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Looking to find the right hardware/software for a new computer system for a retail company with about 10 on-site computers. The company is growing and has no online business yet but is ripe to expand at some stage in the near future. Need a new server and other hardware pool due to rebate purchases before the end of June. Plan to run "out of the box" accounting and database package with the option to change software later. Concerned about whether it is best to run with a Vista oriented OS over other Windows, curious about Ubuntu for small business and other open source options down the track. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

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Just an FYI, everyone is going to say go to serverfault.com. –  Gromer May 20 '09 at 6:33
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5 Answers

Just remember that in a business environment support and down time counts for a lot. Reliability for cost is the main issue here.

Don't be reliant on one member of staff to support your system.

Implement some form of backup strategy which allows you to store your sensitive data (accounts, stock control, etc.) offsite. Run this on a daily basis incrementally and a full backup weekly.

Will you be needing EPOS points? (These only need to be thin client terminals.)

Integration with PIN card payment? (You'll need to contact your bank to discuss this.)

Barcode scanning?

Invoice/receipt printing?

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Odds are your business employees are going to expect Microsoft Office. If you can find a place for linux to fit, go for it, use whatever makes the most sense to the business.

I'd suggest for a business network just choosing your hardware manufacturer as either Dell or HP, find a good representative, and have them help you build up your infrastructure.

Perhaps look at different vendors like Juniper/Cisco/Checkpoint/Watchguard when you start to need firewalls or remote access, but for your LAN you really won't see a huge benefit when you're small.

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You don't say what your own skillbase is. Assuming your company is similar to other SMEs I've seen, the most important issue is your network support.

With ten users the obvious choice would be MS Small Business Server. It's a bargain given what's included, and SBS support skills are widely available. However I wouldn't advise trying to install this on your your own unless you're already experienced with SBS 2003/Windows Server. In your place I would go to an experienced network guy and get a support contract at least for the first year while you get comfortable with the setup.

Re hardware, the obvious choice is between Dell and HP, and I don't think there is much to choose between them. I'm a long term Dell user, and right now I think the Poweredge 2950 is the best value for money/performance option out there. However if you do go with an external firm ask them to advise you as they'll have preferred hardware that they know well. If you do go with Dell get a Silver support contract. 4 hour response may seem a luxury until you run into a hardware problem on a busy day.

Other comments: terminal services is very popular these days, so if budget permits get a server to act as a TS server. Also, maybe it's a luxury, but it's nice to have a Terastation (or other NAS) that you can put in a cupboard where hopefully any thieves won't find it. Where available I not only replicate the data to a Terastation, but I use replication software that keeps deleted and updated files indefinitely so it's quite rare that you need to reach for a backup tape.

The "L" word always gets mentioned in these discussions. Like many of us I've used Linux for specialist applications. I don't have the experience with Linux to say how good it is as a "SBS" type server. I would say that if you're considering Linux cost up how much it will be to get an expert to set it up, and make sure that support is available.

John Rennie

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You're pretty much stuck with Vista on the desktop on the timeframes you're talking about. Happily, getting your network Vista-friendly will make Win7 easier to deploy when a few more people get hired. And yes, getting Linux in early is the best way to make sure it stays around. Perhaps as the file-server, with Samba running in domain mode.

I'm not that familiar with off-the-shelf accounting software in the modern era so can't accurately forecast what you might need in that regard. I know in the office I've heard a lot of positive feedback about OpenOffice, even from long time MS-Office users. It may not hurt to install both MSO and OO and see what turns up.

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Maybe to answer your question is to show where We went wrong. Our business was very small about 3 years ago. We got sbs2003 which worked well, including exchange server (included). We had about 10+ pc (locally) connecting to domain. Then we started expanding very fast. 4 new depots + 20 new clients wanting to use domain controller. We expanded our out of the box accounting packaged and decided to go the terminal server route. NOW. SBS2003 cannot be setup as a terminal server and having a dedicated server 2003 machine running as a DC and terminal server is not recommended. So we got another server handling the accounting package through terminal service. Another problem we had was that one of the remote depots also got a server running server 2003 (without consulting me) and wanted to setup a trust relationships with my sbs DC. BIG Problem. sbs 2003 cannot create a trust relationship with another server 2003 so they cannot authenticate on my DC. We are now stuck with a disjointed network. Also please have someone explain to you the NIGHtMARE of windows lisencing. It will save you a huge, and I mean, HUGE amount of money in the future. So, be carefull of sbs2003. though it is a great bundle, it can cause you allot of headaches in the future

What I am getting at is if you are going to expand. Fork out the money now to prevent the scenario we are in now.

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