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Small Business LAN

Last response: in Networking
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March 24, 2006 5:19:24 PM

I am a student who has just began learning about networking. I am to create a Local Area Network for a law firm. I am to choose all hardware, cabling, servers, pcs, switches, hubs, modems,wiring, wireless, etc. There will 28 laptops and pdas, 23 desktops and 8 temp work stations or thin clients. There will need to be wireless available for the laptops and pds. The it room is located in the middle of the building with all the offices around the edges of the building. What I am wondering is what would be the best type of server to handle this would be. I am planning on 2 or 3 servers. I realize I will need hubs, switches,and modems. What would be the best way to go about the laptops? Where would be a good place to put the laptop docking station so employees can access it easily. Should the pcs be hardwired with ethernet or should they also work off wireless? I am thinking wired pcs and wireless laptops. What is the best way to organize an IT room (what need to keep uncluttered) to store all the necessary stuff. If someone could point me in the right direction giving me some sites or suggestions on settingup a LAN forover 50 users it would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to figure out what the most efficent route would be.

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March 27, 2006 12:21:08 PM

The location of the IT department is ideal in your case.

Server requirements (both hardware and software) depend on the task that they are going to be handling.

While this is not a large (very) network I wouldn’t recommend that a person who is new to networking handles it as the security requirements would be quite high for such an outfit (client records comes to mind) Add to that wireless networking and you are looking at a possible security related problem.

What I would recommend is that you contact network specialists in your area and let them handle it with you overseeing the whole operation (you could learn a lot in this manner too). You could post their recommendations at this forum if you would like a second opinion.

Good Luck.

Man I envy you and your chance to screw not just a lawyer but a whole law firm. Whatever you do please OVERCHARGE them.
:) 
March 27, 2006 7:18:28 PM

I'm fairly sure this is a standard classroom project.
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March 27, 2006 7:26:55 PM

Topology: Star
Do not use hubs. You will want switches in place.

Switch:
For your situation I would recommend Linksys 24 port unmanaged switches (www.linksys.com).

Servers: I would recommend Dell or HP servers based on price. Figuring it's accounting, the servers will not need to be high-end. I would look Low to Mid-range servers, pre configured. Maybe bump the memory up and hard drive size for storage documents. RAID-5 is highly recommended along with a good backup solution - Tape or NAS (Network Attached Storage).

Cable Management and racks: www.blackbox.com Over priced, yeah, mostly, but it'll give you an idea of what you want. For your situation you could could with a 36" rack mount, 19" depth, or you could pull out an enclosed cabinet (recommending blade servers if you go the cabinet or want to rack mount your servers - check out Dell for Blade servers and you'll see how they work - they're about the size of a pizza box).

Wireless; again, Linksys or Dlink - I recommend Linksys Wireless %$G with WPA (security) - With the amount of wireless laptops, I'd go with 2-3 Wireless Access Points to cover everything plus not bog any one down.

Desktops: Wire them all. Don't bother with wireless in the desktop cases.

Docking station: Put it somewhere convenient. Run a wire to the docking station.

Run 2 drops to each location where you would have 1 computer. This is fail safe and won't run your budget up that much by doing this.


Recommended Websites to help you out:


www.blackbox.com
www.linksys.com
www.dell.com
www.hp.com


You'll want to step up to a higher end Linksys Router for your ISP connection. Don't be afraid to spend $500-1000 alone here. This alone is critical to your network.

If you need more help or anything clarified, let us know - post back.
March 27, 2006 8:58:14 PM

This seems like an exercise in futlity.
March 28, 2006 12:01:44 PM

Dumb old me. Should have guessed that lawyers are not that easy to be taken for a ride :( 
March 30, 2006 3:55:10 AM

sounds good tnx for the advice
March 30, 2006 4:13:43 AM

Quote:
Switch:
For your situation I would recommend Linksys 24 port unmanaged switches (www.linksys.com).


I would go the other way and recommend managed switches. Being able to remotely manage port status and link speeds is important. Not to mention, most managed switches have the capacity to be partitioned into VLAN's, maintain 802.1q trunk ports, and create mulitport aggregate port channels (802.3ad).

Also, it prevents any old yahoo from plugging into a port (a visiting lawyer, potential client, nosy salesman) and immediately getting a link light by default.
March 30, 2006 9:12:37 AM

You are most certainly welcome. So is this a real job or a student project ?
March 31, 2006 6:58:22 PM

student project
March 31, 2006 7:31:44 PM

A managed switch costs more and without having an onsite administrator, may cause additional problems.

Managed switches should be used in larger firms, not one of this size. On top of that, with the information provided, there was no reason to believe that support would be needed. VLans are still new to small companies such as this. I would recommend saving the additional money and go with an unmanaged switch.

If it were a larger company, 200 people or so, I'd go with a managed switch.

While the security aspect might seem like more, it's not hard to toss a small switch on an already active port and go from there.
April 2, 2006 7:32:07 PM

I'd go for a managed switch wether I have 20 or 200 people on my LAN. They give you quite a few monitoring tools so you can immediatly see who is downloading divx and hogging the bandwidth for everyone...

I would also definently set up a nice and sweet firewall such as IPCop which looks awfully great although I have yet to get it up and running at my house.

I have to agree with all that had been said. Connect as many PCs as you actually can to the wired network, it's so much more simple. As far as wireless goes, use WEP encryption obviously but also, only authorize MAC addresses that you have selected manually. This keeps a lot of unwanted traffic out. You'll tell me that it is easy to fake a MAC address and that is true. But finding the right MAC address is definently more diffcult...

As far as servers go, I would have a Storage server runing Debian with Samba for sharing files to windows users. 2 hard drives in RAID 1 for data security or 0+1 if I have a bigger company needing fast speeds. I would have an Exchange 2003 server runing Win2k3 with a classic configuration (I don't know Exchange that well). I would also put an email server that machine since Exchange probably doesn't eat THAT many ressources. Then, you can add whatever you wether it's Web servers, FTPz, ... on classic machines.
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