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Need help setting up small business!

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October 19, 2012 8:16:27 PM

Ok so my brother in law owns a small tax business with 4 users on a 4 different computers. I am his IT guy and have had it set up for 2 years successfully. I currently have it set up so the software is installed on one main computer, and the other 3 access the shared drive that is installed to also use the program. They all have windows 7 ultimate installed on all of them. They are also all connected wirelessly to each other except once computer that has a hard line to it from the router. The router is also dual band 2.4 and 5.0 ghz. What are maybe some other solutions, or other ways that I might be able to set this up for it to work better and more effeciently?

More about : setting small business

October 20, 2012 2:30:59 AM

This sounds like a lawsuit to me, you really don't want to setup a network hosting sensitive data without being 100% certain what you are doing. I'm not just being a hassle, it is very worth having this setup done properly.
October 20, 2012 3:33:44 PM

tomatthe said:
This sounds like a lawsuit to me, you really don't want to setup a network hosting sensitive data without being 100% certain what you are doing. I'm not just being a hassle, it is very worth having this setup done properly.


How is this a lawsuit? I know this is sensitive data, which is why I am asking for the best solution than what I currently have. I was also thinking about maybe using a NAS and use that?. Any help is appreciated.
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October 22, 2012 1:17:07 PM

In what way is it not working? Or what improvements do you require?
October 22, 2012 2:48:38 PM

jamesmcuk said:
In what way is it not working? Or what improvements do you require?


Its working but just wanted to see if maybe there was a more secure way, since it is a tax business which holds a lot of people personal info. Its being shared throught the built in homegroup that windows 7 has.
October 22, 2012 5:54:48 PM

Oh right well this is a minefield and depends on the software too.

Homegroup I would think was pretty insecure.

Security is 2 fold there is the possibility of virtual or physical access. Physical access can be controlled quite easily but as soon as you hook your network up to the internet you open up your whole LAN.

To be fair unless you are confident in setting up the various aspects of security on your PC's and your Router and enforce a strict policy with the employees I would be inclined to deny all clients access to the internet that hold sensitive data.

The law states that you should not be negligent with the data and take all reasonable precautions. If you are not familiar with what you need to do to secure WAN from LAN then it maybe better to separate it and protect yourself. At the end of the day the likelihood of it all going wrong is small but if it does you don't want your name in there
October 22, 2012 7:20:05 PM

There are several factors that you need to have in place to resolve some issues here, not just with secure access, but also with data integrity, efficiency, and protection from loss of sensitive information.

First, lets look at your network since that has been the first issue brought up here. Yes, there's a whole list of requirements that need to be put in place protecting the customer information you hold from access by outside - and internal - sources that should not have access. To be honest, most small businesses your size that hold this kind of information do NOT have proper protection simply because they don't know or can't afford it.

I would highly recommend getting rid of the wireless networking completely. Even if it is password protected, it's an open radio wave that people using outside computers can access into your network. Go to all direct ethernet connections on all computers, you limit your access to information on your LAN network to only those computers which are directly connected, making it much more secure. Additionally, you will have increased network speed and efficiency. You will also need to look at getting some sort of firewall, not just a basic router, to put between your internal network and your internet connection. A firewall will offer you far greater protection from intrusion compared to a home wireless router.

Next we look at the actual user access settings of your LAN. To protect customer information, you need to have a user account with a password set on every computer in your office. If you have multiple people accessing data ideally for user account control you should have each user with their own username and a unique password for each user account. This way you can log access based on the individual user and control what each user will have access to for information. Right now, yes, you may all be accessing the same information and levels of information, but that might not be ideal. In other words, you might not want all of your employees to be able to access other employee's confidential records like social security information or payroll! This is why having individual user accounts is crucial, and why you should allocate access to shared information ONLY to the people who should have access to that information.

And this comes to the network storage solution. You currently are using a single computer as the "server" even though it's already being used as a workstation for someone to also do their normal work. This opens a lot of inherent security and efficiency problems. First off, what happens if the person using that computer is checking emails or saving some files from the internet and suddenly gets a nasty virus? Your shared data can be affected by this virus then since it's on that same computer which not only can make it impossible for that user to access their programs and data, but all of your employees may lose access and worse you could be facing theft or destruction of sensitive client information! Same story if your desktop suddenly has a hard drive failure. Poof, everything is gone.

Additionally this sort of configuration is not near as efficient. All of your desktop computers are interconnected on a workgroup network, which makes managing who has access to shared files, and backing up those shared files, very difficult. Additionally, that one primary desktop which is acting as your server is also being used by someone to do their normal daily tasks meaning it's having to do more work resulting in less efficient performance and response.

You want to look into a network attached storage or sever device ideally for hosting all your shared data and programs instead of just allocating this task to one of your workstation computers. Since the server isn't going to be used normally by someone such as getting online and checking email you have a reduced risk of user error or malicious attack that could compromise your data and business operation. Additionally, a server can be used to better manage who has access to what files. If all the company data is located on the server, you can manage everyone's access from one point instead of having to do so from every computer in the network. Further, if a workstation does go down such as from hardware failure, you are not losing any company data because it's all centrally located and backed up from the server.

You have not specifically stated what sort of software you are using here that is network based, but I'm sure that if you contact the vendor or speak with a professional about the software, they will have recommendations or requirements for a network server installation such as what you are using. It may even be recommended to look into going to a domain environment to give you the most power and flexibility such as user account control, virtualization on the server system, and more. However, for only four employees this may be a bit out of scope and range for what you wish to accomplish.

There's a lot of information here that I've thrown at you, and I'll try and help to explain more detail where you might have any other questions or need some more information!
October 22, 2012 7:30:26 PM

Outstanding Reply Choucove!!!
October 22, 2012 8:14:15 PM

There's a lot of work here to do, and a huge amount of information to take into consideration to really make a solution fit for what works best for you. To give you more detailed information and recommendations I'd have to know more about your business, your computers, your software, and your needs.

This type of situation is something that I deal with daily, as I do computer work mainly for a variety of small businesses in our area similar to what you are doing. Every situation is unique, but one of the biggest factors in making things right always comes down to budget of course. Yes, there's a lot that should be done to make things right with the computers, the backup, and the network. Each one of these areas has several details to go into, but for now this gives you a more broad view at the overall project you have ahead.

As budgets are usually one of the most difficult things for small business to get past when looking at technology needs like you are facing, it always is my responsibility to make a point. There will always be a balance of some kind, no matter what business you are in, between the cost of investing in your technology to protect your computers from loss of data and protect your data from corruption or theft, and the cost that would come if you did end up having data lost from hardware failures or theft. No matter what the situation is, the cost of helping to install the technology to support and protect your business information is ALWAYS going to be less than the cost of losing that information.
October 29, 2012 12:25:47 AM

choucove said:
There's a lot of work here to do, and a huge amount of information to take into consideration to really make a solution fit for what works best for you. To give you more detailed information and recommendations I'd have to know more about your business, your computers, your software, and your needs.

This type of situation is something that I deal with daily, as I do computer work mainly for a variety of small businesses in our area similar to what you are doing. Every situation is unique, but one of the biggest factors in making things right always comes down to budget of course. Yes, there's a lot that should be done to make things right with the computers, the backup, and the network. Each one of these areas has several details to go into, but for now this gives you a more broad view at the overall project you have ahead.

As budgets are usually one of the most difficult things for small business to get past when looking at technology needs like you are facing, it always is my responsibility to make a point. There will always be a balance of some kind, no matter what business you are in, between the cost of investing in your technology to protect your computers from loss of data and protect your data from corruption or theft, and the cost that would come if you did end up having data lost from hardware failures or theft. No matter what the situation is, the cost of helping to install the technology to support and protect your business information is ALWAYS going to be less than the cost of losing that information.


Thank you for the really great answer and you have really explained yourself well. you can truly tel you are a professional at what you do. The business computers all consist of computers running windows 7 ultimate and home premium. Before they contacted me to set it up they had bought an external hard drive and hooked it up to the router and used that. I was also thinking of getting a network attached storage device as that would put less strain on the "server" pc. What is a good NAS that you may recommend that is affordable as well. There is also the risk of maybe the NAS going down so what would be the best way to back up files from NAS to another storage device as well?
October 29, 2012 2:51:53 AM

The key question here that will make a difference between purchasing a NAS and a full server system is how does your networked accounting software run? Do you have to install the program on the database-end to host out the files, as well as on each of the clients to access the database-end service? Or do your client device installations just need to point to some shared folder or file on the network?

If the answer is the second, then you can go with NAS, and I'd recommend purchasing at least a 4-bay QNAP or Synology brand system as they have a very strong reputation for business network storage.

However, if the software needs to be installed at the central storage point, this calls for a server, not a NAS, which is going to cost more but also going to offer you more performance, flexibility, and room to grow as the business grows.
October 29, 2012 3:24:14 PM

choucove said:
The key question here that will make a difference between purchasing a NAS and a full server system is how does your networked accounting software run? Do you have to install the program on the database-end to host out the files, as well as on each of the clients to access the database-end service? Or do your client device installations just need to point to some shared folder or file on the network?

If the answer is the second, then you can go with NAS, and I'd recommend purchasing at least a 4-bay QNAP or Synology brand system as they have a very strong reputation for business network storage.

However, if the software needs to be installed at the central storage point, this calls for a server, not a NAS, which is going to cost more but also going to offer you more performance, flexibility, and room to grow as the business grows.


Yes the software has to be installed in one location that all computers have access to. From there I have to go to each computer and set it up as a client, so the software basically creates a shortcut for that program on that computer. Also, i am not able to run hard wire Ethernet due to the fact there is no way to get them to all 3 offices without running them on the ground.
I also found this NAS from this link http://computershopper.com/storage/reviews/buffalo-clou... is that one any good. It has good reviews?
October 29, 2012 6:19:26 PM

If you have to install the software on the primary system, then you will not be able to use a NAS. You are looking at running an application server.

There are a lot of ways to go about this, including just using a normal desktop system, but that's not recommended due to the fact it does not have the specialized hardware in place to help protect from data loss or keep the system running in the event of hardware failures. I'd recommend looking into the HP ProLiant ML110 G7 series servers. I've recommended these before for small businesses on here as they are very flexible and inexpensive in terms of the type of computer that you are getting.
October 29, 2012 6:30:29 PM

choucove said:
If you have to install the software on the primary system, then you will not be able to use a NAS. You are looking at running an application server.

There are a lot of ways to go about this, including just using a normal desktop system, but that's not recommended due to the fact it does not have the specialized hardware in place to help protect from data loss or keep the system running in the event of hardware failures. I'd recommend looking into the HP ProLiant ML110 G7 series servers. I've recommended these before for small businesses on here as they are very flexible and inexpensive in terms of the type of computer that you are getting.


What about using a spare desktop? Would that also work. They have a spare Acer X1200 with 1TB hard drive with 4 gb ram. Or should buying a server specific model be better?
Also the name of the software that they use is called TaxWise. Maybe with that information you would be able to determine if the NAS or Server is necessary. There are different ways of setting it up as well.
here is a link where it has the recommended installation http://twkb.cchsfs.com/TSTKB.nsf/2f1d5b5d773210c585256f...
October 29, 2012 10:45:53 PM

The installation instructions show that indeed you need a server, not a NAS. A NAS will not allow you to install and run this type of program, it is only for storing data.

You could use just a separate desktop computer to run this program and have your other desktop systems access to it, but it still raises concerns about redundancy and protection from failures. What were to happen to your data if the hard drive in that computer fails? How long would your office be without use of that software if the computer is unable to boot? For a quick solution yes I'd recommend moving the software to this other desktop, but for future growth and protection of your information I'd suggest budgeting on an actual server solution, or at least something specifically designed for this task and capable of addressing these issues. While a basic pre-built desktop system MAY run 24/7 for a few years of continual use, it's definitely not designed for it. Your best bet is to find something that is, and has the warranty and support as well to back up that purpose in business technology needs.

So, to help out as a quick and cheap solution, I might recommend looking into using the Acer desktop as your primary system for running the software as a server, but you also need to purchase an external hard drive for use in backing up your system daily. As you are able to, migrate to a server system designed to offer you the fault-tolerance and capabilities of doing more for your business if you chose, such as print server or domain server roles.
October 29, 2012 10:56:27 PM

choucove said:
The installation instructions show that indeed you need a server, not a NAS. A NAS will not allow you to install and run this type of program, it is only for storing data.

You could use just a separate desktop computer to run this program and have your other desktop systems access to it, but it still raises concerns about redundancy and protection from failures. What were to happen to your data if the hard drive in that computer fails? How long would your office be without use of that software if the computer is unable to boot? For a quick solution yes I'd recommend moving the software to this other desktop, but for future growth and protection of your information I'd suggest budgeting on an actual server solution, or at least something specifically designed for this task and capable of addressing these issues. While a basic pre-built desktop system MAY run 24/7 for a few years of continual use, it's definitely not designed for it. Your best bet is to find something that is, and has the warranty and support as well to back up that purpose in business technology needs.

So, to help out as a quick and cheap solution, I might recommend looking into using the Acer desktop as your primary system for running the software as a server, but you also need to purchase an external hard drive for use in backing up your system daily. As you are able to, migrate to a server system designed to offer you the fault-tolerance and capabilities of doing more for your business if you chose, such as print server or domain server roles.


That is what I was thinking. I talked to the owner and their budget is about 500 dollars. Do you think there is a good server around that price? I was hoping to get one with at least 3 drives so I could implement raid5 so all data could be backup good. I am also going to hard wire ethernet to each office and computer. Also the computers are currently running windows7 ultimate and home premium. Do you suggest moving them onto windows server? Or is windows server geared more for a pc acting as a server?
October 30, 2012 1:04:54 AM

At $500, you are not going to really be able to implement a server system, but you can begin with your Acer system and work to try to at least double that budgeted amount to get a computer system in place.

For what you are intending to do, I'd actually recommend using just two hard drives in RAID 1 instead of three in RAID 5. You will be spending less money but also will have better performance in many situations. Plus if a single hard drive fails, you can rebuild the array quite fast in RAID 1 compared to a RAID 5 array, and all your data can be read completely off of any disk, meaning you can pull a drive and plug it into any other computer and have access to all the data. This isn't the case in RAID 5 where all disks are required. I should also heavily stress that, while implementing a RAID 1 array or similar does offer protection of your data from a single hard drive failure, it is NOT a backup solution. You need to have some other form of backup in place separate from your RAID that can run on a routine basis.

Windows Server software is intended to be installed and run only on the server, all of the workstation computers, or clients, would run a client OS like Windows 7 so you wouldn't need to worry about that. In fact, for what you are doing you wouldn't even need to purchase a full-blown Windows Server OS to put on your server. Installing Windows 7 Professional would work just fine, and will allow you to install your applications plus have the ability to manage user access to shared folders across the network.

Since you have some computers that are running Windows 7 Home Premium, I wouldn't recommend right now going to using your server for a domain environment, as these Home Premium computers would have to be upgraded to a Pro version of the OS to be able to join the domain.
October 30, 2012 1:16:51 AM

choucove said:
At $500, you are not going to really be able to implement a server system, but you can begin with your Acer system and work to try to at least double that budgeted amount to get a computer system in place.

For what you are intending to do, I'd actually recommend using just two hard drives in RAID 1 instead of three in RAID 5. You will be spending less money but also will have better performance in many situations. Plus if a single hard drive fails, you can rebuild the array quite fast in RAID 1 compared to a RAID 5 array, and all your data can be read completely off of any disk, meaning you can pull a drive and plug it into any other computer and have access to all the data. This isn't the case in RAID 5 where all disks are required. I should also heavily stress that, while implementing a RAID 1 array or similar does offer protection of your data from a single hard drive failure, it is NOT a backup solution. You need to have some other form of backup in place separate from your RAID that can run on a routine basis.

Windows Server software is intended to be installed and run only on the server, all of the workstation computers, or clients, would run a client OS like Windows 7 so you wouldn't need to worry about that. In fact, for what you are doing you wouldn't even need to purchase a full-blown Windows Server OS to put on your server. Installing Windows 7 Professional would work just fine, and will allow you to install your applications plus have the ability to manage user access to shared folders across the network.

Since you have some computers that are running Windows 7 Home Premium, I wouldn't recommend right now going to using your server for a domain environment, as these Home Premium computers would have to be upgraded to a Pro version of the OS to be able to join the domain.


So what is the cheapest server you recommend that's closest to their budget. Raid 1 would also be better since it does only need 2 drives.
October 30, 2012 2:57:46 AM

The best entry-level server I have worked with personally is the HP ProLiant ML110 G7, which we have had great luck with. It's quite flexible and customizable, and for the cost it is a great performance server. It does take a little research to get everything ordered.

Start with the base server. I normally go with the higher end configuration which includes a quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon processor, 4 GB RAM, and dual redundant power supplies. However, to fit in your budget, you can go with the cheaper base system:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You will want to add some more RAM:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You will also need to install a set of hard drives. I don't know what kind of storage capacity you are needing, but I recommend either the Western Digital Caviar Black series or the Western Digital RE4 series of hard drives:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Now this server requires special hard drive caddies to mount the two hard drives into the hot-swap drive cage. These caddies can't be purchased threw Newegg, but you can do a search on eBay, Amazon, and many other retailers to find them and purchase two trays. Look for the HP part number below:

373211-001 HP TRAY FOR 3.5" SATA/SAS DRIVE

And finally, you're going to need an operating system to load on the server. This again is going to depend if you just wanna go cheap and simple and install Windows 7 Professional 64-bit OEM, or if you will want to go for something more robust like Windows Server 2008 Standard R2 or Windows Server 2012 Standard.
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