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Hey, currently our office has no server or ability to share documents from a central server. We are exploring options to determine the best way to 1. share documents and 2. back them up.

The current floating idea is we get an in house server to share documents on and use as a NAS

We would then back up that NAS to a cloud service that does backups (i.e. Carbonite). The one issue here is still that employees would not be able to access the shared documents outside the office.

Our current idea is to get a router with VPN tunneling built in i.e. the Cisco RV042 Dual WAN/VPN Router. This router would allow users to connect in and access our network shares.

Keep in mind this is a start up with limited money so we're trying to be creative but diligent in our setup so that it can scale and still be usable when our budget expands

UPDATE- Most of are users will be using Apple MacBooks or Desktops, so ideally solutions would need to be compatible.

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3 Answers 3

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It sounds as if you've already identified exactly what you need:

  • A place to store documents
  • A way to back them up
  • A way to give remote users secure access to the documents

A NAS and VPN will give you exactly what you want. Depending on your price point, you have lots of options -- a consumer level NAS (which these days can scale to several TB of storage) and router w/ OpenVPN would give you what you want for well under $1000 (some assembly required).

A more supported solution from major vendors will cost a bit more, but is more likely to work "out of the box". Dell makes a Windows-based NAS (the NX300 that retails for around $3000. This plus the Cisco router you're looking at would probably be fine.

You could also consider hosting everything at a cloud service provider. DropBox, box.net, and others provide models for secure storage and sharing of documents. This saves you from having to host the equipment (and maintain it) yourself, but you're trusting the security of the service provider. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends largely on the size of your IT staff (that is, do you have the staff resources to ensure the security of a locally hosted solution).

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Personally I'd look at getting a server, share out the documents.

Get a second server, use it to make backups. Rotate backups offsite as necessary, or use a fireproof safe to store archived backups. Eliminates bandwidth use and network congestion during the creation of backups if you're doing it to a "cloud." I don't trust sending my data offsite to a third party anyway, but that's me.

As for VPN tunneling I'd probably look at using a Linux box configured as a VPN server. Plenty of howto's are a google away for it, saves some cost if you're looking to absolutely minimize your budget, and is configurable. And it should work without extra client software to install.

Cisco routers are costlier, but if you know what you're doing and don't mind their client software they work well too. My personal preference is the Linux VPN server but if you have the budget, Cisco's nice. There's plenty of options for using VPN's.

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Going in a different direction, I would consider a hosted intranet service unless the files are very large. There are many intranet providers which can do file sharing, backup/revision control & access control. These work equally well for on & off site users and are inherently cross platform friendly. For many small org's, particularly geographically distributed ones, this is the way to get started quickly and cheaply. Get a backup internet connection if downtime is a concern. This is also a reasonable DIY project while setting up a server/NAS & VPN connections will probably require some outside help to get done correctly.

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