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Ideal Small Business Network


So I was thinking the other day about my Ideal Home Network post the and I thought it might be nice to do a post on what I believe is the ideal small business network.

Most small businesses over-invest in IT hardware and software, as well as create too much complexity for less than 10 people on a network. And with a business this small, it really doesn’t make sense to have a full time IT person twiddling their thumbs the majority of the time.

I’ve said before how much of a fan I am of Microsoft Home Server. It makes my life here at home much easier as I don’t have to think as much about what is going on with my network. So if only that could be translated to the business world. And I believe that it can if you have the right setup where you can actually set it and forget it.

So, the major pieces that a small business needs are email, file sharing, collaboration, remote access, printer, and a website. The best way that I can see to do this is to use two major tools for all of the needs, and then some bits and pieces.

The first tool would be Google Apps. Google Apps Premier Edition is $50 per year per user and includes email, calendar, document sharing and editing, voice, video, and text chat, group forums and mailing lists, enterprise spam filtering, and easy intranet and internet sites. It is essentially everything that major corporations have at their disposal without the maintenance, without the on-site IT staff, and at a fraction of the cost. It even gives you the software you need through Google Docs to replace Excel, Word, and Powerpoint. I have even set up Google Apps to host corporate, public-facing websites so your corporate identity is all set as well. For 10 people, it would only cost $500/year for email and collaboration that the big boys enjoy.

The second major piece is Windows Home Server. Specifically the HP Mediasmart EX495 which has a 1.5TB drive in it and is expandable with 3 more internal bays and 4 USB ports. So you could buy 3 more large drives internally where you could replicate the files so you have redundancy, as well as allow it to backup all of the PC’s on the network for quick recovery. You could also couple it with Carbonite backup for cloud storage so that all of your files are backed up remotely for easy recovery for only a little over $50 per year. So you would get offsite backup, as well as onsite backup for very cheap.

As I have said before, Windows Home Server also gives you access to your files and computer remotely so that you can access them anytime and anywhere. And it also allows you to search across all of the file shares so that you can find what you need easily.

Printing in a small business is always a bit of an issue, as well as scanning or copying. But with HP’s ePrint technology, you can not only print wirelessly while you are in the office, you can print wirelessly from your phone anywhere you have internet access just by sending an email to a specific email address. And the cost isn’t any more than a typical printer. We got the base all in one model for about $50 bucks and it copies, scans, and prints, and works great. All the way up to the high end multifunction that is more like $300. So you could put one at each person’s desk or just give everyone access to a couple of printers and even if one had problems, you wouldn’t have to go through the driver issues, but instead could just print to a different printer.

Couple all of this with the laptops and desktops needed for the users, a nice Meraki access point that can be managed from anywhere and is super easy to setup, a small network of wired switches and you have essentially an entire corporate network on a smaller scale without the major maintenance of the enterprise network.

So, for 10 users, you would have to buy the computers for less than $500 each for a total of $5,000, plus the $700 for the Server and extra storage and a router and wired switch for less than $300, 2 printers for $50 each, and a Meraki access point for $300 and you have all of your equipment for less than $7,000

Then your yearly cost of $50 per user for 10 users comes out to $500 per year and the online backup adds another $50 and you have recurring costs of $550 per year. This takes care of pretty much all of your major IT needs for a company smaller than 10 users with 10 computers without a lot of the hassles of a typical network.

So, a summary.

Initial Investment
10 computers x $500 = $5,000
Server = $700
Extra storage, router, and wired switch = $300
2 HP ePrint printers x $50 = $100
Meraki access point = $300

Total Initial Investment = $6,400

Yearly Costs
10 Google Apps user accounts x $50/year = $500
Carbonite online backup for Home Server = $50

Total Yearly Cost = $550

All in all, not a bad setup for a business just starting out so that they can hit the ground running with all of the tools they need to be up against the big boys.

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