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It looks like my older brother is about to change jobs - from lawyer to shooting range proprietor - and since I'm the family 'computer guy' I have the task of coming up with and setting up the in-store equipment.

Only problem, I don't know how to start or where to look. I'm a web programmer, not an IT specialist.

To that end, I figured I should ask the pros.

Users: 3 (myself, my brother, and his business partner)
Equipment: 1 Windows (likely 7) desktop for POS software, 1 Windows desktop/laptop for backroom use (bookkeeping, etc.)
Other: ??

I'm looking for a reliable and, well, idiot-proof way to handle backups. Neither my brother nor his business partner are tech savvy (A web browser, email, MS Word and Excel are about the extent of their knowledge), so I need something they can handle. On-site would be preferable to off-site, given my brother's hesitance to have sensitive business data be handled by an outside source.

I'm also looking for a small on-site server. I estimate that, at most, only 2-3 users will need access. A linux solution would keep costs down, but I'm concerned about Windows <-> linux interoperability.

Would the store security cameras' storage be handled by the security company, or would we have to stream that data to our own server? I know from my own experience with personal security that the company gives/loans a recording device to the home owner, but I'm not sure about business security.

I know this sounds like a shopping list, and it's pretty vague. I wish I could give more detail, but between my own ignorance and things not being 100% nailed down on the business end, I'm a bit stuck. At the very least I'd like a nudge - links on a place to start, what to look for, things I need to think about, etc. - for this endeavor.

Thanks.

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You really should start by talking to some vendors, or perhaps hiring an expert. For instance, contact a Microsoft sales rep and ask them about server options for your situation. You'll learn a lot, even if you don't buy anything from them. –  Michael Hampton Oct 13 '12 at 21:25
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closed as not constructive by John Gardeniers, Magellan, Brent Pabst, Scott Pack, Iain Oct 17 '12 at 21:30

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

All separate services...

Your point-of-sale vendor will help you with requirements for the POS solution, and may provide the hardware.

Security systems are usually discrete and the vendor you use for that will probably bring a DVR solution. Consider IP cameras for flexibility.

PC's are PC's... A good local tech can help you there. Think about mail, web hosting and other internet-facing services. Possibly outsource those. (assuming you'll do the web design)

You haven't really provided much of a case for Linux, based on what I hear. It won't necessarily keep costs down... Maybe a Microsoft Small Business Server is worth a look.

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Indeed. I <3 Linux, but I wouldn't use it in the back office here. –  Michael Hampton Oct 13 '12 at 21:39
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If you only need file sharing and/or backups, I consider a better deal to use a NAS solution (look up drobo). This is much simpler than a full server

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+1 A NAS and hosted email (Google is free at this scale) means there is no need for a server. –  John Gardeniers Oct 13 '12 at 22:05
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You need to step back and sort out exactly what functions you need before you worry too much about how to back "stuff" up.

I'm only familiar with grocery and coffee shop POS systems, but I'm sure there are many suppliers you can choose from for your needs. I wouldn't plan on buying your own generic PC for it until you talk to some suppliers, they'll tell you what to get and/or sell it to you. If you're checking local suppliers, don't forget to call cash register dealers.

Hosted email would be the way to go at the scale you're talking about, Google Apps would be an easy starting point.

Since your users are used to Windows apps, you could start by just using a desktop and sharing a couple folders on it. I don't think a NAS box would be any easier for them to use. Backups can be syncing the data to at least a couple external drives.

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