A little Hint!: first work out what you really need. Is it just internet and mail? Or would you also like file sharing, print sharing etc?
One of the biggest challenges to solving your requirements is scalability! If I add one more user, will I have to scrap the existing system and pay out a fortune to revamp my solution? How will i migrate from the legacy solution i have to a new one?
Here is a brief outline of the different categories/products you are likely to encounter.
0-5 User Solution: Modem sharing - Activating a modem sharing package on one PC where all the other PC's in your org use this PC as a gateway to the internet. This solution works well for a small organization, 5 PC's or less, but does not scale very well. It also is not commercial grade so unless you know what you are doing, there may be problems. Support requirements are not high. Mail is usually hosted at the ISP end and therefore internal mails must go out on the modem link and then back down the modem link when a user wants to read their emails. This is somewhat bandwidth crunching, for instance since mail goes in and out, when you browse you are competing with the bandwidth from this IN/OUT email traffic. Having said this, as long as your users are aware of the limitations then this is quite an acceptable 'cheap' solution that really does the trick.
5-10 User Solution: Router with built in Modem - This is a separate device with a small hub on the back that has dialup capability. Good for organisations up to 10 PC's. Pretty much set and forget and not much knowledge required to set it up and keep it running. Mail is still hosted at the ISP end so you still have the same problem as the 0-5 user solution. Again, as long as your users are aware of the limitations then this is a very acceptable solution. This solution is also very cost effective (typically around $400) for the router system and is good where there is no PC that can be used for sharing.
10 plus users
Solution: dedicated Server/router - A server with Mail/Internet
proxy/gateway/filesharing etc is dedicated to host the company internet
connection. Hanging off this server can be all sorts of connection devices
from a simple modem, ISDN, ADSL, Cable to the exotica (ATM, Frame etc). With
this system a company will host all their mail locally on the server,
internal users can send email to each other (PC to PC) or to the Internet in
general. There is no competition for bandwidth from local traffic.
This is a PC that will be setup using the latest version of Linux or Microsoft widows Server 2000 (or SBS) that will act as a :
(*) This does not include supply of the computer hardware to act as the server. Ordinarily, an existing computer in the customer premises is chosen to be reformatted and have Redhat Linux (Unix) Operating system installed.
(**) Outside or remote access depends on the firewall capabilities of the router chosen
This work allows time to set up software for networking and to network each computer to the system being used. Costs of networking cards are not included. Networking cards may be supplied by you or via Cosmos Internet Services.
We can instruct one of your staff on how to set up each of the subsequent PC's in your environment. This type of approach is preferred as the setup is simple and a local person should be able to do it quite easily.
We have a no-nonsense, practical, "get it right the first time" approach to your business needs, we are interested in developing SOLUTIONS that WORK to address your short and long term requirements.
Typically, we will sit down with the relevant staff in your organisation to listen to requirements and concerns. We will then talk about the various solutions both technological and what sort of ball park costs/timeframe we can get the solution delivered in. Once this is established, we will do a formal document outlining what the solution is and the timeframes/payment schedules.
Typically one of the most forgotten facets of any solution is it's ability to backup large amounts of valuable data with minimal impact to the users. Cosmos has a wide range of Unix backup solutions using RAID technology already present of Unix versions 6.2 and up of RedHat (our operating system of Choice).
The backup is in real time (in the background) and a 30 Gig hard disk will take approx 3 hours. Then once the backup is complete, the mirroring kicks in and both hard disks contain an exact (bootable) copy of each other.
Of all the raid technologies, the most implemented and easy to use is Raid 1: Mirroring. Essentially one hard disk is totally copied to the other (same size or larger) Hard disk byte for byte. Therefore using 2 hard disks, you have an exact mirror of the primary hard disk.
Advantage: quick and
With the inclusion of a third hard disk, this forms the basis of a backup solution where you can cycle the hard disks through the system always keeping one hard disk separate from the unit.
The effect is that should a power outage or head-crash cause the hard disk to fail, it will automatically boot up from the other drive. Obviously at this point the companies IT disaster recovery plan should be put into place but should both hard disks crash, you have a spare (separate from the unit) to insert and boot the system from. Depending on your backup schedule, the interruption is very minimal.
Typically the system is down for around the time it takes to completely re-boot that particular machine. So your users will notice a 3-5min outage of internet/mail connectivity (assuming both systems are on the same server).
The backup is done in background therefore your users will not notice a thing. Benchmark for 30 GIG hard disk is approximately 3 hrs for full backup.