networking brainstorm

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a random discussion that I'd like to post quickly. I won't be responding to this for several days.

I need some help brainstorming some solutions for a problem. this is an open discussion with no right or wrong answers. I want to gather a lot of input and try to work out an appropriate solution.

here is the situation:

I have 9 computers working on a particular network using a standard windows workgroup and the TCP/IP protocol.

The "server" computer in this group, running Win2kServer, has one primary role. It holds all the pictures that are being processed. The past 90 days are held on the two IDE hard drives in the machine. Everything beyond that, within the past year, are held on external firewire hard drives. The secondary role of the server is to manage the software we use to process the pictures and place orders. This includes processing of finished orders.

The other 8 computers are what we call proofing stations. They are only used to view, edit, and print specific pictures. Oddly enough, two of the computers are running Win2k Pro and the rest are running Win98SE.

All 9 computers are connected at a single 20 port switch using cat5 cable. None of the computers are more than 40 feet away from the switch.

My goal is to reduce the stress of the workload on the server computer. It is unable to handle the workload and because of it our business process is affected.

To be more specific about what is happening, each picture file is approximately 5mb in size. On average, each employee is working with 25 pictures in a 45 minute session. Especially during the Holiday season, we have employees using all 8 proofing computers at once. That would be about 200 pictures every half hour travelling the network.

I have some ideas on how to solve this, but I really want to know what you guys come up with. I may not get to check back for a few days but please, go nuts.
First of all. I would drop that switch for a router/switch combo. If you are worried about workload, you could definitly switch to Gigabit ethernet, though thats a bit more expensive. The router will help with less collisions, which should lower your workload by ALOT. Also, be sure all the Nic's are running at 100 Base-T/Full Duplex, if just one is at 10base-t or at 100/half duplex, it usually slows the whole network down.

All in all, I'd say, router/switch combo, and if ecoonomically viable, gigabit ethernet cards and routing equipment.

That should solve your workload problems.
sounds good.

just so everyone knows though, if you can think of anything else, please post it. I need mulitiple upon multiple options. getting money from my corporate office is like getting water from a rock. the more options I have to choose from the better, this way I can position myself better at the bargaining table.
At the very least the router idea should be acted upon. You can get a regular 10/100 router fairly cheaply. That is the major issue with your network right now, methinks.

Networks with 20+ computers on a switch will invariably suffer major packet collisions and the like. The router should alleviate that. With files as large as you are using, switching to gigabit would help extremely, but like i said, its pretty expensive and might be hard to convince your superiors of.
Couple of things I will ask about the server computer:

-How Much RAM is in the machine?
-Are the two IDE drives on the same bus?
-What are the processor specs?

In terms of a solution, I will offer the following ideas: One, set up another computer a little more powerful than one of your workstations and use it as a second server serving half the images. This will cut half the load atleast from the Win2k server, and the second server doesnt even really need Win2k, just put 98 on it and share a folder holding all the images. To cut general network load off of the two servers, set up each of the servers along with half your workstations on their own workgroup with a smaller switch, and then get a router like Ecniv said and hook each of the switches up to the router. This will allow internet to both workgroups, and if needed, you could set up FTP or SSH on the servers so remote access is possible.

One thing I would also say for just cutting the general load on the 2k server is to make sure you aren't running any unneccesary processes or services in the background-they will only slow the server down.

That's all I've got for now :)
Tweaking the Server Environment

You could also add an additional nic card to the server, and within the windows 2k server environment, set the software to emphasize background services as opposed to Applications.
Another thing would be to have a duplicate server that is replicated by the primary server and use Win 2k Server to setup a cluster between the two servers. This will double the amount of file serving you can do.
The tough thing about changing the hub/switch to take advantage of 10/100 - 1000 technology is like ecniv mentioned, you would need to be sure that every workstation has a 10/100 card installed. Or a 1000 card installed and Cat 5E cables if you went with the gigabyte network.
On the server it would also be a good idea to disable services or remove services that are not necesary. (i.e. IIS, FTP, WWW, DHCP, etc."

Likewise remove ANY Network protocols that you are not using other than TCP/IP obviously. For instance it does not make sense to be running Netware in this environment.
Another inexpensive solution all together is just to go to 2 Snapservers that have identical info on them. These things are designed to be used as files servers, they are quick and easy to setup and you could simply Map 4 - 5 computers to each ones share folder.

These things come in various sizes (60 GB, 120 GB, etc) and are not as expensive usually as adding a full fledged server.


Last but certanly not least is to run a DVD CD Mill with these images on them. PLace all of the images on a DVD CD and make 10 copies. This would require a lot of man hours I would think and probably an ongoing effort on your part to keep the library current. You would need a DVD CD burner attached to your server and a little patience.


That was a little brainstorming for you...
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