SITUATION: A larger company acquires a smaller one. IT infrastructure has to be merged. There are no immediate plans to change the current size or role of the smaller company - the offices and production remain.

It has a Win 2003 SBS domain server, Win 2000 file server, linux server for SVN and internal Wikipedia, 2 or 3 production machines, LTO backup solution. The servers are approx. 5 years old. Cisco network equippment (switches, wireless, ASA). Mail solution is a hosted Exchange. There are approx. 35 desktops and laptops in the company.

IT infrastructure unification: There are 2 IT merging proposals.

1.) Replacing old servers, installing Win Server 2008 domain controller, and setting up either subdomain or domain trust to a larger company. File server and other servers remain local and synchronization should be set up to a centralized location in larger company. Similary with the backup - it remains local and if needed it should be replicated to a centralized location. Licensing is managed by smaller company.

2.) All servers are moved to a centralized location in larger company. As many desktop machines as possible are replaced by thin clients. The actual machines are virtualized and hosted by Terminal server at the same central location. Citrix solutions will be used. Only router and site-2-site VPN connection remain at the smaller company. Backup internet line to insure near 100% availability is needed. Licensing is mainly managed by larger company. Only specialized software for PCs that will not be virtualized is managed by smaller company.

I'd like to ask you to discuss both solutions a bit. In your opinion, which is better from the operational point of view? Which is more reliable, cheaper in the long run? Easier to manage from the system administrator's point of view? Easier on the budget and easier to maintain from IT department's point of view? Does anybody have any experience with the second option and how does it perform in production environment?

Pros and cons of both?

Your input will be of great significance to me. Thank you very much!

Further comments:

The larger company is planning to implement seconnd solution internally for accountants and other "office" PCs. The infrastructure isn't there yet, but people with experience in this area will work on it. The smaller company would then also have about a third of its computers virtualized and put up on terminal server.

Comments No. 2 (answering some questions):

  • I am the admin of the smaller company :)
  • Admin from the bigger company and I are now in the process of discussing both options. Of course I believe the first option is better choice, but I would like to hear several other views.
  • We're a company that deals in R&D, so all in all about not more than 15 of 35 clients could be "transformed" into Thin Clients.
  • We have a 10/10 DSL line.
  • The hardware would be replaced as a part of upgrade. We now have Windows 2003 SBS, which doesn't allow for domain trusts or subdomains. If we upgrade, we will virtualize the server, possibly with freeware VMWare ESXi. The old hardware doesn't support HW-assisted virtualization.
  • I apologize about confusing terminology. By using "terminal server" I was referring to a solution, not to a specific product. At this moment it is not known which solution is going to be used, obviously some kind of VDI (Citrix XenDesktop, VMWare View...)
  • Is the infrastructure (and people needed to support it) for option 2 already setup at the larger company, or would this be the first time it has ever been attempted? (I won't have an answer for you, but it seems relevant to getting a good answer.) – MattB May 26 '10 at 13:29

Bearing in mind that I know absolutely nothing about the two companies and their financials, I suggest you start with an analysis of what is viable. e.g. Is the network between the two suitable for Terminal Services? If the performance isn't up to scratch when all the users are connected at the same time, assuming also that the TS server is up to that, this might be a non-event.

You haven't really given us any of the real reasoning behind your options. Why for instance do you want to go straight in and replace the hardware. So what if it is 5 years old? Is it currently doing the job it is intended to do? If it is then leave it alone until more urgent matters have been dealt with and look at the issue after the technical merger has been completed and a proper assessment of the requirements of the two companies has been made and then, based on facts rather than guesses, make an informed decision.

Consider also the human factor if the smaller company already has IT staff. Having previously been in a position where "head office" took away much of my control, as they did to admins in all "regional" sites, I can tell you that it's the best way to develop discontent. Once you start down that road you cannot reasonably expect full cooperation from the affected people.

In summary, it seems to me that you are trying to make a decision without having considered all the consequences. Slow down. Take it a step at a time and determine what needs to be changed, or what benefits will be gained by a change, before changing anything. Surely this doesn't have to be decided straight away.

  • Thank you for your answer. I have added some comments to my original post. Take a look at them, I hope they clarify the situation. As we are R&D oriented company (which is not going to change in near future - or so the new owners want us to believe), I think option 1. would be far better. Only about 1/3 of clients could be virtualized anyway and taking control from the site could result in decreased productivity of the R&D department. The process of implementing certain obvious IT solutions (version control for SW, CMS, etc.) would be very hindered... Or am I mistaken and only holding grudge? – imagodei May 27 '10 at 10:58

Building on what MattB said, stick with what you know best already, it'll be the most smooth. Option 1, upgrading the servers, upgrade the domain, make the cross domain trusts if you're sharing resources, and be sure the servers are following your corporate policies.


So many questions to compose a truly good answer.. From an IT admin standpoint 2 is likely less headache if the skill sets and infrastructure are available. You are switching terminology by stating Terminal server and virtualizing PC's in the same sentence. These are two significant, different things, each with pros / cons and separate requirements - especially if the in house skills / infrastructure do not already exists. VDI is very demanding on the infrastructure and is still fairly 'green'. Terminal Server / RDS can be a sensitive environment to maintain and user's don't always adjust well.

Depending on the file server data(big files vs small files) it may or may not be better to have it remote or central. Chances are wherever it lives is where the 'fat' of the clients should be.

Is there onsite IT at the 'small' shop (that is being kept around)? This can make all the world of difference as well. If even minimal IT help is available there, option 1 will probably work better.

You have to consider user productivity as well. If the final decision cuts into each user's productivity by even only a few minutes per day - that can be a significant cost over time. Of course the opposite is true as well!

Good Luck!

  • Thank you for your answer. I have added some comments to my original post. Take a look at them, I hope they clarify the situation. Please - if you find anything to add, it would make me really happy. :) – imagodei May 27 '10 at 11:01

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