DMC Denver Network Installation and Set-Up: All In One Pile
Several months ago it was announced that DMC would open a new office in Denver, CO (which officially opened its doors Sept 1, 2014) and that I would need to order everything that it would take to get the IT infrastructure up and running. Most IT professionals come into and support an existing environment and, depending on the business, may never get a chance to build a network from scratch. I’ve only built one business network from the ground up, and there are certainly challenges along the way to get the network fine-tuned the way it needs to be. As you can see in the picture below, it doesn’t require too much hardware to get a network up and running. The configuration on the other hand is what takes the most time. The one other caveat was that this all had to be done remotely. We had to hope and pray that when everything was connected and powered up, it would start working!
Let’s start with the basics. You need a router/firewall in front of any network you choose to deploy. While Cisco is slowly trying to drive the small business market away by nickel and diming license and maximum user access requirements, I’m still convinced it’s the leader in the router market. So I went with a SMB version of their router/firewall. Of course, I needed a test network to plug into, so I used an available public IP address from our ISP and connected it directly to an available port on the modem. The next thing we needed was a managed switch. Because we use a VOIP system, a POE switch was a requirement. A managed switch, or smart switch, gives you the ability to program each port for certain capabilities or assign them to separate VLAN’s that the router has defined. For example, you can take two ports and trunk them together to get a higher throughput and possibly greater redundancy should one of the ports fail. While the price difference between a non-POE and POE switch has doubled, the cost of a managed switch vs non-managed switch is usually not too bad. That being said, I always lean towards smart switches, even if I don’t need the features right way. This way it gives you greater flexibility down the road if you need it.
One key thing that I learned while setting up the new networking equipment is to always start with basic security and work your way up to higher security measures. You need to establish connectivity before you can start placing multiple switches across your network. After some basic ACL’s were setup on the router, one more managed non-POE switch set-up and one Netgear WAP were configured and tested. Then it was time to configure the server. One of the best things about working for DMC is that we are a Microsoft Gold Partner, which means we have access to the latest and greatest Microsoft software releases. So, I was excited to install Server 2012 R2 combined with a Hyper-V instance for a SQL virtual that would be used later down the road. This server was configured as a local domain controller installed with Active Directory, DHCP, DNS roles and also, our 3CX VOIP system software. The other piece of this puzzle was choosing Denver’s local file system: we chose a NAS solution. I’m completely in love with Synology because of the ease of use, speed and security features that you get for a reasonable cost per GB. It’s loaded with seven 3 TB drives and one hot spare giving a total of 15 TB usable. This mass amount of storage was then connected directly to the server using I-SCSI which is a virtual interface. The final step was to set up the site-to-site VPN between the Denver office and our Chicago office. This is often the hardest step because everything in the connection properties has to be exact or the VPN connection will fail. Without giving too much technical detail, this ended up working perfectly! The moment of truth was when the hardware was connected for the first time at the remote site itself. Once the automatic email came through showing that the network was up, the hard part was over. This is indeed the bread and butter of my position and is truly something I enjoy doing. And of course, if a third opportunity comes along to build a new network, such as a new DMC office in Hawaii, I will be that much more ready to implement it!
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