Our business network is outdated. WTF do I do?

Discussion in 'OT Technology' started by aizaz_akram, Aug 9, 2006.

  1. aizaz_akram

    aizaz_akram Music Is The Answer.

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    yo OT

    I was told to check this subforum out so i'm gonna give it a shot.

    recently, I took over my dad's business (import/export/distribution of Surgical Instruments) and was kind of annoyed with some of the sluggishness we're experiencing with our computers/network performance.

    We used to have some dickhead of a computer consultant come in and rip us off (before my time here). he'd have this 'retainer' where he'd ask us to fork over $2000, and whenever we needed service, he'd come over and do his work and then make some crazy billed hours to use up the retainer.

    fucking wack.

    He installed all sorts of random shit like 'spybot' and norton anti-virus, and used to make outlandish claims that we had viruses and he needed to do xyz and it would take ### hours to complete. He was totally screwing us, imo. I am only now looking at the documntation he provided. Some of the shit he wrote in it is hilarious.

    anyway, our technology is old school.

    we have:

    8 x Dell Optiplex GX260

    [​IMG]

    PC WorldBench 4 score of 112, 2.53-GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 256MB of DDR266 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 40GB hard drive, 8X DVD-ROM and 8X/4X/24X CD-RW combo drive, Intel 845 integrated video using main memory

    1 x Dimension 8100

    PC WorldBench 2000 score of 162, Pentium 4-1700 CPU, 128MB of RDRAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows Me, 60GB hard drive, 16X DVD-ROM drive, 16X/10X/40X CD-RW drive, Dell NVidia GeForce3 graphics card with 64MB DDR SDRAM,

    1 x Dell Poweredge 1400SC with tape backup machine installed

    [​IMG]

    Pentium III/800, 256Kb on-die Level 2 cache, ServerWorks Entry ServerSet III LE chipset, 256Mb of 133MHz SDRAM expandable to 2Gb, Adaptec AIC-7899G Ultra160 SCSI chipset, three 9Gb Quantum 10K Ultra160 hard disks, Dell PERC 2/DC PCI RAID controller, LG 48-speed EIDE CD-ROM, ATi Rage XL graphics with 4Mb of SDRAM, Intel Pro100+ adaptor chipset, Intel Pro100+ dual port PCI server adaptor, mouse and keyboard, Dell OpenManage software suite bundled.

    The Poweredge runs VERITAS Backup exec, but i swear that program seems like it's doing nothing.

    The Poweredge also runs something called Small Business Server Console or something. Small Server console?? It's to monitor user accounts and activity. I think it's a built in Win2K prog.

    And now what's tying them together:

    A Linksys Etherfast Cable + DSL Router (BEFSR11) RECEIVING our (shitty) DSL. The router is then connecting to a Dell PowerConnect 3024. See pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We have a couple of laserjet printers in the house too, and one fax/printer which can only be accessed by one person's machine, regardless of the fact that i've checked off 'share this printer.'

    i know i'm probably missing a whole lot of things, but it's the end of the day and i'm tired so that's the tech... now...

    The reason we have the etherfast router is because our DSL ISP, www.nyct.net (they fucking blow), can tunnel into it remotely if they ever need to... and to compound things, they host our lame ass website and all our mail too. We get charged $160/month or shitty ass service.

    I want to accomplish the following:

    1. Have a network setup that won't be slow like a turtle (i'm on my powerbook because i absolutely refuse to use any PC at work because they're all deadly slow)

    2. Retain the network functionality (obviously), increase our bandwidth to today's standards, and make sure what we have in place doesn't die. We use sage software's BusinessWorks 6.0 as our accounting/inventory package and from what I gather, the software package's 'server' is located on the server, and all the client machines log into the server to retrieve data.

    I think the software sucks and I want to move to quickbooks, but that's another post altogether. And since i'm on my mac, I can't use businessworks either. I'd rather have quickbooks so I can be multiplatform.

    3. All computers must save data on the network drives which are backed up by the server (i'm assuming this is what they're used for).

    4. Get rid of our fucking lame ass DSL service and move to Cable (optimum online for business) and get a separate hosting company for our website.

    Networking gurus... take a look at our stuff and tell me something doesn't look right because really now, it sems like my dad's been ripped off big time over the past few years. I feel bad for the guy because he doesn't know jack about computers and some of these 'computer guys' are real assholes and take advantage of that fact.

    not happening to me.

    Power of OT... i need your help!

    cliffs: read it thx. :)
     
  2. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    that's a decent switch... keep it.

    REPLACE THE ROUTER!!! Many small-business-grade cable providers will offer you a Cisco 814/815 which is decent. Use it if that's offered. Get rid of the linksys.

    That dell switch has gigabit ports on it. Put the server on one. If the server does not have a gigabit-over-copper NIC, then go buy an Intel Pro 1000 or 3Com 1Gbps card (I prefer the Intel Pro 1000+).

    100Mbps is more than sufficient for individual workstations.

    Reformat all machines, if possible.

    If possible, run Windows 2003 Standard Server or Windows 2003 Small Business Server, depending on needs. SBS includes exchange and MSSQL server, which is nice. SBS costs more, tho. Setup a domain, and require all users to log in via that. Get a good enterprise-grade AV solution that provides centralized management, scan logging, and updates that are downloaded once to the server, then pushed to each machine using only local-network traffic.

    Learn and live Group Policy.
     
  3. EvanD

    EvanD Active Member

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    We have some of the Dell 260's at work...they're slow as balls. But depending on what you need them for you're probably good with a fresh image on them.

    Like jollyogre said, ditch that POS router ASAP.

    And everything else he said is pretty much bang on too...Group policy is a wonderful tool.

    Good luck :)
     
  4. DAN513

    DAN513 OT Supporter

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    If ever there was someone who needed a ram upgrade, it's you. DDR for the optiplex's is dirt fucking cheap, replace it all with a 512mb or 1gb dimm per machine. For the cost of upgrading the RD ram in the 8100, you could throw it away and get a new box for less. For the server, I wouldn't even consider putting Server 2003 (any version of it) on an old ass Pentium 3. It will be painfully slow.
     
  5. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    I disagree. Runs just as fast as 2000.
     
  6. SLED

    SLED build an idiot proof device and someone else will

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    SBS would choke though.
     
  7. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    I don't know about "choke" but it wouldn't be very fast to boot up and get all those services started. Expand the RAM to 1GB+ and it would be a decent machine for what they do -- especially if you turn the frivilous crap off.

    But Win2k3std would run quite well with some extra ram.
     
  8. Coottie

    Coottie BOOMER......SOONER OT Supporter

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    Stopped reading here.

    First, OT is not a good replacement for an on site consultant because there are soo many factors to consider. It's obvious you don't like your current consultant so fire him and find one you do like. A good one will save you thousands of dollars.

    Next, Anti-Virus software is anything but random shit. It's essential in a business to protect your data.

    If you didn't have anti-virus software and got a virus then tried to clean it by installing Norton, it would actually take hours to do this on a few PCs. If you have 50+ users, you are talking days here. I know because this happened to me when I took over our PC department. So IMO your consultant wasn't "screwing" you here.

    I personally deployed Norton Corporate Edition on our 50+ user LAN and it kicked the shit outta McAfee. We had reoccuring viruses with McAfee that we just couldn't get off certain machines. Norton got it though and it has some very handy solutions for administrating your network. However, this was 4 years ago and perhaps it's not as powerful as it once was but I'd still take Norton over McAfee any day of the week.

    Finally, Perhaps your consultant was "screwing" you but it all depends on his experience, breadth of knowledge, work ethic and other factors such as your offices physical location and the problems he/she encountered. In my part of the country (midwest USA) I hired a contract engineer for $95/hour. He was awesome and I would have easily paid double that because of his skills.

    EDIT: Ok scanned through the rest of the doc.

    DSL performance seems to almost entirely be based on your distance from the dmark (or w/e they call it). The farther away, the worse performance. However if you are close, you can beat T1 speeds at least we were able to. Cable can put limits on your upload channel and if you have people connecting via tunneling, that can limit their performance also. This is another reason to hire a consultant (not retainer just hire them by the hour) because they can analyze all the variables and help you chose a solution that will meet your needs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  9. SLED

    SLED build an idiot proof device and someone else will

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    if you are serious about corporate anti-virus, then go get real corporate software. I have deployed many TrendMicro solutions in the last 5 years, and it always seems to clean up shit that Norton doesn't even bother with. The client software is really transparent, where norton likes to steal a lot of system resources on the client side.
     
  10. Zak8022

    Zak8022 New Member

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    Just throwing this out there, but a year or two ago the small business i work for got a not T1 line in our office, which took care of all our phone and internet needs. We host our own website, so we needed good upload speeds (which the T1 can provide)... but if you dont need that, it may not be a viable option. Again, just bringing it up. We pay like, $800/mo for 1M bandwidth, and 6 phone lines (i think we have room for more lines, but dont need them).

    I agree with the others who suggested Norton Corporate... we have it, and it is awesome. I'm positive i'm not even fully utilizing it, but at the very least least it pushes the virus definitions out to the network computers... which helps protect the idiot users who never update anything.

    You and I are in the same boat with Veritas... we have that running on a tape drive... and i have no idea how to work it. Ok, thats exagerated a little... i have an idea... it backs up, and the very few times i've needed to recover, i've been able to. But we're reaching the limit of our tapes, and i dont know if i can jsut get bigger tapes or what.

    Good luck.
     
  11. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    Here's a pissing contest waiting to happen...

    I've had great luck with Symantec Antivirus Corp. Edition. I use it on every machine I have control over, both at work and at home. The newer versions scan for spyware too, which is nice because it means I don't need Windows Defender or Spybot or somesuch. I've seen it catch numerous viruses; it does tend to suck for cleaning existing viruses off a machine, but then, if you have a virus on an office computer the only approach you should bother to take anyway is to wipe the HDD and reinstall a clean image.

    McAfee, on the other hand, has been a pain in the ass since day one. The company we've hired to run our domain insisted on using it, and it immediately broke half the software we had. Fortunately we were able to turn off some of its more aggressive features, but we still had to reinstall all of the digital mapping software we use. And that was just on the machines that McAfee installed properly on, as opposed to the ones that choked and died when the install got pushed down from the domain controller. Symantec was so much better-behaved.

    - - -

    Regarding the Dell Optiplexes: Upgrade their RAM to 1GB (512MB isn't enough anymore, 2GB is still too much), wipe them all clean (both digitally and with a damp sponge -- a clean computer is a happy computer), and then do these things in this order:

    - Reinstall Windows on ONE of the machines.

    - Configure the swapfile to be = 2GB - the amount of RAM each computer has. Make it a fixed size and never change this setting again; swapfiles tend to get fragmented easily, because in Windows XP they can't be defragmented.

    - Set Windows Updates to automatically download AND install every night at 12am.

    - Open the RUN window from the Start menu and type in "cleanmgr.exe /sageset:50", press enter, and tell Disk Cleanup to delete all garbage files EXCEPT the Recycle Bin and DO NOT COMPRESS OLD FILES; all other checkboxes should be checked. Make a scheduled task for "cleanmgr.exe /sagerun:50" and schedule it to run under the Administrator account every night at 1am.

    - Setup the antivirus program you use to perform a full scan every night at 2am. Turn on all of the maximum safety settings.

    - Write a simple batch file "defrag c: -f -v" and schedule it to run under the Administrator account twice a week at 4am.

    - Spend a couple of days manually reinstalling all the programs necessary for a basic MSWord-and-email workstation. (I would include Norton Utilities because I find them useful, but I don't want to get into that argument right now.)

    Voila...you now have a basic workstation that keeps itself clean and up-to-date without any human intervention. (The caveat here is that they have to stay turned-on all the time in order to maintain themselves, but in an office that's a common thing anyway; just shut the screen off before you go home.)

    Image the hard drive from the one computer and copy it onto all of the other Optiplexes. DO NOT install the image onto the other non-Optiplex computers, because you WILL have driver problems if you do that. I suggest that you also set disk-space quotas so that users can't crap up the hard drive with mp3s and movie trailers and whatnot.

    Keep a backup copy of the Optiplex hard drive image, so if anyone mucks up their PC you can just blast it and have it up and running again within an hour's time.

    It's a good idea to record the hard drive image BEFORE the computer gets joined to a domain, because you're going to have to rename each new computer when you install the image, and you don't want the domain to get confused about which computers are connected to it.

    Is that a lot of front-loading? Yes. It also makes maintaining the computers a hell of a lot easier.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  12. aizaz_akram

    aizaz_akram Music Is The Answer.

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    dang. thanks for all the info guys.

    I apologize if I may have offended some of you folks who do an honest job.

    I'm just tired of seeing those bills coming in for the stuff this guy claims to be hours worth of productivity when I know it takes a 3rd the time.

    As far as disk imaging goes-- I forget... does XP have it's own image creation program?

    So I gather this:

    upgrade the ram to 1GB.

    Take one of the optis and configure it a la deusexaethera's specs.
    anyone else agree/concur with what he has to say??

    and the image the rest of the machines in the office.

    what about backing up each computer's individual email accounts/messages?

    I know i'm probably asking newb questions, but i'd rather ask now instead of getting caught up doing something stupid later.

    Ideally i'd like the following:

    each machine running the latest xp pro w/ most current software updates.
    microsoft office (latest retail version)
    norton AV (i'm guessing corp is the way to go) with constant virus def. updates.
    client versions of businessworks 6.0 on each machine.
    firefox

    This is all i want on every machine. nothing more. They're simply office productivity computers and I do not want anything else installed. I'm assuming there are ways to prohibit users from installing shit like bonzibuddy, etc.

    I really feel sad admitting this but it's been years since I've used Windows to the extent i'm talking. After spending so much time on OS X i tend to blank out in front of windows occasionally.

    hehe, anyone in the NYC area who'd like to help out, or know anyone??

    about the router... can't i just ditch it completely and have the DSL connect straight into the switch? Other than NYCT using it tunnel, is there any reason why they would've connected that crap ass router into the switch??

    You guys are awesome. Thanks a lot!
     
  13. aizaz_akram

    aizaz_akram Music Is The Answer.

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    so wait, your t1 is also supplying voip service?

    monthly, we're paying ~$2000 in calls worldwide (mainly pakistan, germany, and south america). my problem with voip is that, while we may have a relatively stable connection here in the U.S., other countries we may call could have trouble receiving/keeping constant a connection through voip.

    in the office we have: 8 lines + 2 separate fax lines.

    I just installed Softshare Vista's EDI client (www.softshare.com) on our server to reduce the fax usage... paper is gettin $$$. not everyone is on EDI, so when I see things like this, I fear for doing something drastic like voip... domestic calling shouldn't be a problem, but we have high volumes of calls going out of the country.

    your thoughts??
     
  14. Peyomp

    Peyomp New Member

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    I hate office networks and won't touch them but...

    upgrade each PC from 256MB to 512 or 1GB of RAM and they will go from "piece of shit slow" to "acceptably fast."
     
  15. aizaz_akram

    aizaz_akram Music Is The Answer.

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    oh and to reduce power, we shut down all computers (sans server) prior to closing up the office, so a lot of those scheduled tasks... i'm not sure about that.
     
  16. aizaz_akram

    aizaz_akram Music Is The Answer.

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    Crucial Optiplex Ram

    http://www.crucial.com/store/listpa...abid=AM&model=OptiPlex+GX260+Series&submit=Go

    should i score the:

    DDR PC3200 • CL=3 • UNBUFFERED • NON-ECC • DDR400 • 2.6V • 128Meg x 64 US $133.97

    or the:

    DDR PC2700 • CL=2.5 • UNBUFFERED • NON-ECC • DDR333 • 2.5V • 128Meg x 64 US $122.36

    or should i not bother with crucial altogether and go for el-cheapo ram via pricewatch?

    i'm assuming the 3200 would probably be the way to go, for only 11 bucks more anyway... but is the 11 dollars worth the 333 vs 400 difference?

    i do not forsee upgrading these machines until another 2-3 years. the only major change i'd do hardware/software wise is installing quickbooks for wholesalers/manufacturers. other than that, nada.
     
  17. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    stick with the crucial, or go Corsair. Speed should MATCH what you have. So either find DDR266 or remove the existing memory and go all with 333/400.


    Windows does have some tools to work with imaging... Look into the "OEM PreInstallation Kit" which is perfect for what you want to do. With Win2k(3) then you can use RIS to actually push the images over the network...
     
  18. Peyomp

    Peyomp New Member

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    RIS is fucking great. Store their home directories on a network share and then regularly reinstall windows on each machine via RIS.
     
  19. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    Those Optiplexes aren't going to be big power users anyway, but to further reduce consumption you can set the workstations to go into Standby mode after sitting idle for three hours or so. That way, they can wake themselves up in the middle of the night to do their housekeeping, and then they'll go back to sleep afterwards.

    Something that's important to consider is whether the Optiplexes will burn more money than your manual labor would. The company can pay for the computers to maintain themselves, or they can pay for you to maintain them manually. I'm betting it would cost less to leave the Optiplexes in Standby all night.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2006
  20. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    You can find OEM memory at www.oempcworld.com. They're cheap and they match the OEM specs exactly. If nothing else, you can use that store as a way to find out what the OEM specs are before you go and buy fancy RAM.
     
  21. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    Another option is to use MSBackup to do an "Automated System Restore" backup of all the files on the one rebuilt computer onto a portable hard drive, along with a floppy disk that tells the install CD how to restore the computer. Then you can go to the other computers one by one, wipe their hard drives, boot up from the install CD, and run the ASR operation. Since you have floppy drives in all your workstations, this would be a piece of cake.
     
  22. Peyomp

    Peyomp New Member

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    I strongly recommend against running your own Exchange/Email server for 13 employees if you do not have a dedicated IT guy. NOT worth the overhead. Pay someone else to run your mail off-site.
     
  23. Schproda

    Schproda New Member

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    Ditch the asshat telling you to put Spybot S&D on your computers. It used to be okay, now it's barely that. And it isn't because of Spybot, it's because this high dollar consultant had such a lame fix for the problem.

    Is the server used for printing, a typical file server or application server? 800MHz isn't out of reach for a normal, non-workhorse server. I see sites daily with slower systems. As long as they're performing as a file server they're doing their job. If it's stable, work on other things first. If you have less than 512 in the server, you may consider bumping it up to a gig or more.

    How old are your tapes? Many tapes don't last much over a year. You should implement a Plan B in case you encounter a data loss problem.

    Anti-virus is no joEk. Get a good, corporate suite. Trend Micro also has spyware protection incorporated into it. Spyware will take a computer to its knees as fast as a virus or faster. Those two things along can bring any PC on your network down to where you think it's a network problem.

    DSL has limits. It may not even be a DSL problem but again be your router or 1000 spyware apps using your bandwidth, or even trojans.

    If your company has like 1 specialty application and the Excel and Email or something along those lines, the 260 isn't useless. As suggested earlier, upgrade them to 512MB if you don't do anything else. Replace the router. Linksys works, but is budget equipment as far as I am concerned.

    If you have laser printers there, you can already set them up as workgroup printers. The All-In-One can be shared but only as a printer without all the funtionallity of what it does. If you can SEE it from another PC and can't access it, turn on the guest account on the PC it's connected to.
     
  24. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I don't know what you mean by a SID, but I think I know the problem you're talking about. The solution is to create the ASR backup before the prototype machine gets added to a domain; when he re-images the other machines, he can then rename the machines and add them to the domain without having to worry about the domain losing track of which computers still exist.
     
  25. Peyomp

    Peyomp New Member

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    I just remember how often the corporate mail was out at places I've worked at with their own exchange servers and not enough expertise.
     

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