything I can do personally so when the time comes for me to take over I can be confident that I?m properly trained to take care of this network.
The HQ server should be able to handle it, but to be honest I'm just getting farmiliar with their current HQ network. My client just canned the tech that set the network up a few years ago because they could never get him out to the site to do any work.

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This doesn't change my opinion

by Churdoo In reply to Thick Client

The additional info is helpful but doesn't change my opinion. I still think the Term Server is the way to go, and the users can run their local apps from their Dell XPS workstations, and the RDP client for connecting to the HQ Term Server.

Will the branch site have a server and active directory or will it be a peer-to-peer network? I suggest a small DC and file/print server; it can be part of the same HQ domain as a different site, a child in the HQ domain/forest, or a separate domain/forest of its own. Starting the branch on its own server from the beginning will make it that much easier to manage the network, file storage, and backup.

Backing up branch data to HQ will depend on how much data there will be to back up. If there will be a lot of data, and backing up over the skinny pipe prohibitive, then you may end up getting their own backup device at the branch. But likely, the amount of data in the beginning will be manageable, and you'll probably have some time before having to get their own backup. In the meantime, your backup options will depend on how the branch network is set up. There are a ton of options here, from the free ntbackup.exe backing up across the VPN, ntbackup backing up to a file at the branch, and then copying the resultant backup to hq across the VPN, Backup Exec at the branch backing up to a backup-to-disk folder across the VPN to HQ, just to name a few examples.

Congratulations on the opportunity and good luck!

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