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Posted: 2/14/2012 9:33:09 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/14/2012 9:41:33 PM EDT by CFCNC]
I work for a small family company of about 30-40 employees that conduct most all of their business on the road. We take a lot of pictures that need to be shared with others in the company across the nation, and are currently using a hosted FTP server to do so, our website is also on this server. Email is taken care of by an Exchange server at one of the secretaries homes that also runs Windows Server 08 that they use to log into to keep their work collaborated. I am unaware of her internet speed, but I will guess 20 down / 3 up, and it handles the email volume fine. We recently upgraded our shop to 50 down / 5 up cable with static IP, and I am hosting a small webpage there for the IP security cameras remote viewing feed. My boss/uncle recently asked about other options we possibly have to make things simpler. Our web/ftp host is charging $50 a month for 50 GB of FTP storage, and that is no longer enough as most files need to be left on the FTP for a few weeks until everyone is to a point they can download them. (Traveling on an aircard doesn't always allow for downloading massive files, and most hotels have even worse speeds when downloading from an FTP)

Our website has not been updated since 2002, and since he saw the page I made for the security cameras, he asked if I would design a new one and figure out a hosting solution. I know little about this side of networking (mainly I do programming for local networks), but was able to figure out how to host with Apache and create a decent webpage from a template in a few days of research. The web page for the company will see little traffic as our main customers are a handful of very large corporations that know us already and the only people who will be going to the site are there to fill out an application for employment. I'll make it flashy to draw them in, so it looks like a cool job.

I looked into switching over to both Google Apps for Business and the Microsoft one, but the Microsoft one was going to be $600 a month with our needs, and the Google one wouldn't provide enough email storage. About 10 people in the company receive 100+ emails per day, and save every one of them. The last time I checked the .pst files on my uncle's computer he was at 79 gb lol. The biggest problem with that is they still like to use email to attach 4 mb files rather than use the FTP... something I may need to break them of. I also do not like Google Sites, so that portion would be worthless to me and I would still need to host a webpage elsewhere. Plus we already own Exchange and just spent $3k on a new server for it last year. In the near future all I am looking to do is find a new way to get a website up, as well as some sort of file transfer, but we do want to do something with the email shortly after, whether it be move it out of the secretaries house to our shop, or scrap Exchange all together and find something new.

Either way, the website/ftp will be transferred over prior to doing anything with the email server. That way if I fuck up, I'm not halting the company for a few hours and can get a bit of experience under my belt.

Now for the questions...

Is there a reason some website hosting solutions are $4/month and some $100/month, and will it really make a difference with the low volume of traffic the webpage will receive? From what I understand, most of the cost is speed of FTP transfer. I can currently pull from our server at 700 kbps, on a 50 mB down line, so the limit is the servers upload... I get 5 mB upload at the shop, so the transfer rate SHOULD be roughly the same if I was to host it at the shop.

With the whole cloud movement, is there a better solution to file hosting than FTP now? I've looked into Dropbox Teams, but the price is pretty steep for several users. Currently all users use the same login for our FTP now (due to the lack of support from our hoster... one of the reasons for doing this all) so we could just get the 5 user/1TB version for $800/year. I still like the idea of FTP so that I can make accounts for each major customer to be able to access certain areas of the FTP when needed, it is also what everyone in the company knows, so it keeps the change hidden from them to subdue panic and keep my phone ringing non-stop for months on end. 250 - 500 gb should be all the storage we need.

Will hosting a large FTP server at our shop require a higher end computer, Or are they pretty resource friendly? I understand complex websites will take a lot of CPU usage, but I'm only looking about 20 pages with mainly text and a few little icons, and one page for a gallery of our work, so that shouldn't use up too much of the CPU.

Better options than Apache (on Windows) for hosting websites, and will I run into conflict issues running two websites from one box? I'm not scared of linux, but I've never used it for much more than basic computer use and a bit of telnet, so I wouldn't mind a solution running on it.

FTP server programs? I'm fond of filezilla and honestly haven't looked anywhere else...

I have a Linksys E4200 as the main router, with two Cisco 8-port gigabit switches off that, a cheap Belkin router to provide wireless to a secondary shop, and a managed 24-port switch I use for dry contact door alarms. About once a month, there will be up to 15 computers connected at once to our network(5 desktops connected 24/7, but rarely used as well as 4 IP cameras) and I'm using about 120 LAN IP's currently... other than slowing down the bandwidth the servers can use when everyone is on at once, will this pose any issues? Its kind of a cluster fuck... I have some Adtran Netvanta 1224's that can be used if anyone knows something special they can do that will help me out here, all I ever do is add some vlans, SNMP traps, and name the ports... the manual is too long to learn anything else about them, I'm also all self taught so it gets confusing sometimes.

If you have made it this far through the post, I appreciate the time you took to read it! I'm sure that I missed several important bits of information that would help... so just let me know any more info you might need. If I am in way over my head, a simple GTFO would suffice.

ETA: This may help things... here are the options that I am looking at, trying to find the best one.

A. Online website/FTP hosting, just need to determine if you really get what you pay for...
B. Host website/FTP from a box at our shop, would then build a computer/server for this. (I have a bunch of 19" racks and always wanted to load one up with rack server cases, switches,etc... )
C. Host website from a box at our shop, and find a different solution for FTP transfer.
Link Posted: 2/15/2012 12:43:24 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/15/2012 12:49:28 AM EDT by JBlitzen]
Software developer, not IT, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Shared hosting plans are risky, you sometimes have a very slow server, sometimes fast. Just depends on the load at any given time. You're sharing both CPU time as well as RAM with many other accounts doing the same thing. There are people who theorize that all of godaddy's millions of shared hosting accounts are actually running off of a single Tandy PC in the CEO's basement. Your mileage will vary, sometimes by the minute.

What's your corporate connection? You mentioned bandwith but left out two things. 1) Do you have a static IP? and 2) Do you have bandwidth usage caps or can you run full throttle for an entire month without a problem?

You can run Apache on Windows if you need to. Or run PHP through IIS (Windows' normal web server). Linux really isn't a factor unless you just want to, or can't work out the Windows licensing complexities.

FTP should be fairly straightforward to host. Simply by viewing any page on this site, including this one, your browser is downloading all sorts of shit including HTML, css and javascript files, background images, button images, the little images for the post editor icons, advertising images, etc. Some of that is cached, but a lot isn't. To a computer, that type of upload and download can be done much faster than your network connection (or the host's) will allow. Thus, bandwidth and usage caps are the bottleneck. The stupid thirty year old Tandy mentioned above used to easily host multi-user BBS systems.

Static webpages are also, as you can imagine, easy to host for small user loads. But your upload bandwidth might become an issue for both webpages and FTP. Upload is always slower than download, sometimes by an order of magnitude or more.

Comparing your local setup to a shared or dedicated external host is difficult without knowing more about your local network connection. If it has everything you need (bandwidth up and down, acceptably high caps, and a static IP), then setting a server up to handle this makes a lot of sense, and is almost trivial for a competent IT dude or dudette. But if your network bottleneck is too narrow or whatever, then a different internet service account or a coloc/dedicated hosting solution will be necessary.

I have a $10/month unlimited godaddy account. Stuff does not run fast on it, and it's never predictable. Okay for utility, terrible for sales demos or anything mission critical.

(And solely out of professional curiosity, what software package(s) are your employees using to manage the images? Some custom thing, or a shrinkwrapped business solution designed for your field, or just plain FTP clients?)
Link Posted: 2/15/2012 4:39:36 AM EDT
Can you give the short version of what you are looking for. Way too much to read this morning.
Link Posted: 2/15/2012 4:52:30 AM EDT
Your problem is not IT.

Your problem is management's lack of enthusiasm for fixing the problem right.

You need two separate sets of servers in two separate hosting facilities, and your OWN hardware and an IT guy to run it and do nothing BUT run it.

Until your management problem is fixed, you will continue to struggle with the IT.

In my company, we have two full time IT guys, and one part time who does other stuff too... and we have half the employees. The IT guys run 90 servers (about two thirds of them are virtual) in two hosting locations and have 10 terabytes of data storage, 45meg, 150meg fiber, and a backup line (10 meg I think) all on about $250k a year in costs. The same guys run all the PCs, support laptops, and support end users at the same time.

In your case, not having the time to research or the basic knowledge of what to do is really really hurting you.

Stop fucking around with secretaries and get a real IT guy.
Link Posted: 2/15/2012 5:25:39 AM EDT
You're a smaller operation but you're growing... a hosted solution for everything will help you out a lot. Let someone else be responsible for securing the web server, monitoring connectivity, managing the firewalls and such...

You could conceivably do it yourself... just get a link from your ISP, route that into an interface of a SOHO (small office/ home office) firewall appliance, port the internal interface to a multiport switch and feed your domain that way. Keep your FTP server and web server seperate from your internal network, put it on a DMZ (demilitarized zone in the firewall where it's on its own stub network and, if it gets owned, your internal network doesn't get compromised.)

This is doable but don't use solutions you can find at Best Buy. This is best done with business class stuff (like 24 port Cisco switches, you've already got the Exchange server, you can stand up a Microsoft domain controller to provide IP addresses internally to yur network, and like a Checkpoint firewall solution or Cisco PIX firewall appliance...)

Sure, this may be more than what you need right now but it provides scalability...

You'll also need a way to move photos from your FTP server to a storage server in the internal network... you could build a RAID of a few terabytes for not too high of a price (that is if terabyte drives or multi gigabyte drives are down in price)... I know the Barracuda 15,000 RPM drives are supposed to be good stuff (it's been a while since I built a server so I'm not positive SCSI 2 is any faster than IDE or SATA or whatever the standard is now...
Link Posted: 2/15/2012 5:30:49 AM EDT
After reading the post, I'd highly recommend you look at a few companies in your area that do managed services and hosting solutions. Talk to several and compare pricing and services.

You can do it in house but you need someone that knows what they are doing to come in and design and configure everything properly.
Link Posted: 3/29/2012 6:49:51 PM EDT
I forgot about posting this, sorry, here's an update.

I already have all the firewall devices, Sonic wall.
It is a static IP, no bandwidth caps. (But they do say that if they feel we are using an "excessive" amount of data, they will throttle it. I've never seen it happen and a few months ago did 2 TB worth of transfer.) We also have the option to switching to 10 or 20 Mbps upload for not too much more money if speeds are not enough.

Most everyone is using IPswitch for the FTP client, and a few use whatever they want such as WinSCP, Filezilla, and FireFTP. Nothing special.

I'm not quite sure why we would need a full time IT guy to manage one or two servers. 90 servers, yes... two, no... We actually do have an IT company that we call to set things up, I usually end up helping him do things the right way, or he gives up and I just do it myself.

I ended up doing some experimenting with Linux, and have 4 servers running for testing atm. One windows, then the three Linux are Debian, Redhat, and Centos (which is basically Redhat). I've ran all of them as webservers and FTP servers, and all the Linux ones also ran print servers so employees can print to the shops from wherever they are at. I prefer Centos, and Webmin is awesome btw.

I should have just done testing first... Linux is stupid easy to use and if you ever do run into a problem, google will reveal someone else who already had the issue, along with the solution. All of the computers I am running them on are just regular old dual core 2.66/2.8 ghz with 512 MB-2 GB of ram, none even hiccup so I'm sure I will have no issues running a true server.

Lastly, I found out that our Exchange server is solely for the secretaries to sync their contacts and remote desktop into so that their files are all in one place (All the secretaries live at least 100 miles from each other)... Our email is handled by the same people who do the FTP and website. To make it worse, we just paid over $3k last year to update the server hardware...

I've decided to host the FTP and webpage off either a box at the shop here, or the one in Colorado. Email will then be migrated to the server that should have been doing email all this time...
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