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Thread: Need to have a happy MAC family where we all share happily ever after!

  1. #1
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    Question Need to have a happy MAC family where we all share happily ever after!

    I work with a small graphic design firm. I am the resident photographer and, hah, 'mac expert', so I was asked to come up with a solution.

    We have a g5 tower as the 'main' computer, a intel imac, a g5 imac an older g4 desktop and not connected to the network a 17" g4 powerbook. All share a ripped epson 4000 and laser and an internet connection. The 'main' g5 tower has a bodrives connected by FW and all the others use the files from these but never download them and upload them back.

    We have a problem. It is slow. Very slow. Sometimes things don't print from one computer but will on another and open, etc.

    All the computers have standalone versions of quark 5, 6 and or 7 (some clients have not upgraded) and photoshop 5,6, cs, cs2 but not cs3 yet but soon.

    We have another problem storage space and backup. Need more and need it to be efficient. Using chronosync to make daily backups. Important files are backed up and brought out/home.

    Questions:

    1. How do we make working on files faster? Boss wants only one place for the files to be so as to avoid mistakes and saving of older files over newer files.
    2. How do we get ready for the future...storage and backup. Not expecting explosive growth. Just normal. i.e. Files/photos are just getting bigger.

    Did not know where to post this so feel free to move it where you think appropriate Mr. Moderators/gurus/Rick

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default

    One other thing forgot to mention. We have one pc used to check websites on different browsers on pc's. Can this be used on the system to be created or is this being too hopeful?

    Also, I did not specify a budget as I have no idea what it would take to solve this but like any small business low cost is always best.

  3. #3
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    Do you know how fast your LAN is running? If you set the thing up to run at GigaBit speed it can do a credible job of providing the database over the LAN. Slower networks will drag a bit.

    Building a GigaBit LAN is relatively cheap. If you have a 10/100 router, just take one output wire from it and connect to a GigaBit Switch. Then connect all the attached computers to that switch. The computer to computer connection will then be GIgaBit, for those computers with GigaBit, while only the internet connection will then be 10/100.

    Serve the files with a decent drive on a decent performing bus on a relatively fast computer. Firewire plain sucks for hard drive connections, especially for a server, and even more especially when you have more than one drive attached to that Firewire bus.

    The more Firewire drives on the bus, the slower each drive is. They all share in a low speed, limited bandwidth bus. If you have 2 drives on a FW bus, they each get 1/2 speed. If you have 3, they each get 1/3.

    Plus, most Firewire enclosures have minimum cooling and minimal brick power supplies. That configuration is not usually capable of running for hours at a time without temperature and voltage fluctuations that lead to drive failures.

    Use of a quality SATA enclosure attached to your G5 (your fastest server) with a SATA host card will not only tremendously increase available drive performance but enhance drive longevity by leaps and bounds. Also it will neaten up the setup with less wires and far fewer annoying brick power supplies.

    If the group needs the data, then you need an effective setup for long term data storage and a backup, don't forget to plan a backup while you are at it. FOr every data drive you put online you should have a backup drive and an application to maintain the backup automatically. Doing this right the first time is not al that expensive compared to doing it on the cheap. And a LOT less expensive in the long run as it stays online and keeps running and protecting your data.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  4. #4
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    Default What Ricks said.

    To summarize:

    1. HD speed. This includes the drive, and the drive's connection. The data has to be shoveled (in and out, or writes and reads) as fast as possible to prevent bottlenecks, especially when there are multiple requests. Internal drives would be nice on a "real" server, but Apple has made that hard with only two drive bays in a G5. External is almost required in G5s, and SATA is the best speed/cost connection going.

    2. Network speed. Once the data can be moved fast on and off the drive, the next thing is network speed, or how fast the data can move to and from the read and write requests over the network. If the files are decent size, then you will really benefit from a gigabit network, at least on the Macs that have Gig ethernet, and all of yours listed qualify. Cables, termination and all the network gear's quality matters. Even the length of the network runs matter.

    3. File Sharing. You should consider a way to organize the data into different share points, who has what access to what shares, and letting Macs (via AFP or SMB) and PCs (via SMB) in to those files. A free tool named Sharepoints can do all of that for you.


    Besides doing the three things above, to really make this rock solid, you might consider some software to help users check files in and out, or some other method of version tracking. Something like Cumulus Server, portfolio or something similar...maybe even MS Expression?

    Some of the features in Kenbushi looks very intersting too...sharing, backups, the works.
    Last edited by unclemac; 08-31-2007 at 11:47 PM.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

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    As this has sort of been thrown in my lap I am trying to come up to speed and learn as much as I can and help to plan for our current and future needs let me see if I have it right.

    One thing is just storage and backup. I have tried to convince my friend to figure out an off site storage plan but except for backing up current projects she is not interested. So the plan will be to have duplicate backups albeit onsite with current projects being taken off. I will look into .mac since they just increased their space I think. For this what kind of hardware should I be looking at and how to I determine what I need?

    Second and tying into the previous is the sharing of the files. What does a gigabit switch that will work with a mac cost? Are there models I should avoid, does one work better than others?

    This is what I am looking at. Correct if I am wrong.

    1. Gigabit switch to tie into current network
    2. SATA card (is this the port multiplier?)
    3. Multiple SATA drive case (is this port multipler) for parallel backups and current projects
    4. Some sort of software 'library card' to know who and when a project is 'taken out' and being worked on and then returned. Not sure if this is available.

    This above will avoid having to get a server and provide added and much needed speed to access shared files and some storage redundancy if not true catastrophic security.

  6. #6
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    Here's a 8 Port Netgear that I have very successfully used for a couple years. Excellent. J&R has it for $55.

    If you set up local storage you should consider the Burly PM enclosure for the server/fastest workstation. Best way to set up a bunch of disks for main and backup storage. Easy to swap drives in and out if you want to offsite a drive. Have to know exactly what computer you are attaching to to know what host card, but that is easy.

    That is what I am intimately familiar with. The software is not something I have used, someone else will need to jump on it.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  7. #7
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    We have had pretty good luck with Linksys gear.....something like this should do. Have also read good things about HP switches, being about on par with Cisco stuff, but not as much $$.

    Yes, cheaper network gear is, well, cheaper. The hard part is knowing what you need. Managed switches are very nice, but if you don't actually manage your switch, or need the feature, it's just wasted money. The higher end gear (Cisco and beyond) can actually pass more traffic faster, but you pay such a premium to get.....I don't really know what....maybe 10-15% better throughput? I just made that number up. I would love to see a shootout and benchmarks between a high-end consumer switch and a low-end enterprise switch to see what performance one really gets for all the extra dough, in the real world.

    As for your #4 question, my links in my previous post about cover everything that I am aware of.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  8. #8
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    Would what I am creating be considered an NAS?

    Since it seems like everything matters to optimize speed I'm assuming cables as well? Is there a place to buy cable and cut them to length and make my own and outlets as well?

    The 'main' computer is a dual 2ghz g5. I'm assuming there is a unique port multiplier sata card to get for this to work with the multi-bay units?

    Is it worth using .mac to offload/backup current projects or are there better options?

    I need to come up with an expected cost for this whole thing. Are there incidentals or things I am not thinking about? I imagine with making my own ethernet cables I would need tools/splicers and such.

    Thanks for helping the noob.

  9. #9
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    Not really an NAS. A Network Attached Storage is more dedicated than that. All you are really doing is sharing a database from your fastest workstation. Keep it simple!

    Building a Gigabit network is as simple as making sure you have good cat5 going from each computer to a Gigabit switch which is connected to the router. Done. Cat5 cabling and termination is easy once you have the basics. Nice to have someone around to show you the first time, but really not all that hard.

    I have now built in my second office wiring. We have 2 WAN connections, that which connects to the outside world. And maybe 18 internal connections for computers, printers or whatever.

    We now use a HotBrick as our router. It is Dual WAN and Load Balancing. This means we use both outside world internet connections and share the load over both of them.

    Having taken down all the sheetrock in the office when I did this it wasn't hard to make all my own wall plates with telephone and Ethernet connections wherever I needed them. Typical modular wall plates are made by and called 'Keystone' plates. I get my supplies here:
    http://www.action-electronics.com/ppkeysto.htm#Tools

    You can probably do a credible job for something between $250 and $1000, depending on whether you put it in the walls, have the cat5 already run to some or all of the workstations. Use fancy patch panels or Keystone plates.

    Here's a picture of the wall where we setup a patch panel - after I got through building a full office setup with phone and LAN and battery backups. You CERTAINLY don't have to get so fancy (if you can call this fancy, was pretty simple) We brought phones and ethernet into patch panels so it is easier to keep track of 16 or 18 stations.

    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  10. #10
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    Default A couple ideas....

    Here are a couple threads that cover some good stuff:

    Why not do phones and data the same?

    Home runs to every data drop.

    You can get cat5e (or cat6), plus the required tools and hardware anywhere.
    Home Depot or Lowes, or a mail order place like blackbox.
    "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." -- Jef Raskin

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the input. I suppose I may have bitten off more than I can chew but I did open my big mouth and said yes. Oh well, nothing like learning to walk on fire.

    Another question. We have an older ppc 400mhz g4. I was wondering if this could be used as a print server and ftp uploads for all the other computers. We have an epson 4000 with a rip and a laser printer. If this is sensible and possible how would I accomplish this across the network? it was just a thought as some of our jobs really bog down the computers when printing.

  12. #12
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    Has anyone had any experience with this unit? It seems to do what I need it to.

    http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=509

    It is a dlink NS-323 2 bay network storage enclosure. Is the burly enclosure much different. It seems like the dlink is an all in one solutions with the gigabit switch included and printer port.

  13. #13
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    Tell me, how many computers on this network?

    How are they tasked?

    Is their one that is the main workstation?


    We haven't really gone after building anything that is a dedicated NAS solution. I always thought that a small NAS storage unit was not a good SOHO solution since it has no real strengths. An NAS doesn't give much speed and is harder to manage than just designating a computer as the server and hanging enough storage on that server for data base and backup. Managing the storage from that computer/server is really easy and planning/implementing the most important part, the backup, is easy. You can also add file sharing applications as needed, something that is much harder to do with simple NAS storage.

    I don't have anything really bad to say about going with an inexpensive NAS, they work and do what they say they do. I surely would not have it also serve as the switch and router. Too many eggs in one breakable basket. The NAS has a problem you not only lose your storage but you lose the network.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

  14. #14
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    Hi Ricks,

    As I mentioned in the first post the main workstation is a ppc G5 tower. Currently all projects are stored and ethernetworked here but sharing info is slow. The other computers are an imac ppc G5 and an imac intel and two older g4 towers and a pc. Others when needed can log in as well. All share a dsl internet connection and an epson 4000 and laser printer are part of this network as well. There is also a wireless device as part of this for the laptop users...(me).

    Current problems are making sure files are accessed securely as in if someone is working on a large project that only one file is being created and not multiple files creating confusion. Also, the sharing of files is slow. Another thing that is occuring on the network is all computers have ms office installed with their own codes but only one person can use the software at any given time even though they all have there own serials.

    We are a small business and trying to get the best bang for the buck. Willing to spend where necessary but not more so.

    Things I can see adding in the future would be upgrading the g4 towers and the epson 4000 at some time. I know we need an overhaul of the network and file storage and sharing which is the purpose of this thread. I think we may still be in y2k or before mode or pretty close.

  15. #15
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    Sorry, I actually read back and missed the list.

    MacGurus has 8 to 11 computers on its network at all times. 5 G5s, a MacPro, a Powerbook, a MacBookPro, a Quicksilver G4 and an AGP G4. We also have a couple PCs (no, really!) that only get put on the network when we need to transfer data to them. We don't want them susceptible to virus and worms and what not so we keep them disconnected.

    For the most part we enjoy pretty good speed. The only time I see big delays is with the accounting application which runs off a G5 acting as a server - whenever you try to access files using that application, MYOB Account Edge, it takes a long time to produce the page or report. Part of that problem is the Account Edge program uses its own proprietary data base and it doesn't index it for speed. They designed the database and queries so it has to search the entire friggin data base every time it wants anything. Stooopid and silly.

    The main office printer is attached to one of the G5s and it feels like it is attached to your own computer. It is just a cheapie Epson CX4200, but it works great for general usage. We also have a couple of big format photo printers on our workstations that we share across the network as well. They act maybe at 70 percent of the speed when accessed over the network as opposed to using them directly connected to your computer.

    Our data base server is the old AGP G4. For the most part you cannot really tell it is not directly attached to your computer. We all mount that servers drive on our desktop and build pages from there, store our business photos there and run the local Apache Webserver from it to test all our pages. FOr the most part I can't even really tell that its storage is not directly connected to my computer. It isn't as fast as a RAID but it acts in similar speed to my internal drives in my G5.

    I have not enough experience to tell you if you will gain any speed by using a dedicated NAS storage box like the iLink. I have never run off of an NAS or tested the speed of the various types of NAS storage available today. I do know that our system using an older Mac as a NAS server is efficient and easy to manage. And I like being able to configure the server to make its backups the same as every other computer here does, using SyncronizeProX.

    Sorry to say I am not qualified to answer this. Hopefully someone else has run both ways and can answer that for you.

    Rick
    molṑn labe'
    "I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil."
--Ben Franklin

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