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Beginner in networking but figuring out options

My uncle has asked me to help him with networking. I'm fairly techie and have studied networking in the past. But I'm mainly support than networking. Hoping you guys can recommend something.

  • 4 workstations but future proofing for 20 ppl.

  • workstations have access to files and folders on the network, a server. Will Microsoft server 2013 suffice?

  • Remote Access to the 4 workstations or more in the future from his other office via VPN. How safe is this? What's the best route for this?

Pretty standard stuff but i want to make sure I do this right the first time. Any help is appreciated!

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level 1

For building the network you have few decisions to make, based on use-cases. Always think how the network will be used and then design it based on that.

Being old school, and not working with a lot of information, I can only recommend to build a physical LAN with UTP cables for the workstations and go for a wifi hot spot(s) to cover mobility needs (laptops/cell phones/BYOD). For the sizing and furutre expansion buy at least 24 port switch supporting 1Gbps on each port. You don't need anything fancy. Basic L2 switch will suffice. I assume you have a Router available from the ISP where you can configure DHCP service.

Agreed on the cloud solution for file sharing. However make sure your internet link has enough capacity. This is the main factor influencing the "cloud experience" especially if you have more services hosted in cloud. I can't stress this enough because my clients chronically underestimate the importance of high capacity internet connection when migrating to cloud :) Alternatively, especially if the use case is to share very large files only within the local office, you can go for of the shelf light weight NAS solution, this can save some money on upgrading of the internet link. You definitely don't need a full blown microsoft server just for file sharing. Bottom line: clarify use-cases first, consider options, then decide ;)

For remote access you don't need a VPN service in its general definition. If you don't need a full VPN between offices or branches and only need access to the workstations, then you can use either build in microsoft remote desktop application (not available in windowns home editions), or go for a 3rd party (e.g. Team Viewer, VNC ...). I know Team Viewer is encrypted in the base version. I think you need a license for VNC. For commercial use you need license for both (your case).

For connecting small remote offices and future expansion you can check Meraki all in one solution from Cisco. When I've seen it it blown me away. It's Cloud hosted, with super easy management. It might be an overkill for your particular use case, but definitely worth considering for future expansion.

level 1
Moderator | Infrastructure Architect5 points · 1 month ago

Do the files & folders need to be on a local server?
Why not a cloud service like Microsoft OneDrive ?

20 users sounds like an awfully small environment for a physical server.

Push all the remote access stuff through a VPN solution, not Remote Desktop via port-forwarding.

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 1 month ago

Do I need to use OneDrive for Business or will the normal version suffice?

level 3
Moderator | Infrastructure Architect1 point · 1 month ago

If you want to share files among multiple users in an office, you will want the Business version.

$5 per month per person.

20 users. That's $100/month

A nice, but not elaborate server for simple File & Print, with licensing for 20 users would cost you somewhere around $2-3,000.

Now you need to back the data on that server up to something. Call that $50/month in backup tapes or DVDs.

(I have no idea how much data we are talking about needing to be shared)

So, I understand that $100/month kind of sounds expensive at first glance.
But you didn't have to buy that $2-3,000 server. That just paid for 3 years of service.
And you didn't have to pay for a data backup solution either, which would have been $50-80/month anyway.

Google is priced in the same ballpark:

level 4
Original Poster1 point · 1 month ago

Perfect thank you. I will proceed with One Drive Business.

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 1 month ago

Is one drive reliable? And can be shared among multiple stations? Can i also assign different users inside of it with permissions?

level 3
Moderator | Infrastructure Architect1 point · 1 month ago

Why don't you sign up (for free) and experiment ?

If you can avoid building a physical server, it will be a good thing.

level 4
Original Poster1 point · 1 month ago

Interesting. I'll look into this thanks.

level 3

Yes it is and yes it can. Access databases are a hurdle though.

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