I am in charge of maintaining the infrastructure of a small (<25 users) family owned business. Here's the setup we currently have.


I started out using one ISP provided email with one outlook express, to using shared hosting with 3 email POP accounts with Outlook. Over the years, as email got bigger and bigger, I have migrated over to a VPS (PLESK) running it's own mail server, and after that we have been using the free version of Google Apps with 11 users.


I leave the mail on the google apps server, because every now and then the computers break down and a reformat is usually the easiest solution. So for newly formatted computers, they have to redownload mail. For some users, I make sure that they save their Outlook mail on another directory so that I can just point Outlook to the correct outlook mail data file.


For the accounting/admin portion of the business, we have about 5 users using an accounting software which runs on a manually configure private ip range. (This can be reconfigured easily). Each accounting enabled computer has it's own dot matrix printer. Openvpn itself is installed the accounting server.


The file server is simply a windows shared directory of one of the computers with email access.


All email users have unrestricted internet access via the router's dhcp. Some accounting users have unrestricted internet access. I have simply configured this by not entering a DNS/GATEWAY manually.


  • Simple Belkin ADSL Router
  • Simple 24 Port 100 MBps switch One main USB
  • printer/fax machine connected to an email enabled computer, via
    windows share.
  • One backup USB printer connected to the router.
  • One NAS that backs up files from the fileserver.

The entire office will be undergoing a relocation and upgrade in 3-4 months, it seems to me that this would be a great chance to remove all the legacy file servers, setup archiving methods, and use proper methods to manage all computers and security.

As you can tell, the whole office's setup is a hack here and there. Google Apps is great, but I find that 7 GB of email is not enough for me, it simply fills up too quickly.

Assuming I have an automated archival process, I should be able to remove mail from the gmail apps server after I download it. I have done some research and found MailArchiver to suit my needs, but I am not sure if this is the direction I should go.

Which brings me to the actual question, would it be overkill to setup domain services for less than 25 users? While I can maintain my own linux machine and webservers in my spare time, I do not have any windows server experience, exchange server experience, I have also never setup AD/LDAP solutions.

Optimally, the final solution should involve something like this: It should have a reasonably easy to understand frontend to configure. Multiple frontends for multiple services is fine.

  • It should be easy to implement a fail safe solution (anything is fixable in 2 hours with reasonable backup resources) ie. if the firewall machine is impossibly down, I can have a duplicate machine which I can easily load the config, replace firewall and I'll be ready to go.
    ie. if a machine is down, restore dell config, setup outlook, etc.

  • Hopefully I do not have to manage an email server at all.

  • When email users login, they will find their drives mapped to the shared folder.

  • When accounting users login, they will not have access to the internet.
  • When managers login, they will have 2 drives mapped to shared folders and internet access.
  • All users will have their own home directory.
  • All users will be able print documents on the shared printer.

I do not expect this to be easily achiveable, it would take a reasonable amount of background work and time to setup, but it would be great if someone could drop me an idea and point me in the right direction to go.

closed as too localized by womble, Bart De Vos, voretaq7 Jul 26 '12 at 21:14

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Throughout the years when I was faced with such "massive" changes (massive in the sense of "from what I have now") I always applied the same strategy which has worked well for me:

  1. Clear up and write down your long term goals ie how do you visualize your final system state?
  2. Lay down a clear and gradual change to systems. Modularize your approach ie change of file services, print services, backup services etc Unless you are willing to risk a black out for days or weeks!!
  3. Start from the basic infrastructure first (your network?).
  4. Plan ahead and study possible unforeseen complications OR risk a serious disruption

In my opinion a move to new office location IS NOT the time for serious system changes. There will be a lot of other activities that will prevent you from working at full speed. UNLESS, of course, you have the luxury of changing everything, using new equipment and plenty of time for testing. Which is seldom the case.

  • You make good points. I was intending of running the proposed system in current workplace concurrently while letting a subset of users try out the "new" systems. What I meant was that now is a good time for me to find solutions and implementing it before the move, so we can have a complete running system when the move is complete. I realise it does sound a irrational after re-reading my first post. – kenshinjeff Mar 28 '12 at 6:17

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