Networking Case Study 2
A client came to use with a problem. They decided to move to new electronic record-keeping software that would drastically improve their daily operations. Only one problem, they did not have the infrastructure in place to effectively utilize the software. The software vendor connected the client with a company in New Jersey that was a partner with the vendor and could provide the infrastructure. This partner company quoted our clients an astronomical cost to establish the network. Particularly troubling to our client was the fact that the partner company said they would ship them all the necessary pieces of equipment that they could just "plug in and use". Our client not only thought their costs were too high, but were also wary of attempting to install this equipment on their own. They sought our company because they were more comfortable with the idea of having a local company manage the infrastructure so that they could receive future support for their network.
Our first order of business was to gather the necessary information from the software company concerning the installation and technical information for their software. Once we familiarized ourselves with what was needed, we took a look at the quote that the partner company had provided. Immediately we noticed that they were trying to sell our clients far more than was needed. One major cost savings we were able to provide revolved around the equipment that would serve as the server for the software. The software companyís installation guide called for a Windows Server 2003 system to be installed as a minimum, but after really reviewing the technical documentation, we discovered that their software just served as a central file and database server. Due to the fact that the number of users for this system was not so high, we established that we could actually build a server that ran on the Windows XP platform. The cost savings immediately was in the thousands. We were able to use our knowledge of application development to determine what was actually needed to run this software from a conceptual level. We were also able to find other pieces of equipment to drastically save our client money, yet still provide the reliability that they needed. We then constructed and installed the server along with 3 additional workstations into their existing network.
Next came the software installation. This was just as simple as inserting the disc, hitting Next>Next>Next, and it was done, right? Wrong. Anyone who has ever installed network software knows that it never goes quite so smoothly. After following the installation instructions for the software, we found that the workstations were not actually able to communicate with the server. The technical support from the software vendor was particularly helpful with the age-old adage of "It is something on your network". Using our knowledge of application development, we set out to study their .ini files that effectively tell a piece of software how to run. Upon examining these files, we noticed that the software installation contained an error with how it mapped the computers on the network. We were able to reconstruct these .ini files to make the software installation work like a charm.
Each workstation was then installed and set up with bar-code printers and scanners so that the client could track inventory.
This client also had a bit of a catch. They had an additional location three cities away that also needed to use this software. In order to facilitate this, we installed a VPN server at the primary location. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The concept is like this: imagine that all your networked computers and servers reside on one private IP range that functions like an internal web connecting the devices. In order to be connected to this web, a device would have to be physically plugged into the primary location. By establishing a VPN, we were able to make both buildings and their existing separate networks function as one network "virtually" across a great distance. With this infrastructure in place, we were able to make the workstation at their secondary location connect to and run the software housed on the server in the primary location. This connection was done over a secure network to ensure that their data could not be compromised.
The last order of business was that one of the workers worked from their home location several days a week, but this person still needed access to this software. To meet this need, we established and deployed a telecommunication strategy. A VPN client was installed on the userís home computer that enabled them to "virtually" connect to the primary location. Once active on the VPN, the end user could then access and run the software just as they were sitting in the office.
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