get your popcorn...this one's long
now we're getting somewhere..
The primary need is a centralised storage for all files, most importantly the accounts package data (This is a Sage product). The need for centralised storage arises from a need to be able to carry out daily backup of all important documents from one location (does that in itself make sense?). Currently the system in place for backup involves a DAT drive using 24gB tapes, the main drive being a lowly 9gB Unit (which keeps getting stretched to the point of bursting). That is the 'main' server. The second server is only really used for storing documents etc. The access to all data needs to be secure, so that only those with authority can access certain areas of the drive.
keeping all data in one physical location (even if it's on two separate devices) is always a great idea from a management standpoint...it's alot easier to back up info in one place and take those backups off site... any backup software worth it's salt would be able to backup your server (if you choose to have one) and a NAS device (if you choose to have one) to whatever backup media you so choose....
for the fun of adding a new device to the conversation check out IdealStor
they specialize in Disk-to-Disk backups...the differences between a D2D backup structure and the DLT tapes that you're using now are very easy to see...first DLT tapes aren't cheap (they're not too bad in the sizes you're using but they're not that cheap per GB), second tapes are slow...both on the write cycle and the read cycle (the L stands for linear which means if the data you're restoring is on the end of the tape...it's got to read the whole tape to get there). D2D uses standard off the shelf hard drives which are cheap per GB and non-linear which means if you want to restore FileX it doesn't matter where it is on the drive....you just restore it.
IdealStor has 2 products lines of note in this scenario we're building here...the first is their TeraLyte drive bay which comes with either 1 or two drive slots in it that allow you to have ejectable hard drives (basically an external hard drive that you can remove on the fly and take with you) which can be attached to any machine and using their ibac software you can backup your server to the drive then at the end of the day or once a week you just eject the drive and store it off site (like at the bank in a safe deposit box)....another one of their products which is a bit more complex and possibly more applicable here is their FrankenNas....the FrankenNas is basically a combination NAS/Backup device....it's got either 5 or 6 (depending on the model) hard drives in the device set up in a RAID array that runs an OS on the machine (it's a custom OS that they use) that allows you to use those drives as a NAS device (allowing for file permissions etc..) then the other half of the device is either a 2 bay or 4 bay (depending on the model) backup device that uses the same ejectable hardware concept as the teralyte...so you can set up a schedule where every day the NAS dumps a copy of itself onto the ejectable hard drive side and you pop the drives out and take them off site....another advantage of the FrankenNAS is that it has the ability to take a "live state image" of up to 2 live servers (maybe more by now...i haven't talked to the rep in a few months)...what this means is that the device will "watch" one of your servers and keep updates of anything that changes on it...then if that server were to die or become unavailable you can (with manual intervention...you have to make some setting changes and activate the image) basically bring up a virtual version of the dead server while you make your repairs to the production server (this is also handy if you're doing updates on the production server because you can fire up the virtual version while you're updating the real one...and if the update fails you can restore the virtual image back to the real server as if nothing happened)
Secondly, if the technology is there and useable a structured email system would be desirable. I have noted the various options listed earlier. For some reason the contractor I consulted seemed to be pushing the need to use Exchange, but is this simply a revenue driven idea?
exchange is awesome...it's one of my favorite things to play with...however in your environment it's overkill...having an in house exchange server for less than 15 people is silly...the management overhead alone would keep you up at night...exchange's strong point is for larger companies that couldn't afford the cost of paying for individual mailboxes through a webhost...and for those who want a bit more control over their environment....it's extremely useful and powerful...but it's designed for a larger company....
with your size and amount of employees it would be MUCH easier to just have mailboxes with your webhost or ISP and have everyone connect to their own POP mailbox via outlook
Not necessary, but desirable would be the ability to control web access, and/or see what folks are accessing, since I think much access is not strictly work related.
again...more options than you can shake a stick at....you may have found one already with your routers...let us know how that investigation goes..
as i said i've got a hardware webfilter which is easy and great but not cheap (not too expensive but it's about $3k all said and done)...but i've also got a backup proxy server that i mentioned
my backup proxy server is 100% free (minus the cost of the server it's running on....but we already owned that as it's one of my file servers)...what i'm running is a Virtual Machine in VMWare server...VMWare is a program that allows you to create Virtual Machines and run them as if they were real servers....so you can assign IP addresses and things like that as if it were a real machine...on that VMWare server i'm running a free virtual appliance (i'll find out who made it) that is running a squid proxy server and a dansguardian web filter...Squid is an open source (i.e. free) proxy server program that's well known in the linux community...dansguardian is a web filter that is open source and well known....in conjuction they allow you to set up rules for access...you can block access to general types of websites (like adult content) as well as specific web addresses.....both of them have a bit of a learning curve associated with them but there is a lot of documentation available
We would need an adequate backup solution to serve the size of disk installed in any new hardware. The contarctor consulted suggested an external hard drive (2 actually) to be switched daily. These drives would take a daily 'image' of the server drive.
already covered this but...a "good" backup solution involves making sure that you decide how long you want to keep your data and where you want to keep it....
right now i do a full backup of all 12 servers in my environment to 500GB ultrium tape drives with a tape for each tape drive (i've got 7 of those) so that's 7 x 5= 35 tapes a week. each monday i take last weeks tapes to the bank and stick those drives in a safe deposit box then i take the previous weeks tapes back from the bank to use for that week....which means that for at least a 2 week period i can restore information up to 3 weeks old....
the full backups in my environment is a bit overkill in my opinion...so i'm going to be doing things differently next year (hopefully my budget get's accepted...)
I am now thinking kind of a hybrid of the suggestions made before. The 'secondary' server we have at the minute is essentially a piece of fancy NAS. So, could we go down the route of:-
Site 1: SBS
Site 2: NAS
Could site 1 then serve to authenticate users across two sites, whilst still allowing site 2 some local storage so that not everything has to be transferred across the internet at the time of writing? Would this be too complex?
What I have done in the past is used the secondary server as an archive to free up disk space on the 'main' server due to the low amount of disk space available on the main unit. It is however a slow process even at broadband speeds.
this is completly doable...but you've got to remember that since both sites are remote from each other...any time someone is wanting something from site1's equipment the bandwidth will come into play and vice versa....so it might be better to identify the "priority" location and house things there...
I have to admit that I am swayed towards an SBS solution, not for business purposes, but because of the inner geek in me.
the "inner geek" thing is basically the driving force for almost everything i do..
I am thinking not necessarily of the business, but of what use such knowledge may be to me personally if ever I switch jobs to another firm. (But is this being selfish?)
everything we do should be viewed from the standpoint of how it will help you in the future...no matter how much you like the place you work for and your job you do there...there is always the chance that something better will come along...and there's a good chance that skills learned elsewhere will apply
I forgot to add, the idea of a shared calendar is attractive. Again it is not necessary, we manage with a paper diary at the minute, which lives in reception. Everyone dips into that. To put it on screen could be useful, but I do question what happens if the machines are switched off, as sometimes happens when we want the diary.
as sari said SBS offers you the use of microsoft sharepoint...i've played with sharepoint but i'm not a whiz....but you can have shared calendars, shared documents, all kinds of fun stuff with sharepoint
Remote Web Workplace I do think is something worth exploring, and may prove useful. I have seen it on the testdrive, and looked at it briefly
sari's actually got more info on this than i do...as she actually uses it....but Remote Web Workplace is basically what you're already doing with your VPN connection just built in to the server....it offers you a connection to the server itself and then from the server you can connect to one of the workstations....which...is pretty much what you're doing