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Network Topology Advice Needed

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#1 byonic


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Posted 23 October 2006 - 12:29 PM

Hello folks,

I thank you in advance for your advice and replies, it's greatly appreciated.

Here's my problem:

I have a small network (8 PCs & 2 Printers) which I have been given the task of looking after. It currently functions on a peer network set up, using a Netgear DG834G router and a Netgear EN108 hub. My (limited) IT knowledge is enough to keep the network functioning, but it does suffer from the occasional hiccup. Eg. Internet connection goes down or shared databases become unreachable. The machine used as a 'file server' is running an ancient version of Win 98. (The other machines run Win XP). I also have a IP conflict if a laptop is connected to the network.

What I have been asked to do is to increase the number of machines using the network.

I would like to do this, but understand there is a limit to the number of devices that can be connected to a peer network, and that a switch to a client / server model may be necessary. Is this true?

To do this, I have been looking at smart switches, but don't really understand them. It seems like quite a leap of equipment and expertise going from a peer network to a client / server network! I have researched client /server networks online today but feel none the wiser. How do they function? Do I need to change operating systems on the client machines? What client/ server OS do I require?

Would someone be kind enough to suggest an excellent (and foolproof) network layout and machine configs? What about back ups, virus protection & security, and administration necessary?

How would you networking gurus plan out this project? What sort of things should I be taking into consideration, what things do I need to find out before taking the first steps? What system specs would you recommend for this project?

Really, any advice or suggestions would be helpful. Feel free to ask any questions if I didn't explain things well enough. I've never tackled this sort of project before so want to get as much planning and advice as I can before I get started.

Thank you very much!

Edited by byonic, 23 October 2006 - 04:49 PM.

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#2 usasma


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Posted 27 October 2006 - 08:15 PM

I'm not aware of a limitation on the number of computers able to connect (although the EULA for XPHome specifies 5 as the max). It's more a matter of your ability to administer them effectively.

If the network is working OK for you - I'd suggest leaving it as is. I've recently become a fan of simple switches in a small business because they simplify the connectivity issues on the LAN.

Does the IP conflict come after the laptop is resumed from hibernation? If so, it's most likely that the laptop has retained the old IP address that it had - but that IP address was reassigned while the laptop was in hibernation.

Another problem could be that the laptop and another device have the same static IP address assigned to them - you can change this in the TCP/IP properties of the computer's network connection.

I recently did some research on this sort of thing (I had to rebuild my wife's work network after a lightning strike) and found out some very interesting things:
1) The file server concept is a PITA. But we're restricted to it by the software that she uses.
2) It's essential to have many layers of backup for the file server. If it goes down - no one can work. I'm now starting to implement RAID 1 on her file server and will then move to hot-swappable drives. Then I'll setup one of the other computers to accept the hot-swappable drives (in case the file server dies completely).
3) I was working with a 5 computer LAN - and found that AVG Pro and Zone Alarm Pro were the most economical solutions available. I also used the Windows Defender beta - but haven't reviewed their EULA for the final, released version.
4) Zone Alarm caused serious problems with our software - so much so that I decided to cut off all internet access at the router and uninstall the Zone Alarm software. My experience with the ZA tech support left quite a lot to be desired - it appeared to me that they didn't even bother to read my complete email.
5) I solved some of the connectivity issues by the use of mirrored accounts on all systems. Each system has an administrator account for me only - and a user account that's the same on every system. Since these are shared systems this doesn't present a problem to individual users.
6) I'd seriously consider upgrading the file server to XP - matching OS's make you job as the IT guy much, much easier.
7) Consider using remote software tools to administer the network. My wife's office is required to have pcAnywhere by her software supplier - so that's what I use. When a problem happens at the office, I launch pcAnywhere at home and am able to access those systems just as if I'm in the building.
8) As for the network layout - KISS is the principle to keep in mind. Use one switch if at all possible. You can add an access point if needed - and if it's got wireless (and so does the laptop) then the laptop can connect wirelessly.
9) Ensure that your are the king of IT in this office! And that the boss supports you in this. There's nothing worse than having to run around trying to keep everyone happy with their individual requirements. Also, establish an IT policy, get the boss to sign off on it, and then enforce it. Some things to consider are limiting the administrator accounts to as few people as possible, your unrestricted access to all systems, internet access policies, system maintenance policies, system and data security, etc, etc, etc.
10) I'm considering going to a client/server network right now - but it's more for my education than it is for the wife's network. I'd guess that the point for a server is when you get tired of running from system to system.
11) Oh, and don't forget an automatic update solution. Your software and security policies will address this - but you're the one that has to actually perform the updates. There are expensive solutions available for this, or you can look for auto-updating software solutions when you shop for solutions (things like AVG, Windows Defender, and Windows Update can be set to do it without human intervention).
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#3 acklan


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Posted 29 October 2006 - 01:21 AM

John has laid it out very well. I have a 13 computer LAN. I use AVG for the AV but I use SyGate 5.5 as my firewall. It is solid and is freeware. You may want to invest in a NAS (Network Attached Storage) as your file server, or FreeNAS as a simple alternative.
For managing your upgrades remotely you could look at RealVNC. this software allows you to trouble shoot or maintain your clients from a remote computer.
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