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I'm one class away from my BA IT, I took several classes in general IT. Out of all the books I found just two to be really beneficial, so I'm trying to get the hands on experience.

I want to build a small test network that has both wireless and also wired clients, a printer, a laptop, a desktop, and server (I have 2x 1TB drives of data that I want to be available to all computers).

What should I do to configure these in a way that will reflect how a small business might be set up, so that I can work towards some meaningful experience.

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We don't do shopping here. I'm editing your question in an effort to keep it on topic. – MDMarra Sep 6 '12 at 22:24
Business don't build servers, except the extreme major players like Google. They buy from HP or Dell (or if they get suckered into it they'll buy from IBM, SuperMicro, or the others). Building a server from parts is sometimes more expensive up front, but considerably more expensive when you have to support device interactions, warranty, updates, and the rest of "Total Cost of Ownership". The HP DL380 G5 is a bit older, but also dirt cheap, and comes with all the "Enterprise" features to get your feet wet. – Chris S Sep 6 '12 at 23:03
<waits for @voretaq7 to defend SuperMicro in 3..2..1..> – MDMarra Sep 6 '12 at 23:17
@MDMarra Getting good SuperMicro gear is all about getting it through a good reseller. On the balance the stuff I get from my reseller has equal or better reliability to Dell and costs about a third less. Purchasing won't let me buy a Lamborghini when a Ford will suffice (so don't leave the keys to your Lambo unattended or that sucker's MINE!) – voretaq7 Sep 7 '12 at 1:16
Hell if you want to make a shit ton of money after school, learn the mainframe! I know it sounds stupid but all of the guys who run them now are about to retire, you still can't beat the price performance of one based on load, so if you can acquire those skills through school you are much better off, working for big banks and the fed. government. – Brent Pabst Sep 7 '12 at 3:19

Get a managed switch that supports VLANs. Preferably from one of the bigger names, like Cisco, Juniper, Arista, HP, Dell, or Extreme. You can get a Cisco 3500 series on eBay for about $100. Get a router that you can put DD-WRT on (unless you have cash to burn on a real high-end router or L3 switch). You might even be able to get a decent used Cisco router on eBay, but I wouldn't know what to recommend. DD-WRT is a custom firmware for consumer-grade routers that adds support for some enterprise features, and has enough features to get you learning.

Set up a server and share out your files to your workstations. The OS is your choice. If you're looking for real-world Linux experience, use CentOS. CentOS is extremely similar to RHEL and OEL, which are major players in the Enterprise Linux game. Put this server on one VLAN. Put your workstations on another VLAN. Put wireless clients on a third VLAN (DD-WRT can handle this). Configure routing across all three VLANS, plus a default route out to the Internet. After you have this in place, you can play around with ACLs to limit traffic between the VLANs.

This will mimic a small business configuration. DD-WRT isn't really used in a business setting, but it gives you features like true 802.1q VLAN support that you don't normally get unless you spend a pretty significant amount of cash on a dedicated L3 device.

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Cisco is basically king of routers in Enterprise Land, with Juniper as the court jester, and nobody else much matters (except the open source projects, but they're in their own category). For VPNs and security routing the ASA5505 is about as cheap as it gets at <$200 (eBay). For small business integrated services the Cisco 2801 is about as cheap as it gets while getting the "real" experience (if small scale) at <$200 (eBay) too. – Chris S Sep 6 '12 at 23:00
@ChrisS No denying that Cisco is king, but HP ProCurve, Extreme Networks, and Arista kit all have a decent chunk of what's left. I wouldn't say that they don't matter, but I agree that when you're learning, you should learn on Cisco if at all possible. – MDMarra Sep 6 '12 at 23:15
@ChrisS Juniper has moved up in the world of routers/firewalls/load-balancers - I think they're at least a major duke (York or Cambridge) at this point. – voretaq7 Sep 7 '12 at 1:18
@MDMarra, if Extreme is way more affordable than Cisco and "good enough" in an enterprise network, how could Extreme be around since 1996 and only have $350M per year in revenues? Compare to Cisco's yearly revenues at $45Billion and Juniper at $4.5Billion (more telling fact: Juniper Networks was formed after Extreme). After working with Extreme gear, I can't say I share the comment about it being "pretty solid". Back to the OP's question... If the OP is trying to break into the job market, using Extreme to sell your resume is a poor investment of time when you look at market share. – Mike Pennington Sep 7 '12 at 2:28
@MikePennington In case you missed it, I did strongly recommend Cisco. Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal from both of us, but three fully populated Black Diamond Chassis, plus at least 90 48-port switches of various models and I don't remember a single hardware related issue other than the occasional fan failure due to being in a crazy dusty environment. Not sure why you're choosing to harp on Extreme. Lots of college students are broke. If OP can't afford Cisco gear but has access to something else; learning on something is better than learning on nothing, right?. – MDMarra Sep 7 '12 at 2:37

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