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I have one main site with several servers an a 2008/2012 environment. I have 4 remote sites that are physically close (a few miles apart) and are all connected to the main site by 20meg fiber on a private network. At each of the remote locations I have a windows server that users log in to and where their files and apps are located.

There are many considerations to answering this question. But the first thing I am wondering is do I really need a server at each location? Users are just logging in to this server for permissions and a vast majority of my users are only using word, excel and email.

I am really interested in figuring out if I need servers at these locations. $3,000 to $4,000 per server every 3-5 years, licensing, administration...

I know there are other considerations - speed, redundancy, if my link to the main site goes down the users have nothing. But I just am not convinced I need servers at these locations.

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closed as not constructive by HopelessN00b, John Gardeniers, Michael Hampton, Scott Pack, Magellan Oct 8 '12 at 3:49

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Sorry, but flagging this question since it is extremely vague and will never deliver a single "answer". Specific questions on your topic could be answered, but not in the way you answered this question. examples of better questions could be "what would the user experience be if WAN went down and DC was not onsite", or listing all the rolls of your WAN servers and asking for details on the expected experience or workaround for not having those services avail during outage, etc. –  Bret Fisher Oct 1 '12 at 1:11
    
Bret you are correct it is vague and it doesnt have one answer. I know that questions here should be answerable but had a momentary lapse. Either way, so great responses so far! –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:17
    
I probably should have been more specific as the root of my question is "why cant I have remote users log in to a windows domain with a 20mbps WAN connection". It's more or less been answered. I don't. –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:20
    
One more thing - we are local government with very basic computing needs. VERY basic. –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:21
    
Even basic needs must be met, which you can't reliably do without those remote servers. –  John Gardeniers Oct 1 '12 at 6:03
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5 Answers 5

How much trust do you have in your WAN links? The answer to that question will determine whether or not you need to have servers in each location.

If your business can survive with a WAN link down for a day or two, then you can probably get away with centralizing your servers and saving money.

if your business will be significantly harmed by having the WAN link down, then you will need local servers to provide support during the outages.

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I'd say I have complete trust in my WAN links. We are paying an outrageous amount (IMO) for them and they have been 99.999999% up for the 2 years we've had them. –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:11
    
@IMAbev With that kind of trust, you can safely host the servers centrally. –  sysadmin1138 Oct 1 '12 at 2:14
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While I most generally agree with the sentiment.. A couple HP Mini servers (that cost <$1000) could act as RODC and BranchCache (or DFS); provide almost all the benefits of a server on-site at minimal cost and administrative overhead. The whole question strikes me as "Should I use a 10# Sledgehammer OR by bare hand to drive in a finish nail?" There are options in-between the extremes. –  Chris S Oct 1 '12 at 2:30
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Your considerations will be network profiles, file and resource locations, and uptime. If your WAN link goes down, your users will be more or less OK if they have local profiles (they can log into windows using cached credentials and work with their files), but if they have network profiles (which is what it sounds like), they are totally dependent on the WAN link unless they have their profile and a DC at the right site. With a server at each site, they can each get their DNS through it for your domain, and have their profile folder stored there.

If you aren't doing much with the server at each site, your costs might be a little overestimated; you can run a DC+fileserver on some fairly minimal hardware. You may well be able to get it down to $2000. However, if it is a terminal server (the apps you mentioned), then your estimate is probably right.

The other consideration is whether you want to maintain such a large WAN link and use lots of bandwidth transferring files between your offices because you store them at a different location than you use them. This may not be a big constraint depending on your business and your service provider, but nobody is metering your LAN traffic.

If data transfer rates are minimal, you have a good SLA, and short business interruptions aren't a big deal, you could probably save some money by centralizing.

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We have network profiles. My server costs may be a little overestimated. We have spec'd more than we needed. I have pretty good monitoring tools. Maybe I should really study the data transfer these sites do on a daily basis. My best guess its very low because my daily incremental backups can be < 10 meg on average. –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:13
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From the details you've given I'd say no you don't, unless the users have large files. I'd consider sticking their files on an office 365 SharePoint site and use their logons for authentication with the cloud. Depending on the size of your company would wouldn't be stuck for redundancy and you cold drop those 20meg network links.

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This is the answer I want to hear. I am really trying to make a case for not having local servers. Once I make that case I can identify what we will lose out on. I need to look more in to Office 365. –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:16
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In my opinion, yes, you need a domain controller. if your WAN link goes down, your computers are useless without a domain controller. And with a 20 meg link, a print server would be a good idea. Virtualize all of it.

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It depends. There are a number of factors that can influence whether or not you need a server at each of your remote sites, or whether you can get by with alternatives such as a backup VPN tunnel to your primary site or some sort of VDI solution like Citrix, Terminal Server or VMware View (you also don't mention if you have anything like this in place today).

Some of those factors are:

  1. Number of users at each site
  2. Backup/disaster recovery requirements
  3. Business Requirements
  4. Future plans (such as implementing a VDI solution)

In my opinion, it is a good idea to have at least one server in every location with more than 15-20 people. It speeds up logins to their desktop, and it makes managing print jobs easier if they are flowing through a central server.

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Good considerations. Thanks! –  IMAbev Oct 1 '12 at 1:22
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