School Project-setting up a network from the ground up for a real estate business that has 10 satellite offices. $125,000 budget.

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Help! I'm a IT/Networking student who is in a Network Management class where I along with 2 other classmates are working in a group to set up and configure a network for a real estate company consisting of 80 employees. There's a main office which consists of a CEO, 2 legal support people (lawyer and paralegal), 3 financial (CPA w/2 support), admin support 2, sales manager. The rest of the people are split among the 9 satellite offices and they are all sales people. So there's 7-8 people at each satellite office. They presently do everything the old way. They have no computers. Everything is done manually. They want to be able to do office work-spreadsheets, documents, etc. They also want email capability and a web-site where they want to be able to show properties, have still images, information, and virtual tours. We also need to include contact information on the website. They want this done in-house. They are requesting 40 laptops-they want to do all of their showings from a laptop, and want to do documentation and contracts on there as well. They are also interested in digital imaging. $125,000 is what they think they have to spend on this. Our group has to develop a plan, presentation, develop 2 sets of documentation (one for us and one is the sales presentation document). We also have to do a demo that include 2 sites (main, secondary), routing, website, email, and basic network access (log on to network). We need to decide how the 10 sites will communicate with each other. My classes are 5 weeks long and I'm in week 2. Please help me. I hope to get to where I can help people too one day, but right now, I'm a student. Thanks
ASKED: October 19, 2004  12:20 PM
UPDATED: March 27, 2012  11:21 AM

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IMHO. as the budget is only 125k I would say forget it.
eg 40 average laptops @ $2k = 80k leaving $45k for infrastructue. Even if go to a server at main site and all satellite clients over terminal services etc the licensing as well as assoc. hw will chew up much of the if not more than $45k without even looking at vpn/adsl links….

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  • Rookiebear
    Thanks for replying. I would like to add that my instructor did say that there are no technical people working at this business and that lots of times businesses think they need something when really they don't have any idea what they need. I have to interview the CEO and the Sales Manager tomorrow to try to determine what they really need. Maybe they are in buildings that have been wired...they probably don't really need 40 laptops either, but that's what we're supposed to figure out. Also, if it takes more money, we just need to explain why. I appreciate any help that anyone offers. I'll even take any questions that you have to offer for me to ask the company CEO or Sales Manager. Thanks ahead of time.
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  • ExchangeSME
    Here are some ideas to help with the limited budget that is speced out: Hoteling: Set up a limited number of computers at each site that can be used by sales people on a first come first sever basis. Load all necessary software with pooled network printers. Mobile devices: A Palm or Pocket Pc device costs a fraction of a laptop/computer. Real estate agents really like them too. Site to Site VPN: Use the internet as you corporate network. Get business class DSL or Cable Modem connection at each site and use site-to-site VPN concentrators to secure the connections. Wireless: If there is no physical wiring then go wireless. Wireless may be a bit slower and less secure but it can cost a lot less too. HTH, Rich
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  • JCDOIT7
    You could use Cisco 3000 VPN concentrator which is about $7000.00
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  • Etittel
    Dear RB: I agree with the two most salient points from other postings: 1. you need a clearer idea of what the company expects to get for its investment, and help them set expectations. $125K is not enough to furnish 80 people with individual PCs and build the necessary infrastructure for HQ and all satellite offices. That said, the VPN/terminal services/hoteling ideas are all good ones that you can probably use to good effect. 2. try to understand what kinds of functionality are most important to this organization. You're probably going to have to prioritize requirements as they come out, and will probably only be able to implement the most important ones. HTH, & good luck. --Ed--
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  • Agacat
    Use Linux or you won't be able to afford the license fees. Buy either Suse email server or Communigate (stalker.com) for the email server. Pay for one Enterprise server license and one desktop license (Suse or RedHat) for the laptops. Set up a local update server at the main office. Set up servers at each local office. Configure the local servers to update from the main office server, and each laptop to update from its local office whenever connected. If you use a wireless access point, carefully read about securing wireless access points and follow instructions (google it). Set up a kickstart install to configure each laptop minimally. Set up an Open Source CRM such as Sugar (see freshmeat.net) at the central office for sales personnel to track their prospects. Simplify it as much as possible (turn off functionality). Put the real estate info on apache (web server) at the main office. Set up rsync to dup this to the satellite offices, and let each sales person periodically dup this onto their laptop along with any software updates they need, also using rsync. The scanners and digital inputs will be at the main office; the info will propagate down. Set up a collaborative content management system such as PostNuke for the web service so that individual realtors can add their offerings to the web. Use Open Office as their word processor, spreadsheet, etc. If you try to use Microsoft, the license fees will eat your budget and you won't have money left for the hardware.
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  • BlueKnight
    Since one of the responses mentioned using a Cisco VPN concentrator, let me throw in that if you call Cisco, they'd be happy to assist you with network design. That would give you additional opportunity to learn, and if you pull the project off, Cisco may even be interested in you as a future employee... who knows. The budget sounds light for such an ambitious undertaking. Document all the costs as you do your research and you'll have the info to justify whatever the increase ends up being. Sounds like a fun project. Best of luck to you.
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  • Imaginetsecurity
    That is quite an amibitious assignment for a 5 week NM class. First, you need to assess the needs by meeting with the principles of the client. Put their initial budget figures into the back of your mind for now. You need to understand their business process flows first. Sketch them out and then use a diagramming program (e.g. Visio or NetViz) to make them pretty. Present these process flows to the client to confirm your understandings. Once process flows are understood and confirmed, you can begin with solution matching. If they have outside sales people (most realtors are out of the office 99% of the time) and they need to have a means to show properties to prospects then you will need to consider laptops and not handhelds. Handhelds have too limited a screen for displaying such information. Consider how active this access to content needs to be for the agents. Consider the volume of documents they believe they need imaged. How frequently do they need to access images, who needs access, what is the retention period for images, etc. Do they collect financial information from clients that may fall under regulatory compliance? How do they plan to maintain a solution if they presently have no in-house personnel? Collect your assessments and post them for suggested solution matches. Good luck.
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  • DrillO
    In addition to all of the great advice you've had thus far, make sure it is understood that WILL be recurring costs associated with this project. I have found that this is one of the most overlooked aspects of such a project. They (and you) must consider ongoing support, training, telcom costs, etc. I have also run up against this problem, or ones like it, with other students and I usually advise them to be straight up and treat it just as if it were real. All too often, teachers have been out of the loop for a while. Keep this in mind and let them know your findings up front and direct. Good Luck......
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