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I'm at the very early stages of planning a relatively small network for a local youth charity (to be used 2 / 3 days per week). I have Unix knowledge, and have played around with networking before (setting up a samba server with wireless printing etc), so although I know I have a learning curve, I'm not starting totally from scratch! We have a mixture of Windows and Unix (Ubuntu 12*) clients, and I envisage installing CentOS on the server (unless anyone thinks this is a horrendously bad idea).

Being a scientist in my proper day job, I quite like to play around with things (and see if I can get things working for my own satisfaction!), so the 'requirements' here are probably overkill for the kind of network I'm setting up, but things that I'd eventually like to work. However, if any of them are utterly impossible, feel free to tell me!

The most basic thing is a central filestore - something I know I can set up.

Initially, I'd just like some advice about the physical aspect of the network; I don't know which of the following layouts is the best (if any? or is there a certain amount of personal preference?); note that the router is wireless:

internet --> router (disable wireless connectivity) --> server* --> hub 
  --> workstations

internet --> router (wireless connectivity enabled) --> server** --> hub 
  --> workstations

internet --> router (disable wireless connectivity) --> hub 
  --> all computers (1 of which is the server***)

internet --> router (wireless connectivity enabled) --> hub 
  --> all computers (1 of which is the server****)

* I'd envisage that in this setup, the server would need 3 network cards: 1 in, and 2 out (one of which is wireless)

** I assume that the server in this setup would only need in/out network cards, with the router providing wireless access

* I'd envisage that in this setup, the server would need 2 network cards: 1 in, and 1 wireless out

** I assume that the server in this setup would only need an in network card, with the router providing wireless access

There could, very occasionally, be 20+ computers connected (mix of wireless and wired) to the network; I don't know whether the limiting factor with connectivity would lie with the network / hub I buy, or our internet connection (we're in a small English market town, so no high-speed fibre-optic internet here!); if the former, will an off-the-shelf 16 port hub with 1 Gb network cards in the server be good enough, whichever layout I go for?

If it makes a difference, I'd eventually like:

  • wireless access to the filestore on the server
  • wireless access to the printer (this could be be network connected or connected directly to the server)
  • decent firewall on the server - both as security from the outside and probably to limit access to some websites (both because it's a youth organisation and because I'd be quite interested in seeing how easy controls like that are to set up / maintain)
  • (probably) SSH access to server (both inside the network and from outside)
  • VPN access (very very low priority! This is totally as a personal challenge)

for the wireless filestore access, wireless printing and firewall, I assume (although have no evidence) that having the server inbetween the internet and all other workstations, as opposed to parallel with all the workstations would make things easier to set up? Are there advantages / disadvantages / caveats to having a wireless card in the server rather than relying on the wireless router (or vice versa)?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by CharlieRB, Tog, Dave M, Scott, Brad Patton Apr 19 '13 at 0:59

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Although you ask very good questions, this doesn't appear to be a good fit here because it's hypothetical (faq). There are many ways to answer your question hypothetically, and those answers would likely be of varied opinions and could cause arguing and extended discussion (this is not a forum). There are lots of resources available to research the varied network setups and choose which is right for you. If you can edit this question down to a clear, concise form it may be salvageable and avoid being closed. – CharlieRB Apr 18 '13 at 11:44
@ChrisW Eh hard to say with this setup. What's their budget and how much time will you have to work on this if it breaks? Is security a concern? I think you are on the right track but you will want your firewall separate from any other device. Check out PFSense for that. – jmreicha Apr 18 '13 at 13:55
Thanks for the comments; I knew there was some possibility that a question like this could provoke debate! Perhaps I was hoping that some of the suggestions I made were so utterly stupid they could be discounted! I'll see if I can work out a shorter version of the question(s). In terms of cost, erm, very little. I do have a computer I was hoping I could use as both a firewall and a fileserver - funding for a new computer just for 1 of those uses would be impossible. Security is of some concern, but isn't highest priority for now – ChrisW Apr 18 '13 at 19:16
I'm voting to close this because I think it's too open and vague. I do think there might be valid smaller questions here. Suggest checking out sites like SmallNetBuilder and reading some general guides and coming back with smaller more specific questions. Wish you luck. – Brad Patton Apr 19 '13 at 0:59
In that case, how do I prevent any question asking for advice (e.g. even if I just asked 'layout 1' vs. 'layout 2') provoking debate and ending up in a closed question? – ChrisW Apr 19 '13 at 9:40

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