Solutions – Common people, scale them appropriately!

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When I got into the world of being an IT professional, I knew I would see some interesting things. The most interesting was what I saw a few months ago, when we took on a brand new client. We went in to do an initial assessment, and what we found was absolutely ridiculous. This was an office with 4 staff and 4 workstations. They told us originally that they had a server. OK, let’s check it out. Turns out they actually had several servers…. 5 to be exact. 4 x Windows Server 2008 R2 and 1 x Windows Server 2003. There was one server dedicated to Active Directory services, one for backup of Active Directory services, one for file storage, one for e-mail (Exchange) services, and one for DHCP / DNS.

Alright, I’ll let you sit back and think about this one for a minute. An office with 4 staff and 4 computers had 5 servers. And these weren’t virtual machines (which would still be ridiculous), these were bare-metal installs on 5 separate boxes.

Who in their right mind would design such a thing ? The costs alone are insane, and what’s the purpose ? What are you trying to accomplish ? Complete redundancy ?

I’ll give some context here. This was not a small branch office of a government department. This was not the administration offices of a hospital. This was not a military installation. This was a small office performing basic clerical work. Their shared network files and folders amounted to 20 gigabytes of data. This was not an organization that required the amount of infrastructure they were originally sold.

So this comes down to one simple term: scalability. When you’re out there designing networks for your clients, scale them appropriately. Yes, there is a fine line to be careful of. You need to make sure you leave enough room for growth (growth of traffic, growth of users, growth of data), but you also need to make sure you aren’t ‘overbuilding’ the solution. This would be like purchasing 500 VPN licenses for your firewall when there are currently only 6 users that use VPN with the potential of 2 more in the next year. You can make the argument that “well, we need to plan for the future”, but let’s be honest, that firewall will be obsolete and replaced before you even get close to needing 10% of those licenses you just bought.

Far too often we see situations very similar to this. Another IT professional has completely overbuilt and overcomplicated a network, for no justifiable reason. You need to think about the amount of waste this creates. Wasted money. Wasted time. Wasted energy to keep all these systems running. And again, to what point ? Microsoft used to make a product called Small Business Server. The standard edition of this operating system would handle up to 75 users (with in integrated e-mail server and all). If Microsoft could engineer and design a single operating system that could handle up to 75 users, why would you think it’s necessary to overbuild the server infrastructure for just 4 users ?

Remember, make sure you scale your solutions appropriately. Your clients will appreciate that you aren’t overselling them something they don’t need, and when the time comes to upgrade and replace, they will have the budget for it, instead of still paying off the monstrosity they last purchased.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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