I was recently tasked with overhauling the “network” for a local, small, not for profit. The company currently have 2 sites, with roughly a dozen desktops at each and half dozen laptops which roam between the two.

The primary requirements were to provide;

  • networked file storage (preferably redundant)
  • centralised user management (single sign-on and access control)
  • site blocking/web filtering

If both sites had “reasonable” internet connections, I would have suggested a single server at the “central” location with a site-to-site VPN. Unfortunately the connections are~ 3MBit down, 0.3Mbit up (ADSL). This introduces a need for additional hardware (servers at every site) and a way of synchronising/replicating between the sites!

As always, everything should be designed with scalability in mind, but sticking to a tight budget.

The File Servers

My first purchase were the file servers. Many years back I used to “roll my own” with something like a HP MicroServer and Windows Home Server (or possibly FreeNAS/OpenFiler) but some years back I made the transition to a dedicated Synology appliance.

Whilst you lose some of the flexibility (being able to install any software on x86/x64 hardware like the MicroServer) you gain a huge amount of reliability and support by going with a dedicated appliance (not to mention the huge feature set and ability to run many additional applications on the Synology product line).

One of the only requirements for the file server was redundancy (so at least 2 bays to support raid 1). Wanting to stick with Synology I used their product comparison tool (https://www.synology.com/en-uk/products/compare) to make a shortlist and then after looking at the prices settled for the DiskStation DS214.

Although storage requirements were pretty small, I got a great deal on WD Green 3TB disks so bought 5 (2 for each site and 1 spare).

The Routers

Had this have been a “home solution” i’d probably have opted for something like the Asus RT-AC66U flashed with one of the open source firmwares such as OpenWRT or DD-WRT. But, needing a “business solution” I needed something, most importantly reliable (the potential sacrifice being ease of use).

On top of reliability, the primary feature requirement for the routers is site-to-site VPN. After some research I decided to give the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite 3 a try. Frustratingly the ADSL connection coming in at both sites is provided by a BT HomeHub3. The HH3 doesn’t support bridge mode, and to avoid double NAT / further complications I decided to purchase 2 ADSL modems (there aren’t many to chose from… I went for the Draytek Vigor 120).

Documentation

I previously posted about some SharePoint issues i’ve been tackling, this is the medium i’ve chosen for documenting and sharing the how-to guides, configuration details and process documents. I’m yet to tackle, but may also use it for new user requests, password resets, support requests etc.

To be continued…

Similarly, I have already posted about getting OpenLDAP replication working, this was one tiny part of the project. I will be following up this post with a number specifically tackling the implementation and configuration of the new solution.

Watch this space.

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