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Need help planning first IT project for small business

Hi, looking for some advice on setting up a small scale server solution with virtual machines for each user. The company only has 6 users who need access to ms office, Clik service crm/job management & sage accounting apps although we will likely be switching to xero shortly. At present everything is managed remotely via an IT services company however I'm convinced that due to the small size of the business and requirements we'd be better off financially bringing everything in house, I need to come up with an alternative to put forward to the director and after some initial research I was thinking that perhaps a HPE proliant ML110 would be more than enough to handle 6 users accessing 2 applications. This is my first time planning a project of this nature but I'm looking to build up some solid IT experience so any pointers or advice for a total noob would be much appreciated.
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  1. This can easily become more complex than you might think.

    What is your role in the company? Are you ready for that IT role to be full time?

    So, to your specs.
    A server with VM's for each user is no cheaper than an individual PC for each user. You still need an OS and license for each user.
    The users still need a "PC", so why not have the applications and OS be local to that box?

    Then, you have to spec out a whole multi layer backup situation.


    You guys don't do your own HVAC installations, do you? No.
    Can it be done? Yes.
    But don't assume the whole IT thing is any easier.
  2. what is the current setup, exactly? Do you already have a file server, exchange server, on site / off site? Managed remotely doesn't really tell us anything other than that the IT guy doesn't physically come to your business.

    More generally however yes you can, setup a hyper-v (if your using a windows server) to establish virtual machines on a server. Then establish a terminal-server using Windows Server X (i believe it was rename RDS for the 2012 version) and install whatever programs everyone uses on it. The users then connect to it using the Remote Desktop. Boom now everyone can use Macs, crappy Windows PCs and I believe Linux (never tried it) and enjoy whatever goodness is on the terminal-server.

    We have a HP Proliant G6 with a Xeon L5520 and 96GB of RAM doing this + a few other VMs (exchange, file server, etc) for about 8-12 users.

    Please note this is not easy to setup. I have a professional IT guy manage our server stuff as I have no experience setting one up myself. But from what I've seen it is not easy and if you don't do it right the first time around you basically have to wipe it and start over.

    On the whole it's only going to cheaper/easier if you understand how to do all of it userself and can cut out the middleman IT guy. Otherwise it might be easier to just establish a file-server and exchange-server (or use something like Office 365 Business depending on your needs) and just keep the rest on local machines.

    The big danger with terminal-server type setup is if the server (either the VM or the host server) goes down it goes down for everyone. Where as with a desktop setup only individual users are down if their particular system crashes. You can mitigate this with hot swap backup servers that take over in the case of primary failure but that just adds to the expense of the setup.

    Good Luck.

    technet article on terminal server. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsserver/ee236407.aspx
  3. Looks as though we have a file server with network attached storage, the IT guys we have a contract with at the moment basically have us set up with a shared virtual drive hosted on their cloud server, for some reason though we still have a small rack server on site?

    I've been told by them the reason we have to run our apps on VMs is to ease strain on our PCs' CPUs or because they don't have enough memory for us to run them direct and trying to do so would be detrimental to overall speed, they weren't very clear and have been a little cagey about giving us information overall to be honest.

    I'm looking now and the what you're suggesting regarding one terminal server with os and apps for everyone to access appears to be what we have only off-site, apologies if I sound like I don't have a clue here, I've been taken on as the office manager but in all honesty there isn't as much work as these guys think there is in the office, they're just really badly organized, most everything gets done pretty quickly and I find myself twiddling my thumbs looking for something to do hence why I've started looking at a project like this.

    And no we don't have any air con in our office.

    Thanks for the help, hopefully this makes it clearer to understand our current set up.
  4. Quote:
    I've been told by them the reason we have to run our apps on VMs is to ease strain on our PCs' CPUs or because they don't have enough memory for us to run them direct and trying to do so would be detrimental to overall speed, they weren't very clear and have been a little cagey about giving us information overall to be honest.


    That sounds like a big red flag to me.
    A red flag, blowing smoke.

    I don't know exactly what application, or how the PC's are configured now...but they're working now, right?
  5. USAFRet said:


    That sounds like a big red flag to me.
    A red flag, blowing smoke.

    I don't know exactly what application, or how the PC's are configured now...but they're working now, right?


    Yeah, they're working but overall the speed is sluggish. Apparently this is due to the fact that the area we're located in doesn't have fibre optic so 8mbs is the best we can get unless we fork out another couple hundred bucks a month to boost it to 20mbs which sounds like nonsense to me. I'm not an IT pro by any means although I'll be doing a degree in computing by the end of the year but to me it sounds like the IT company has stitched the owners up because they aren't tech savvy at all.
  6. Yeah, with ISP speeds that slow it would be best to have on-site servers so you don't have to deal with that bottleneck. Though you can always debate if the cost of on-site would be more or less than the extra cost to speed up your internet.

    Terminal-Server does reduce the strain on the local machine. Though frankly a cheap i3-6100 is more than enough for an office computer. So they are telling the truth but also BSing you at the same time as the strain is not some impossible hill to climb for a local machine.

    You can always setup a ghetto AC if you have to. It won't be pretty or particularly smart but its doable. I have a LG standing floor unit in my IT closet right now, things a beast 24/7 for a year without a problem.

    Yes your IT guys probably have you hoodwinked, like any good vendor will try to do. That's how it was when I started at my current job. We transitioned to a different IT company and really lucked out with our assigned IT guy really knowing his stuff.

    Anyways take your time and plan it out carefully. It might be all you really need to do is switch your IT vendor.
  7. Best answer
    OK...

    (this is all without detailed info of the entire system)
    Your main issues seem to be
    1. your main applications in the cloud somewhere
    2. a small pipe
    3. a less than helpful IT consultant staff

    Running a beefy server for your users running VM's does absolutely nothing for 1 and 2.
    Bringing that application to a server inhouse will fix that. Or get a fatter pipe from the ISP.

    A VM for the user is not a magic bullet. The user still needs an actual PC, so it might as well be good enough to run things on its own. Talking to a server that lives over on the other side of the room, instead of 'in the magic cloud'.

    For #3...they see their role as being threatened. If all they bring to the table is management of this application, you personally are taking that away from them. Poof, gone.


    Do NOT focus on hardware (Proliant whatever) yet. Requirements first. Then design. Then round 2 of requirements, for the stuff you forgot the first time.
    Then a new design to merge with the added requirements.

    Then maybe you can start looking at (not buying!) parts.

    Any schmoe can slap together some random parts, and it sorta works. Later, you discover it is too slow, or you are paying monthly for that schmoe to 'manage', or it actually breaks.
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