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Lobo
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Joined: 04 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:16 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Hey all -
I'm getting back into a system's administrator position after being out of the industry for several years. I've been given my first task by the boss. I'm to come up with a set of specs and price list to set up the end users at our offices with new pc's (11 users at the local office, and 13 at the remote office).Having been out of the field this long,
I'm not certain what is considered a "good" end user pc any longer.
I have (as of yet) not been given a budget for this project. However, to play it safe, I'm saying the boss is unwilling to go state-of-the-art.
Yet, these machines need to be robust enough to handle the day-to-day processes of the computer refurb industry(querying/updating the database, printing the daily forms, inventory tracking...). I'm looking to get as complete a list of components as I can so I can start pricing them out...(pc brand/model,cpu,motherboard,amount of ram,hard drive capacity, NIC brand/model, etc...)
A little background on our network... It's connected through CAT5 cabling, the remote office connects over WAN, and we're running both 2000 server and Linux.
Any and all suggestions are welcome.
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Ivor Grimey Colon
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:12 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Are you planning on buying the parts and assembling the machines yourself, or buying them complete? With or without keyboard/mouse/monitor?

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sheboppe
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:38 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

It would be a benefit to as the boss what the budget is for this system design. That way, you will know what you can build, and how efficient you can make it.

You don't want to be designing another end-user system soon, so this one needs to be designed to last for a few years. You need to know the budget for designing purposes - your boss should understand that.

Since designing a system for 11 people is no easy task, knowledge of what is allowed budget wise (and needed by the end-users) will go a long way to benefit the company.

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Lobo
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:24 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

In answer to your questions...
At this point I am leaning more towards buying the units complete as both a time saving measure and hopefully cut down on cost as well. I am simply looking for what's considered as good workstations, but as sheboppe pointed out, I don't want to have to inform my boss in a year or so that we're outdated and have to either invest in major upgrades or buy all new units again.
I have been bugging the management to give me at least a minimal idea of the funds I will have to work with, but both the company owner and the VP are of the same mindset. "Give us a price and we'll let you know if you can go ahead with the project, or have to find other materials..." Wish I could be more specific on the money issue. It's frustrating trying to work out these specs and being faced with the possibility of having to start all over again because they won't like the price tag.
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bearkat419
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:31 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

If I were you, I would start by working out exactly what you need. Get your list of components, how many, etc. down as a general list (what pieces will be in the system). Then make two columns and make one the low-budget system, and one the high-budget system. Present it to the boss like that, since they didn't give you a budget. Then they can decide if cost or quality is the better solution Smile

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sheboppe
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:06 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Assuming that an end-user feasibility study has been done, I advise going with bearkat's suggestion. Keep in mind that many of the low-cost branded systems are put together with very cheaply made parts.

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bill2
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:15 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Make them the pick yourself solution, with a time table of course.
What's in place now + cost of setup $ x should work fine for another year
What you can find on deals + setup $ y should work for three years max.
Top of the line + bells and whistles $ z for the next five years.
maintenances and replacement/repair for all three options over the next two years estimated. Date it and save a copy for later use, cover your @ss with paper here, so it doesn't backfire when things go down when most needed.

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Stoker Thompson
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:29 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

No problem.

First off, the mythical 'good system' is a misnomer. The real question in your organization is "Good enough for what?" Then you can design the network structure, spec out the equipment, and hunt for bargains.

So what you need to do now is to get a grasp on the workflow in this organization. Then you can see where new hardware will improve things.

Case in Point:
A hotel went to a computer based reservation system about four years ago. Prior to that they were working with just a couple of workstations for browsing, email and basic office stuff. The reservations were kept on a paper chart and paper slips.

Since the new owners wanted a computer based reservation system the requirements of that software package determined the specs for the new computers. Since the lobby receptionist would now be checking everything by the computer that determined the new structure of the network.

Additionally since there was going to be remote networking at this location two new internet accounts were set up with the best speed available. In this case three meg symmetrical SDSL connections. Dual accounts so that the guests would be off the business account and not sharing bandwidth.

So in this scenario the PC hardware could be some low end Dell Optiplex machines bumped to 1 gig of ram. The extra money in the budget went to the faster internet connection and some dedicated dial in lines for remote access. Instead of a back up server I chose a hard drive enclosure with a LAN port and then just wrote a script to stagger the workstation backups.

The end result was an office environment that worked very well for that particular workflow and came in below the expected budget.


In your case here is what I would recommend:

For design:
chart out the workflow. paying special attention to ID any bottle necks.

Spec out an adequate workstation. Then max out the RAM.

Look at refurb options like at tiger direct.

Add an additional one or two workstations into your price. If you go refurb you will still be able to save.

Look for ways to improve workflow: IE Fat internet connection, 1 gig hub, Networked printers. Fax server. Etc.

Your network is small enough that the 'server' could probably be a workstation configured with a RAID card and better hard drives.


For Deployment:
Build a baseline workstation. This would be a box with all of the appropriate software installed and the OS patched. If you do it right this should take a couple of hours anyway. If you go to tech republic and Download one of their check lists on appropriate services to turn off and secure it might take you four to six hours by the time you are done tweaking.

Get a program like Norton Ghost or Aconis True Image and then mirror off that hard drive. After that you can just restore the image to each workstation. Saves lots of time. Just make sure you buy all identical workstations.

Set up the server and any new peripherals that you decided on.

then roll out each workstation. If there is training on new software, God help you, make sure you allow time for that. Then double that estimate.

Make sure you Document everything. Everything. Every SE number, Installed piece of software, and the pertinent details on every task you did. During this part your eyes will glaze over and you will pass out from the tedium. Drink some Red Bull, Slap some Lads and continue. Lack of Documentation has come back to bite me more than once.

And lastly, the most important detail

STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM VISTA

Other than that I really can't go into much detail here unless I know what kind of office you are trying to set up. Feel free to PM me or post any specific qustions you have.
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Lester
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:26 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Not sure but I know if you go to CDW or to HP/DELL You can get a cheaper price in Bulk.

But again dont get a machine too slow that effect ths users ability to work or they are waiting around a lot.

I would go with flat screens instead of CRTs.

What are your users going to be doing?

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Lobo
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:09 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

@ stoker
I wouldn't use Vista if M$ gave it to me. Smile

@Lester
The users are going to be using the pcs mostly for listing the various components in the pc's that come in off lease. Updating the database with date received, current OS, physical config, any repairs needed on the units,etc...
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Stoker Thompson
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:45 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^^ Lobo Sounds like very low overhead for the PC's. Basic P4 system should do fine.

Are you familiar with thin clients? RDP? If so take a look at some wireless tablets? If you run an 802.11 that should add a lot of flexibility to the workshop.

Currently I am playing around with some webdt stuff. I like the hardware. Ebay is a good place to pick up experimental stuff for your 'Lab'
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Afferbecklauder
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:39 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Would all posters please refrain from using the V word. It may attract unhelpful comments.

Seriously, it sounds like your server(s) would need to be upmarket. In Australia, I would approach reputable wholesalers with a set of specs and stick to strictly non proprietry hardware. They come with too much loaded junk on them, including Nortons and V******. Also many proprietry brands have specific hardware that can only be replaced by them. eg, HP et al often buy the entire run of a mainboard and other components. Web support is often not available two years on.
eg
Gigabyte or Asus boards
Low end Dual Core Pentium Processor
Kingston or Legend ram
Seagate hard Drives
Standard 20x DVD, most brands OK
3com, intel or realtek network gear
19" LCD Monitors. Stick to recognised brands.

All reliable stuff you can pick up, with the certainty that replacement parts are easily obtainable when needed.

That's my thoughts.

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Lobo
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:20 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I wanted to thank you, one and all for the great input and the options you've provided me with. You've helped to alleviate some of the stress I've been having over this project. Smile
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Saint Arnold
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I did some contracting/consulting work a few years ago for a company here that started out building most of their systems themselves. This was a fairly large chemical company - nothing along the lines of Exxon, but they do have a number of plants all across the U.S. The director of IT made the call to build the systems themselves, instead of purchase HP or whatever, because he was proud of his ability to assemble computers and save the company money.

Now, I am not convinced that this saved them money, but I do know that the IT director spent all his time building computers, and doing support when something went wrong, as did most of his staff. And, as a result, there was no IT strategy, no set of standards, nothing you would really expect in a well organized shop. It was the most disorganized, directionless IT department I've ever run across.

The point of this - I don't really think that you save money by building the systems yourself, especially if you look at the overall lifecycle cost. And, you'll spend a lot of time on construction, maintenance, and support of the PC hardware. Your time would be better spent elsewhere. I'd buy the PCs, and I generally wouldn't worry about much more than a one year warranty (a longer warranty on the server provides some peace of mind). Most PC failures occur fairly quickly if they are going to occur at all.

Stoker mentioned thin clients. You should take a hard look at that kind of environment for the simple tasks you've described. I'm not sure about upfront costs, although I'd expect you'd save money, but the support of a thin client environment is much much simpler than the support of a standard everyone-has-a-PC shop.

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Stoker Thompson
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 9:04 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

@Krona Good points.

I bank I dealt with in Europe a few years ago did a laptop roll out for their sales people. The laptops were taken out of the box and handed over to the sales person with a list of logon passwords. That's it. No AV updates, spyware installs, firewall setup, or even OS patching went on.

The amount of times the sales people wasted on screwing around with the laptops over the ensuing months was truly mind boggling!
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Tricia
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:14 am Reply with quoteBack to top

If the users are going to do CAD, graphics etc., you should invest appropriately for quality displays. Otherwise a good brand display ought to be enough for your purposes. Don't buy CRTs; flat panels use less power and you'll recoup the costs with lower energy bills.

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thud419
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:42 am Reply with quoteBack to top

It's been twelve years since I was a Sys Admin.

For the baseline spec, you need to have an idea of what the PCs are going to be used for over the next three to five years. I would spec them for V***a, and then install XP; (six months ago I'd have said Windows 2000.)

Once you know the baseline spec, I'd recommend going in from the other direction. Find a good hardware support company, and ask them what they recommend. They will work better with hardware they know and trust, and for which they have parts available. You may need to sell the hardware support contract to your boss, but it should be doable - fixed costs, guaranteed response times, no nasty surprises.

I believe some hardware support contracts come with free hardware upgrades at agreed intervals.

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