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Want to setup an intranet for a small business setup.

Current Setup

  • 28 computers running Windows ( few older pc's run Windows Xp but most run Windows 7)

  • Spare Dell Pentium 3 which can run as a server.

  • 6 switches spare NIC's and lots of lan cable available for networking.

  • 3 Independent Internet connections

Currently we have 3 independent networks which share internet connections, each network uses a different internet connection. Current network is setup solely to share the internet connection.

What I need to achieve in this intranet

  • Setup one common network.

  • Instant file transfer via local network (maybe setup a file server?)

  • Local text and voice messenger software

  • Bridge the 3 internet connections and route all the internet connections from the main server

  • Ability to allow or deny internet access to any computer on the network.

  • Remote access from the main server to the client pc's on the network to debug software issues

What operating system should I use on the main server? Do I need a hardware firewall?

Any setup guides / resources or how-to's on how I can achieve the above requirements.

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The question as asked is too broad. You need someone to design your network, not just suggest an operating system and point you to a couple how-to's. –  Ward Apr 24 '10 at 23:06
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1 Answer

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Q: What operating system should I run on the main server?

A: Your network is small, but it is large enough that the "spare Pentium III" is unlikely to provide satisfactory performance as your only server.

Unless you want to take some serious crash courses and get trained/certified in Windows or Linux server administration, you should take a serious look at Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server.

The Mac Mini server, which costs far less than a similarly capable Windows server and includes client access licensing in the base price, could be a more than adequate file/print/messaging server for your network. Using RAID 1 will provide protection against the most likely point of server failure (hard disk crash) without going overboard in terms of cost.

(Note for the curious: I earn my living as a Windows network/server administrator, but I am also Apple certified. I understand both worlds well enough that I feel justified in asserting that this is an informed and unbiased recommendation.)

Q: Do I need a hardware firewall?

A: Yes, that would be standard practice. If you are looking for an edge firewall solution that you may be able to deploy using low-cost software on commodity hardware, check out Untangle. It will help you to implement some of your listed objectives, including multi-WAN (to share the three internet connections) and per-user access control for web connections.

Q: Any setup guides / resources or how-to's on how I can achieve the above requirements?

A: If you are going to do this right, you should plan on reading entire books about this subject. Many of them.

Req: Local text and voice messenger software

A: You can run a Jabber server on whatever platform you choose. Fortunately for you, this feature is included in the Mac Mini server, so it won't even be hard to set up.

Req: Remote access from the main server to the client pc's on the network to debug software issues

A: In your environment, TightVNC will work fine for this. For security, be sure to configure a complex password and instruct the client stations to ask the user for permission before accepting a connection.

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Thanks for the amazing and descriptive reply, and I'm willing to read up and do the ground work could please point me to any books on the subject I really don't mind reading my way up on this topic. Definitely will start-up the mac mini way but would like to read up on Windows Server and Linux server too –  rzlines Apr 25 '10 at 8:02
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