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Case Study

We were contacted to assist a company with its network. Although things were working well enough for them to get their jobs done, there were annoying, productivity-impeding problems, and they were looking for solutions.

Problems

  1. Every day at 4pm, all users were inexplicably disconnected from the network for 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. It was taking a long time to open files on the server.
  3. They were unsure whether their existing backup was working correctly.
  4. The existing server was approaching the end of its life and also running out of disk space.
  5. A number of their computers were running slowly.

Approach

The first step in working with a system is to understand the existing setup. Next, we must figure out how things should be configured to work properly. Finally, all changes are made with careful consideration of the effect they will have on the rest of the system.

Assess

An initial glance at the server revealed that DNS (a critical networking service) was not set up correctly. This was fairly easy to correct, and after about 5 minutes problem #2 was resolved.

The server was old enough that it was at the end of its useful life expectancy and no longer had a valid vendor hardware support contract.  It was also nearing its disk storage capacity and was becoming a performance bottleneck.

A review of the network wiring exposed that it was a product of many years of changes and growth without consistent standards or an overall plan. There were 4 network hubs and switches located haphazardly and interconnected in illogical ways to support only 10 users. Nothing was labeled or diagrammed, and it was not clear exactly what was connected where.

Further network examination identified a wireless network router that was effectively configured as a public access point–aka “hot spot”–for anyone within range to connect to their private network. This was a security risk and exposure of their confidential data they didn’t realize they had, and we immediately turned it off.

Examination of their desktop computers brought to light that several were slow and underperforming, and would benefit from simple, inexpensive memory upgrades. The need for standardized antivirus software on each computer was evident, as most were outdated, misconfigured, or not working properly. Some were even infected and required spyware removal.

Align

Step 1:

The physical side of the network needed to be standardized first. All network connections were run back to a single storage room. A single 24-port network switch was installed to accommodate all computers, printers, servers and the internet. The internet router and the network switch were placed on a UPS (uninterruptable power supply).

This resolved problem 1.

Step 2:

A new server was purchased and installed. It was purchased with a 3 year support contract offering 4 hour, 24x7x365 response time to cover any possible hardware problems. It was also designed to allow for reasonable file growth for the next 5 years.

Standard mapped drives were set up for all users, as well as appropriate group membership and security.

An appropriate backup solution was implemented, in this instance a high-speed tape drive combined with Symantec Backup Exec, for a full nightly backup and archiving.

Step 3:

Several workstations were upgraded to provide better performance. All spyware was removed.

Microsoft Forefront was installed as well as WSUS to manage updates.

Several systems that were running poorly were too old to effectively upgrade and were replaced.

Step 4:

The wireless network was redesigned to solely provide internet access and not access to the private company network.  Wireless encryption was enabled to provide secure access to the internet for guests and their wireless devices.

Manage

Nightly backups are now monitored by email. The server is maintained remotely to keep it up to date. Logs are monitored for security problems and to proactively head off possible problems. Workstations are updated nightly for Windows updates and virus definitions.

Results

What was an unsecure and unstable network was corrected to provide a productive and stable environment. What was requiring a significant amount of support has become standardized and secure. The users of the network no longer have their productivity interrupted by problems.

 

1272339450_MailFrom Our Mailbox:

“One of the best investments our Association has ever made – extremely responsive and very knowledgeable and trustworthy. I believe every business today needs a computer consultant as helpful and reliable to help keep operations running smoothly and efficiently.”

Carol Vieira
Chief Operating Officer
South Metro Denver REALTOR Association

 

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