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Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

We have 4 employees on 4 computers and no network, server, or shared hard drive to share our production files.
Any tips on a cheap way to get networked to a external hard drive that has lots of space and is easily backed up?
I have no knowledge in this area so please be as specific as possible or help me out by pointing me to a good resource.
I heard some sort of a network to a shared hard drive would be cheaper then a full blown server roll out which I think prices out at $3k.

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

You want to research Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices.  Essentially hard-drives in a box attached to your Local Area Network (LAN).  A LAN can be created for a few hundred dollars using one computer as the controller and a small 8-port network hub.

Dan - Owner

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

You can get started with a simple, two processor server and use Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS).  It is full of wizards and it fairly is straight forward to set up.  Today's RAID technology uses cheaper SATA drives rather than the SCSI drives from a decade ago.  You should be able to get a fairly powerful machine, with 2GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard disk space with a tape back up for around $3,000. I would also get a battery backup to ensure power blips do not shut you down.  With SBS, you could also host your website.   

Don Phillips

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

How about this.
I saw a 1 TB Network Data Storage device at Fry's. I guess I could connect all the computers thorugh cable to a swicth that has an uplink port to the internet and links to the drive.
If I understand it right, all the computers will still have internet, be able to see the shared storage device, and see the other computers. I will have to change some settings so different computers will have limited access to my C: drive.
How does that sound, has anyone tried this?

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

We have 8 PCs that use a NAS that then has 2 external hard drives.  I set up a shortcut on everyone's desktop to get to one of the drives, where we have all our shared files.  The other drive is limited access, as that is where we store our archived files.
It was fairly simple to set up.  Hard drives get cheaper all the time.
We also back up manually to a externalhard drive weekly on the adminasst computer, whihc the boss then takes home for safekeeping.  Yes, I know there are ways to get another NAS and set it up to auto backup, but I don;t have time and the admin does to copy a bunch of files.
It works fairly well for us.
We investigated getting a small server, and the cost of equipment and installation actually ran about $10k when all was said and done. Then I would have to maintain it.  Until we get to about 12 people, it's not worth it.

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

Thanks, Dan, yes, did not see the very end of the post about a $3k server.  I only caution - you get what you paid for.

Don Phillips

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

I don't understand how you have your 4 computers running without any type of network, this is assuming you have internet access at your office.

In either case, the easiest thing to do is buy a router/switch and setup a LAN.  Then the simplest thing to do is buy an external drive (1TB~$500), hook it to one of your computers and share it so everyone can access it.

As someone else mentioned, the next step in my suggestion is to buy a dedicated computer to run as a server.  Hook your storage backup drives, printers and whatnot to the server and connect it to the network.  Then you can also run your own website/ftp server - then you can access your files from anywhere.

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees


Here's another solution.

Apple Airport Extreme (802.11n wireless router)$179 (cheaper on sale) at Fry's - works great with all PC's and Mac's.  It has one extremely useful feature; a USB port for plugging in external drives.  These drives are then shared over the LAN.

I have 2 - 500 GB maxtor hard disks on mine, and they are available to all of my Macs and Linux box. (With a USB hub, you can connect as many as you want.)  On one, I backup everything on the machines to one of the drives, and use the other for a commmon music/video library.

For less than $700 I have a Terabyte of network available storage that all of the machines access.  On a Windows box they show up with a unique drive letter.  On a MAC they show up as a separate mounted volume.

Works great and very affordable. An added bonus is that if your current wireless router is 802.11g, you get an upgrade!  If you run cables, it won't matter, but it will work great.

-Tony Staples

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

Thanks for the good advice!
I think I will buy a Visionman Visionvault 1TB NAS and an 8 port switch. That will help me keep the cost down, provide enough storage, and with a RAID card, I have constant backup/redundancy.
For now I just put a shared folder on one of the computers and connected all the computers to it through the LAN port using a switch.

RE: Server/Network/Shared Storage - For >10 Employees

Also consider the physical location of your backup data.

If the building burns down then having all your data backed up in the same building is of little value.

A small network is simple and easy to set up. A network hard drive is an easy solution to shared storage requirements. Any half way competent IT type can set it up for you. Many vendors offer setup and installation. Also consider a wireless network, with sufficient security in place, as it is a lot easier than running wires everywhere.

A good solution is having all data on a shared hard drive, backing it up nightly to a portable drive that someone takes home with them. There are some good programs out there that synchronize the directories instead of doing a full backup. I have used Syncback a free utility with good results.

You can also consider internet backups. There are many web hosting companies that will host your data off line. The advantage is that you can access the data when on the road and they look after all backups.  Disadvantage is that upload speeds are typically slow.

You can use the local shared drive for daily use and then run an automated synchronization program after hours to back up your files off line. The paid version of Syncback claims to do this but I have no experience with it personally.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

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