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AshMan
Feb 23, 2013, 12:05 AM
So I am planning on doing a complete switchover to mac for my fathers office.

They don't really have any special needs and such, mostly they use microsoft office, web browsing, quickbooks, and a few other basic things.

Currently they are on way outdated Dell computers from about 10 years ago wit a dell server running windows 2003 server.

Rather than redo everything with pc's which while cheaper overall, are more prone to malware/viruses than macs, The stability and ease of maintenance are more welcome in the mac.

So the current setup has a windows 2003 server which basically holds documents and stores installation cd's for reinstalling computers. It has security set for specific folders for some of the employees.

I want to have him switchover as follows:

Mac mini I5 with 16gb ram
Mac mini I7 Server with 16gb ram.
Dual 23" widescreen monitors on each system (not the server)
I have a 2tb external buffalo linkstation nas disk for backup purposes that I will get configured for time machine backups if possible, if not should I have him invest in a time capsule instead?
I have a Sonicwall setup that the firmware corrupted and I had to reset it, so I haven't put it back in place yet, should I use that wired and turn off wireless and use a time capsule to handle the wireless network? or run the minis all wired? and have wireless for the MacBooks him and his business partner have.

Each system will run the basic apps, office, web browsing, one will do quickbooks for the book keeper, and each system will run parallels and windows 7 as well for some of the programs that they use once in a while that are windows only.

My plan is to migrate all the documents etc to the mac mini server, have the nas do time machine backups of the server and the workstations.

I would want each users computer to be networked to the server and their home folder to be on the server for centralized document storage. All the documents are stored in a single folder with subfolders for each user, and users need to be able to access sometimes several of the document folders.

I can get the basic system setup with software that is needed, but I am more interested in how I should go about the following:

1. Have users be able to access their documents folder and add access for other document folders and have office open by default to their main document folder, and I want to be able to restrict access to most of the folders.
2. Have all users be able to print of course to printers on the network (there are 3 of them, 2 which are copier/printers, 1 is a color laser jet) and of course the copiers can act as scanners.
3. I want to set up Ical for my dad to sync to his iPhone/ipad/macbook/imac at home, and also for his partner to have the same setup.
4. I want them to also be able to access the server remotely as if they were on the network directly so they can access the documents off the server as needed anywhere in the world. I assume I would need to set up a VPN.
5. I have a sonicwall for the office that i will use for their internet access, as it will be setup to restrict access to email systems like gmail, hotmail, aol, etc, and to things like facebook and myspace.
6. for the dual monitor setup which is best, hdmi port for one and then mini display to display port for the other? each monitor will have display port, hdmi, dvi and I think vga connections. so options are wide open in that respect.
7. my dads macbook pro should be able to login to the network when he is at the office.
8. which is better, use wifi for all the computers, or go wired? all the offices have wired networks existing, but wireless would be a cleaner look overall.
9. can I transfer his existing windows server into a virtual machine on the mac mini server so I can work on setting up the systems and be able to recreate folder security without having to switch between the two computers, this way I can mirror the server to a virtual machine, then from home, work on migrating over to mac server without the need to be at the office, then when done, just copy the changed files over to the mini server?

I am planning on setting this up then plug it in side by side with his existing network before shutting the old one down. I need to make sure the users can access everything they are supposed to.

Can I setup one workstation the way I want it and then use superduper or ccc to clone to the other workstations? Can I set up the mini server to basically automate each workstation setup? can the mini server also handle updates for each computer so they are installed automatically, but downloaded on the server and distributed to the workstations, like pushing the updates to them?

what in your opinion would be the best way to set this up. I am not worried about copying his existing data, I am more concerned with what I need to do to get it setup to work for his needs.

I know I have said and asked a lot, but I have been working on getting him to upgrade to mac from pc in his office for a long time, and he is finally starting to come around. It only took 3 years of him being switched to a mac for personal use for him to finally get what I have been telling him to do with the office systems.

i figure if he were to do windows again, each pc will cost about $500.00 on average and then he will do dual monitors so workstation cost will be similar to mac minis, but then to do a proper server, that could cost thousands over the cost of a mini server for something that will do basic tasks. his current dell server has been near perfect reliable, had a power supply go out once and that is it in 10 years. it has been rebooted maybe once every couple of months since it was installed mainly for software updates.

I want to bring him up into the times, and I think the minis will fit the bill, lower power consumption than a pc with 300- 500w power supplies, less footprint in the offices, = cleaner look, no more bulky horsepower robbing virus scanners, and something that requires less upkeep.

Any thoughts on the best way to set this up? Any tricks I should know?



thejadedmonkey
Feb 23, 2013, 12:17 AM
Yes. I'm making a midnight trip to Walmart with my girlfriend but I'll post a wall of thoughts when I get back. You probably won't like it either ;)

thejadedmonkey
Feb 23, 2013, 01:04 AM
Okay. Here's my 2 cents worth.

Gets onto his soapbox.

Don't do it.

I'll explain. Not a single reason you have is better suited by a mac, and in fact I would argue, you'd be doing a disservice by going mac.

First, you want to set up a server to replace the Dell server. Using a mac mini is an inherently poor choice for a few reasons. 1) The hardware isn't server grade. It's consumer grade. 2) The hardware isn't upgradable or easily fixable. If the power supply goes out, that's not a next day fix like it was on the Dell, that's a trip to an apple store, turn around time, or a new mac all-together. If everything runs off of that server, even if you have a 100% comlpete backup, that's still a 2 days downtime, minimum, or the price of a new computer. 3) it's way overkill for what's essentially a NAS.

Second, the TCO or total cost of ownership of a mac is more. Sure you can argue virus protection or nicer features, less power use, etc., but you can't avoid the simple issue that a mac costs $600 minimum. And when they break, you can't run to Best Buy and get a replacement part that afternoon, again you're going to be at the mercy of an Apple store, or out the price of a new mac.

While I'm mentioning the clients, let me add in a few things. OS X isn't secure. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, they were all hacked while using OS X, due to issues with Java. You can argue that Windows is inherently insecure, but in the past 13 years I've administered a small business network, I only had a single issue, last month, from Java. Also, keep in mind that they'll be running Windows anyway for those programs "they use once in a while that are windows only." and it will add up. Parallels is $80 and Windows 7 is another $90 for a total of $170 per computer for these programs, and you still have to "deal" with Windows.

Third, Apple isn't a corporate company. You only need to look at their recent iOS 6.1 release to see that; it has a glaring exchange flaw and Microsoft actually recomended that you disable iPhones from accessing an exchange server. I'm not saying that Microsoft software is bug free, but rather that as business software is their bread and butter, it generally works better. Apple's software isn't always up to snuff, and they're apt to change things willy-nilly. For an end user that isn't an issue so much, but for a business critical system, it needs to work, all of the time, no questions. Talking to a tier-two technition whos' official recomendation is to "return the mac for a previous generation mac which runs last year's OS" is not a sutable response when their new OS doesn't work with your software.

Here's what I would recomend, instead.

1) Stick with Dell. They're a good company, offer next-day or even same-day support, and have components that are easy to swap. For $630 I can get an i3 and 23" monitor.

2) Don't buy a server, but a NAS. The Synology j212 is a good choice, takes 2 hard drives in raid for redundancy, and can do everything you'll likely need - handle backups, VPN, etc. And it's $200 + hard drives, even less than a mini. Worried it'll break? Buy a 2nd, and you're still under the price of a mini server. Backing that up is as easy as plugging a drive into it via USB.

3) DO NOT under ANY circumstances, EVER use wireless unless you want everything public. Even the most extreme encryption can be cracked, and if your router is in a fixed location it's easy for a thief (aka disgruntled customer) to park his car one night and crack the key. Then he has full access to any unsecured assets on the network.

4) Avoid compatability headaches. Office for Mac isn't quite as robust as Office for Windows, and likewise Quickbooks isn't as good on OS X, but even if they were, Apple seems to do something every 5 years that makes programs stop working. In 2006 it was the PPC to Intel transition, and in 2011 it was Lion removing rosetta.

Long story short, love your mac, but love it as a consumer device that's great for making iMovies on, not as a business device that can't afford to break.

AshMan
Feb 23, 2013, 10:08 AM
You definitely make some good points.

I still think though for his purposes Mac will be better. Both my macs and all of his and his business partners have been perfect.

With his pcs in the office there is always one that needs to be reformatted because of something getting corrupted. The process is a pain and I constantly have to go fix something. Spend hours running virus scans. Malware scans. Defragmenting etc.

Plus a new windows server itself will cost thousands for the hardware and thousands for the server software. His existing server alone cost $5000 just for the hardware

thejadedmonkey
Feb 23, 2013, 10:20 AM
You definitely make some good points.

I still think though for his purposes Mac will be better. Both my macs and all of his and his business partners have been perfect.

With his pcs in the office there is always one that needs to be reformatted because of something getting corrupted. The process is a pain and I constantly have to go fix something. Spend hours running virus scans. Malware scans. Defragmenting etc.

Plus a new windows server itself will cost thousands for the hardware and thousands for the server software. His existing server alone cost $5000 just for the hardware

I'll give you two last words of advice: a 10 year old PC running Windows XP isn't a new PC running Windows 7, it's a much better OS and unless your users try to mess it up, it should be rock solid. Second, you don't need a server, all you need is a good NAS like the Synology 212 or so.

edjrwinnt
Feb 23, 2013, 11:15 AM
A few thoughts, Quickbooks and MS Office are not nearly as good on the MAC. I tried to switch my workstation at work to MAC and it did not work out well, so I went back. Lastly, I love VM's for servers! Screw something up on the VM server and revert right back using a snapshot. If the power supply takes a crap, move the vm server backup file to another machine. I recently converted a WHS 2011 box to a vm and was shocked how easy it was to do and run on an old IMac.

I just started playing around with a NAS and so far I prefer to have the server services on my WHS 2011 box or Mac Server. For basic needs I am sure a NAS would be fine though, just not my preference right now.

These are just my opinions and I have a very small number of users on my network at both home and work.

dimme
Feb 24, 2013, 04:30 PM
If you must run windows only programs daily running the throught VMware or parallels is a pain. As everyone said office is much better on windows. As the others have said you do not need server just a good nas.

glenthompson
Feb 24, 2013, 07:52 PM
I suggest taking JadedMonkey's advice. You didn't mention any compelling reason for switching to all Macs. What type of business is this? How familiar are the employees with OS X? Training costs and time could be a major issue.

Regardless of the server (or NAS) you setup, it should be client agnostic. Macs and PCs should be able to use it equally well.

AshMan
Feb 24, 2013, 10:54 PM
Its a law office. most of what they do is basic documents, retainers that are already done, just edited as needed for new clients. some scanning, printing, and basic tasks with quickbooks for the book keeper which can be done in parallels easily. everything else is online for specialized forms they use, and all they need is a browser and adobe acrobat reader for that. they do not do anything really specialized with word, just basic formatting. they could use wordperfect 5.1 even today to do the same thing, so features in office mac vs windows office means nothing.

Some of the other stuff is some real estate tenant programs that one of the staff uses once in a while maybe once or twice a month which can be done in parallels without fuss.

I think the main reason to go with mac is less maintenance overhead. I am constantly having to fix the pcs there because of some malware etc that one of the employees gets on their system. He also is all mac at home with iMac,macbook, iphone and ipads. I can use ical to his advantage for the calendars without much fuss it is simple and easy to use. and cloud services integrated which will be a plus.

Training the staff will be a no brainer. most have macs at home for personal use.

I do not want to have to setup an exchange server for their calendars, host their website etc in the office because if the internet goes down all those systems are down, been there done that before and not going there again.

the main reason for a server over a nas is security, user permissions, and distributed updates that can be pushed to the computers. for instance a new software application, patches etc. Also as a centralized backed up storage center and for VPN for Wan networking.

In his office everything he needs to do can be done on a mac. that is the main reason I want to switch.

With 16gb ram, running windows in parallels/vmware will not be an issue. I run windows 7, xp, windows 8, and linux in virtual machines on my macbook and it works great for my purposes there.

I understand the reasons all have made not to switch but What I am more looking for are answers to specific setup. not the windows/mac debate.

PrePressAcrobat
Feb 25, 2013, 07:18 AM
I switched our entire setup from PC server environment to MAC 3 years.
We are in Graphics, Photography and Printing - PrePress.
This week I will be switching everything back.
The Snow Leopard server environment was really good
but
the Mt Lion environment is terrible. Nothing works properly.

MSD

phrehdd
Feb 25, 2013, 05:58 PM
I wont tell you not to get a Mac set up but consider a hybrid set up using

NAS (yes you can do permissions with better model NAS)
Mac Mini to control software distribution
Windows Home Server or limited license real server as the "boss."
Fusion or Parallels (set it up so that the apps can be accessed immediately)

The two challenges with Mac is that it really doesn't lend itself to being a full fledged networking system for Law Office given that many Law software wont run on Mac or the counterpart is inferior (thus virtual Windows is in order).

Also invest in a good Firewall to help with intrusion. Skip over wireless when possible as law offices deal with sensitive data.

Get a black list started to block certain sites that are known to be trouble.

DJLC
Feb 26, 2013, 01:06 PM
Here's my recommendation...

Do it! Although a NAS may be able to handle most of the stuff, I think you'll want the Mini Server to help with software distribution and preference management. Since it can do file sharing, too, a NAS becomes pretty pointless. Plus, you could also use it to keep iPads managed and secure, and I'm sure there are a myriad of things that iPads would be great for in a law office.

That said, definitely invest in a good firewall. One of my employers recently upgraded to a Meraki MX60w a gigabit firewall with wifi. The cloud management is super, super helpful when you're a tech who likes to work remotely.

I work for three medical offices which all use legacy medical software in Windows XP. Because this software is very expensive ($20k+), it won't be getting replaced anytime soon. I have successfully transitioned two offices so far to Mac. The software works better virtualized on a Mac. And if a Windows virtual machine has an issue, I can just drop a fresh one in its place. The office staff had some initial switching pains, but after a few months it seems that they're more productive, the medical software works great with Parallels Coherence, and everything is noticeably more stable and faster.

The added advantage is that these Macs can actually stand up to a decade of use. The Dells they replaced could barely handle 4 years.

glenthompson
Feb 26, 2013, 10:36 PM
I think the main reason to go with mac is less maintenance overhead. I am constantly having to fix the pcs there because of some malware etc that one of the employees gets on their system. He also is all mac at home with iMac,macbook, iphone and ipads. I can use ical to his advantage for the calendars without much fuss it is simple and easy to use. and cloud services integrated which will be a plus.

Training the staff will be a no brainer. most have macs at home for personal use.

I do not want to have to setup an exchange server for their calendars, host their website etc in the office because if the internet goes down all those systems are down, been there done that before and not going there again.

the main reason for a server over a nas is security, user permissions, and distributed updates that can be pushed to the computers. for instance a new software application, patches etc. Also as a centralized backed up storage center and for VPN for Wan networking.

That provides a lot more justification than the original post. How locked down are the existing PCs? Goes a long way in preventing nasty stuff getting on them. Also think about what security measures you plan on for a Mac environment.

BayouTiger
Feb 28, 2013, 12:26 PM
I too have the fairly typical small office with about 20 machines spread across two branch offices (15 at one and 5 the other). I have been running SBS for about 15 years starting with SBS4 until I started getting tired of fooling with keeping 2008 running. Seemed like every few months an update would run that broke it and I spent the weekend getting it back in shape. Frankly it was a great product for a long time, but over the years just got too complicated for a small business with 20 or so users. (nearly all Win7 and a couple new Win8-ugh, and a couple Macs.)

The last straw was a Sharepoint update that broke Sharepoint horribly, though we didn't use it for much, it being broken made backups not complete and things went downhill from there. I started to realize that cramming what are great tools for the enterprise down into the small business level just doesn't make sense for most. I mean do you really need to have multiple instances of SQLServer running just to monitor logs and health????

I had also migrated/upgraded over the long period without ever starting from scratch and during the last swing migration, I was just never able to get rid os all references to the original server so the logs were cluttered with errors.

Since our major business application is Java based and can run on Mac or PC and the server runs great on a Mac I moved the database to a pair of Mini's in each office that sync through the cloud via the developer. This beats the hell out of our previous MPLS connection over T1's which was becoming unusable.

I have an additional Mini server running Kerio Connect as well as Server 2012 Essentials in a VM handling DNS and AD for the main office. I may move them back to Peer-to-Peer and can AD all together, but I must say that Server 2012 may be the first small business product I like from MS in a long time. Coupled with Kerio, it looks to make a nice simple server. Server 2012. I said that I would not put any server in virtualization again as I made the mistake of hosting SBS2008 in Hyper-V and that was a horrible setup! but 2012 in Fusion is working very nicely so far.

The 5 users in the branch will remain Peer-to-Peer with the Mac server serving their database as well as light file server duties.

I think what I have learned is that many IT 'experts' have had a hard time realizing that the needs of a small office are very different than the "enterprise". I don't need much in the way of directory services as I don't have many people sharing many resources other than printers and a few shared folders.

There is also always the assumption that Office is needed for the average worker, but my employees write short memos and use Excel to keep lists. Open Office works perfectly well for this.

Frankly, Microsoft won my office by default many years ago and managed to convince many of us that we needed much more complicated tech that we did. That's good salesmanship which I always applaud, but I now have options and have learned that simpler is generally better for me.

Of course the disclaimer is that I am just a businessman that prefers to maintain my own networks. If a company has a dedicated IT person, I can see that the ability to manage things centrally is beneficial, I am just having a hard time seeing where the benefit is worth the extra cost and aggravation.

BTW, some of the arguments above that the Macs are more expensive the PC's for this environment are just bogus. The basic PC that I buy as a node on my network tends to be an i5 with 4 or so GB of ram. Frankly, I don't care about HD space as a machine on my network is not likely to ever fill even 100GB.

Most people making recommendations online make them based on workers doing high level apps like graphics or media, or even presentations, but in reality I would bet that 75% of computers in offices in business are doing mundane things like order entry, quotations, and memo writing (handled mostly by e-mail these days).

BayouTiger
Feb 28, 2013, 12:36 PM
Here's my recommendation...

Do it! Although a NAS may be able to handle most of the stuff, I think you'll want the Mini Server to help with software distribution and preference management. Since it can do file sharing, too, a NAS becomes pretty pointless. Plus, you could also use it to keep iPads managed and secure, and I'm sure there are a myriad of things that iPads would be great for in a law office.

That said, definitely invest in a good firewall. One of my employers recently upgraded to a Meraki MX60w a gigabit firewall with wifi. The cloud management is super, super helpful when you're a tech who likes to work remotely.

I work for three medical offices which all use legacy medical software in Windows XP. Because this software is very expensive ($20k+), it won't be getting replaced anytime soon. I have successfully transitioned two offices so far to Mac. The software works better virtualized on a Mac. And if a Windows virtual machine has an issue, I can just drop a fresh one in its place. The office staff had some initial switching pains, but after a few months it seems that they're more productive, the medical software works great with Parallels Coherence, and everything is noticeably more stable and faster.

The added advantage is that these Macs can actually stand up to a decade of use. The Dells they replaced could barely handle 4 years.


That's similar to my plan. WE still have a single app that needs Windows, and it is being phased out at the end of this year. My biggest issue with Mac clients is really Outlook. My people really don't use it for anything but mail, but I am trying to work on only the Apple clients and while Mail is fine and iCal is serviceable, the ML address book is just a disaster. I really don't like Outlook 2011 much better, so I am looking for a better solution. Kerio does have an excellent Webmail platform and I can see employees using it, but it makes it harder to manage locally. Once I get that workflow down, I can see mail moving to the web. BTW, hosted e-mail has not been an option as we have not had the bandwidth to support it, but that is changing soon so who knows.

AshMan
Feb 28, 2013, 11:40 PM
the internet access is not as locked down as we would like but that is because of the nature of research that has to be done. the office deals with various cases that span every industry, so locking out most of the internet is simply not possible.

the main things to lock out are things that will allow employees to be less productive with visits to sites of personal use, i.e. Facebook, myspace, twitter, personal email access, etc. essentially at work they should be doing work things and not doing things they can do on their own time.

The sonicwall does a good job of preventing access to what we need and acting as the router.

As far as the pcs go, we have them setup to require admin access to install programs, restricted usb access, and normal policies in place for the basics, i.e. backgrounds, and basic settings, network settings etc.

the file server is locked down and only allows them to access the needed document folders.

printers are directly on the network so that if by chance the server goes down, they can still print and use word to create documents.

I think even running windows in a virtualized environment via parallels will be better, since I can have each computers windows virtual hard disk copied once setup and stored on the server, if one of the workstation windows software gets corrupted, since all data is on the server, I could simply wipe the virtual hard disk, and copy over a fresh copy...

I could even migrate the existing server into a virtual machine on the mac server I would think. the current server is a dell poweredge 1600sc. it has been a good reliable machine, but it really only houses files and user access and security. the server has never been utilized for anything major. at one time we did have a database program that was specialized, but the server only needed to house the files for it, the program was run independently on each workstation. we have for many years been using the same type of database software that is online based and accessible from any computer from anywhere.

irnchriz
Apr 6, 2013, 03:28 AM
We have one all Mac client in the same business as yours. They have a Mac mini running open directory and a 4 disk QNAP NAS for file storage and backups. there are 2 physical USB drives which the QNAP backs up live/current data to and these are rotated offsite. The backups are also sent up to an Amazon S3 account for cloud storage.

The accounts department run 2 windows 7 pro workstations for Sage Accounts which is all synced/backup up to the QNAP.

The feature that they love is the wiki server and they use this religiously after an initial trial period and disaster recovery plan had been tested (backup and replication to a new server).

They run 2 separate broadband connections, one runs the office network and has no wifi. the other provides wifi Internet only and is for staff personal use and guests.

Both broadbands connect to a Zyxel USG 200 firewall which switches the guest service over to office use if the office circuit fails at which point it cuts off the guest access.

The USG also provides web content filtering and full firewall.

This was an easy transition for them as they were already familiar with Macs, the only windows based software they required was Sage (which we kept on windows). The only other software they required was office 2011.

One final note, email is hosted gmail with archive. The potential downtime issues of hosting the email locally and paying for a cache server made going for gmail or office 365 an easy choice.

Abacab
Apr 6, 2013, 01:29 PM
Everybody here makes good points and reasoning on what to use and this can be compared to what is the best car to get around in. I have designed and built networks that had Servers to Phones all mac. And yes Jademonkey Apple Hardware IS MORE EXPENSIVE but you are mistaken on the TCO and I will prove by posting a 5 year anaylis by the CFO of the company I worked for.
(He had to turn this in to justify the 200K in hardware for an office of 75)
The estimate at year 4 was at about 28% estimated savings, but by the end of year 3 ACTUAL the savings was almost 40% !! Some of the biggest savings were in Licenceing, Maleware/virus protection, less support personel, longer depriciation and he even went as far to include how productivity increased because of ease of use and less down time. However the cold hard facts is that Office ran good but was problematic if you used Entourage and there were some kinks in sharing Exel Documents which was remedied by strict permission policies. Introducing Outlook was a welcome Office update but there were some migration issues when people had mulible folders and a lage datastore. Quckbooks was not as robust for the mac but really it's a consumer accounting program and there are many more Mac friendly industrial accounting programs availble. Where mac failed was EMAIL. it got a little better in 10.6 when they went to Dovecot. Why they were so weak in this area I'll never understand and Exchange is the way to go if you have a large office. Macmini server should not really be considered "Enterprise Grade"but there are Colocation Macmini server farms and really for the price of one HP or Dell Blade you can get 3 or 4 mini's and have GREAT REDUNDANcy for cheaper. You could also run virtual MS servers if needed. Mac is good enough to serve in an office and has equal flaws as it's Windows competitors. It worked for 6 years before the company was shut down in 2012.