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Setting up 10 computer network in small office Help?

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November 13, 2013 7:11:03 PM

Alright, so I've been contacted by a friend to setup their new business office which will consist of 10 workstation. We haven't purchased any equipment yet. To be honest here, Im more of a troubleshooting guy, so networking isn't my forte, although I have fooled around here and there with it. Anyway, I need help setting up something basic.

I have no idea as to were to begin when setting up a network. I know i need Windows Server on atleast one machine (the server).
This is what he requested, A server (host) with the other stations able to access and save on and be able to talk to among each other.

That is what i need help with, setting up a network from Step 1 till the end.

What I had suggested however, because to me it seems that my friend just wants to have a common drive where the computers can access and share their files, is to do a smaller setup with a router. I recently purchased a Linksys EA6500 which has a networking feature. It allows you to attach an external hard drive to it and allow it to share among those connected to it. However, im not sure if this may be a reliable alternative or if it indeed is a viable one. What are the pros and cons of using either of these networking styles?

Please help, I really want to learn about this, and I usually learn by doing.
November 14, 2013 6:37:27 AM

In a business environment, I would not recommend using the network shared storage feature of the router. This method has little access control, reliability, or performance for that many simultaneous connections. Going with a server (or at minimum a NAS) is going to be the right path.

Setting up a whole new business, all the network, and the computer systems, in a proper reliable and secure way can be quite a task and honestly before any recommendations that I might make I'd have to say, CONTACT A PROFESSIONAL. Even if it is someone you know or a local business you trust to come in and help with recommendations, consulting, and assisting on some of the parts that you aren't familiar with. It is going to be worth it in the long run to get an expert input than having to have someone come in later and replace brand new stuff with other brand new stuff, and redo a bunch of configurations, because it wasn't set up properly in the first place. I've been there with several small businesses in my community which unfortunately have done this same thing, and it costs more in the long run to fix.

With that said, there are some things that we would need to know more about the business, the type of work and systems that they are needing, the type of network features that they are needing, as well as how it will logically be designed. So, lets start with some questions:

1) What sort of business will this be? The system, storage, and network needs for a business doing general sales (needing to access only small documents or pictures, and working basically within web browser or lightweight Office software suites) is quite a bit different than a business doing something like video or design production work.

2) How do you envision the overall network design? For example, will you have access for the public to get online somehow? Public computers, or wireless network for them to connect to? Will you have multiple departments or areas that need to be segmented apart?

3) What types of files, data, and other information will you be needing to store and for employees and staff to be able to access?

4) Do you have access to be able to run ethernet cabling as needed?

5) Roughly what is a budget that you have for setting all of this up?
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November 14, 2013 3:37:59 PM

Hey there Choucove thanks for youre help, and yes it does seem like a lot to learn but i have untill about mid december to learn how to get this down and have 3 older computers to test out building a network.
Let's get into it.

1. This is an online directory business. In general, its a site that we market to people to find local reviews about smaller businesses and individuals. The site is hosted by a third party. Not sure if it is necessary to integrate the website itself onto the network that I am trying to setup. The office that needs to be setup has to do with office stuff and sharing info among these 10 computers. No large scale (gigabytes) transfers.

2. The office is not segmented, this is 10 computers for representatives to do their daily work on. (assesing clients, data entry, emailing etc.) Im assuming that we do not need public access to our network.

3. The information being handled at the office is general office work. Spreadsheets, word docs, power points, emails, web pages.

4. If need be we could do a wired setup. Wireless setup is preferrable though. Keep in mind the office space is about 500 sq ft. So we are setting up cubicles for the computers.

5. So far we have about 5k to spend on computers and equipment. However, for the network construction, we are trying to be as efficient as possible while minimizing our costs.

I need to know what comes first (hooking up the computers to a router?) and how to proceed.
Im trying keep this setup easy but obviously well done.
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November 14, 2013 4:32:45 PM

Alright with the information you've provided I can go into a little more details about recommendations.

So, with this business the general computer tasks are lightweight as well as the types of files that they are going to be accessing to. Budget wise this is a good thing. The types of computers you will need to utilize can generally be less powerful and lower cost systems then, but I would HIGHLY recommend looking into solid business-class computers instead of consumer line computers. This means looking at the HP Business Desktop or ProBook (notebook) lines instead of the Pavilion or G series. Or if you prefer Dell, looking at the Optiplex line instead of the Inspiron. First off, the quality is much better on a business line computer, and second the support and functionality for a business network is much more improved where as the home consumer lines are just not built for or capable for that sort of thing. Also, stick with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Professional due to the ability to have many of the business features (such as joining a domain.)

Given the size of your network you wouldn't technically have to have a full server. You could operate within a workgroup still, which doesn't need a centralized computer to manage, but it does take more work to manage all the sharing and access permissions. You would instead use a NAS, a basic file server designed simply for sharing out files. A simple NAS is going to be cheaper to begin with, but it's not as flexible, it's not upgradable, and it's not going to give you the ability to add more roles into the future (such as domain services.) Basically, if you foresee your business ticking at about ten total computers for the next few years, then you can make do with a NAS, but if you foresee growth within the first few years here, then I'd recommend go ahead and invest a little more to get a full server that CAN do domain services and other features so that you have room to grow.

Network wise, it is always recommended to run wire instead of wireless. First off, its more reliable. A wired connection almost never has data loss or random outages, but a wireless connection is going to suffer from interference and attenuation. Also, a wired connection can be much faster than a wireless connection. A gigabit switch can be very cheap to get into, giving you a full gigabit of throughput to each endpoint device. However wireless routers on average operate with a theoretical maximum of 300 Mbps, which is split across all of the connected devices, and of course degraded speeds occur with more interference and distance from the access point. This means realistically with ten computers running wirelessly you're instead getting about 10 Mbps per device which is going to crawl working with files on a central shared storage device or server. But yes, it can be done, you just have to invest in a nice high quality router or access point built to handle that size of a network load.

Most of your home wireless routers can support up to five wireless devices simultaneously without much problem. But more than that and it just really starts to impact network reliability and performances, they just aren't designed for more than that. I would recommend looking into a nice secure router (such as a Cisco VPN router or Sonicwall TZ 105 firewall appliance) and then run a separate enterprise wireless access point off of that. Think of the access point as just a high quality antenna connected to the router for all of the actual "work" in the network. Enterprise access points are not only designed for handling a greater number of concurrent devices, but also tend to have a better coverage range for better signal strength and thus better reliability and speeds.

A budget of $5K is probably going to be pushing it. For your end workstations, all the necessary peripherals (monitors, keyboards, printers, etc.) and the necessary licensing (Microsoft Office 2013/365, plus anything else you need) I'd suggest budgeting about $1000 per computer. So already that's double what you are talking about. You're also probably going to want about $500 to $1000 for your network (depending upon if you will need to run additional ethernet cabling, or purchasing additional wireless adapters, etc.) And then you still have your storage device or server. If you keep it cheap with a simple NAS you're still probably looking at around $1000 or more for a decent quality device with the storage capacity you need. For a full server system, you're going to at least double that, probably somewhere around $2500.
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November 14, 2013 9:35:58 PM

Alright Ill look into business class desktops. I had in mind some towers from like tiger direct or newegg and getting that user licence for windows and installing them with windows 7 pro. and then having one with Enterprise. I think that is what we will most likely have. The computers come with atleast 4gigs of ram and perhaps an i3 processor. Would dual view monitors be a problem implementing for better workflow?

Lets say I have my equipments ready to go, how would I proceed? I have the machines all installed setup with their admin name and password and im on the desktop. My computers are hardwired into the router which is hooked up to the modem. Do I need software to setup a network or is it all done through the windows features?
I need help mostly understanding the theoretical stuff here, because i take it that unlike a home network, this isn't just plug and play.
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November 15, 2013 6:51:31 AM

Networking together an office like this is pretty standard and should be relatively simple. What amount of configuration you will have to do is going to depend upon MANY factors, though. For instance, the type of router that you get will determine if you need to configure IP addresses, or DHCP pools, access control lists, etc. What kind of server you get is going to determine how you will need to go about creating user accounts, how your computers on the network will actually "see" each other, and how file sharing is done. There's a lot to it, much more than I can just simply surmise here in this thread.

Basically, if you decide to go with a NAS and utilize workgroup file sharing, then each computer will control their own user account. The NAS will have to have every user account created on it, and you will set up file shares in the software and allocate who has access to those shares. Then, on each workstation, you have to go and map network drives or set up some other way for each employee to actually access those shared folders on the NAS.

If instead you decide to go with a domain controller instead of a workgroup on a full Windows Server system, then you're going to need to first build your domain controller. You set up your domain and the DNS and network settings there, then create the user accounts for your network. You then assign permissions to shared storage. Your end computers will communicate with the server to get the user names and authenticate passwords, as well as confirm access for the different shared folders.
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November 15, 2013 8:27:10 PM

Yeah I pretty much am looking for a basic setup like a homegroup kinda of. You know at home when homegrouped you can access files and folders among those devices on the network. Well thats pretty much what I am looking for but I need to add a Master computer (The server) to pretty much back up all data on a hard drive there.

How would I go about this? Do I need software? or is it all done through the router that I choose? If so which would you recommend to go with for a small office? I need something to give me wifi aswell for the cell phones and laptops around.
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November 15, 2013 9:33:59 PM

File sharing is done at the computer, not at the network level. The main limiting factor with a workgroup network is the maximum size (Windows 7/8 will work fine with ten or a few more computers, but above that it just not efficient and I'd definitely say no more than 15 or you start having major issues with shares connecting properly.) Technically a workgroup should be up to ten computers, and a domain is required for anything above that.

There are many guides online for how to share out folders from a computer, but basically you need to set up one computer for a server/NAS. The more that you describe the business needs and, mainly, the budget, the more that I am thinking you need to look into a NAS. This is a pre-built computer system specifically designed for file storage and network access. The brand I have used for customers is Synology, they are very high quality and have a great feature set and easy to learn interface for administration.

Each computer in the network is going to require at least one username and password to be able to get onto the computer. You will also have to create each one of these usernames and passwords on your new NAS. This way you can set up who has share permissions to the different shared folders on your NAS. But a NAS does you absolutely no good if people are saving all of their files to their computers, so you HAVE to get everyone into the habit right off the bat of saving things to the proper shared folders on the NAS and put little to nothing on their individual computers. This way if something happens to someone's computer (virus, hard drive failure, etc.) then no business data is lost. You just replace hardware or reinstall some programs and you're back up and going, nothing lost.

Before you start looking into what to purchase and how to do this, I'd suggest you do some reading up some more on actual guides for setting up a workgroup network off a NAS. There's more to it than can really be explained here, so I'll just suggest some things for you to do searches on and try to locate some helpful guides and handy tips.

- Set up a workgroup shared folder
- Create user account in Windows 7 (or Windows 8)
- Share a folder in Windows 7 (or Windows 8)
- Map a network drive in Windows 7 (or Windows 8)

As for your router, again you're probably going to have a hard time trying to run EVERYTHING on a wireless connection. You definitely will need a wired connection to your storage device. But if you've got ten computers, plus smart phones or any additional laptops, then you're going to really need to look at multiple routers acting as access points together, connected back to a primary router, or one enterprise wireless access point connected with a primary router.

Your primary router doesn't have to be anything spectacular really, I personally like the value and features of the ASUS wireless routers, even the RT-N12/D1 has quite a bit of capabilities, but again it's not really going to handle that many wireless connections. For that you're going to need to purchase a few and set up access points with a couple, or purchase one Ubiquiti UniFi wireless access point device, configure it as your wireless signal, and use the ASUS router as your primary router and default gateway. If you want to have more protection (such as logging and custom firewall access control for multiple networks) or additional remote features (such as remote-to-site VPN connectivity) then you should look into a firewall appliance instead of a simple router like the ASUS RT-N12/D1. I've personally used Sonicwall TZ 105 appliances at many small businesses like this and they are great, and offer tremendous value over a basic wireless router. However, I don't know exactly what kind of network throughput, or your internet connection speed, to make a good recommendation for you on exactly what sort of default gateway router or firewall you need to look into.
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December 30, 2013 11:01:25 PM

Setting up a network is a good way to get more use out of your computers and peripherals, particularly for small and home business users.

Networks allow you to share a single broadband Internet connection among multiple computers and PC users.

They are able to share files among computers more easily and also share software resources such as diaries.

Networking also allows you to use a printer connected to a different computer, and access media and other resources, such as images and music, which are stored remotely or across the office.
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April 17, 2014 7:24:58 AM

I don’t know how much time/money/effort you’re looking to put into this, but if low-profile flooring is an option, definitely do it. Such an ease of use setup when complete. Here’s an example of a low-profile floor.
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April 17, 2014 7:47:34 AM

Necro'd thread!
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