Macrohard Marketing

 

Nick Barrett worked networking and helpdesk for a marketing firm in southwestern Connecticut.  While the firm was largely based on Apple desktops/laptops, he got considerable experience seeing how applications and usage should influence network development.

This case is based on Nick's experience, but has been written up by him, Brandon Lee and me with respect to a fictitious company called Macrohard Marketing.

 

Background. Our case is set in Stamford, CT near to New York City, yet outside the urban hassles.  Macrohard is a marketing firm that has approximately 80 full time employees. 

The office is on the first floor of a two story, warehouse style structure.  The ceiling is very industrial and open looking.  The firm network team will have freedom to attach access points, and run cables along the ceiling.  The firm has allotted a large budget to perform a major overhaul project associated with their network.  The firm’s needs have tremendously outgrown their resources, so a major upgrade is in order.  The firm depends heavily on its computing resources in order to achieve their customer’s goals and objectives. 

Typically marketing materials are created in Adobe Photoshop, and arranged in Adobe Illustrator.  Owing to the current file sizes coming from the creative department, a gigabit Ethernet connection to the creative computers will allow them to efficiently transfer increasingly larger files.  One of the other goals of the network project is make a wireless network available; which will allow clients, managers, and other people to connect to the network, who do not necessarily need gigabit Ethernet wired to their computers.

Major Services

·       E-mail – this will allow employees to keep in contact with one another as well as clients for information exchange.  We will be implementing a 1 gigabyte limit on mailbox sizes.  Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Entourage (for Mac) become unstable when mailbox sizes approach 2 gigabyte, and we want to keep our e-mail server doing just that; sending emails.  We do not want to allow our users to effectively use the email server as their personal file server.

·       Instant Messenger – this opens up a channel of communication between employees.  Many organizations where employees are located in outlying sections of the building implement a type of instant messenger service that allows them to keep in contact without picking up the phone.  This will allow an employee that is engaged in a meeting via teleconference to communicate with other employees if he or she needs a particular file. 

·       Teleconferencing It is often easier and much more cost effective to have meetings online.  But teleconferencing requires substantial resources on the Internet and within the firm.

·      Web Server – The web page will display general information about the company such as contact information, company vision, etc.  This will also be used as a portfolio for projects that our teams have worked on.  There will be a client portion of the web site that will allow them  access to high-resolution artwork from our site.  There will also be an area of the client's section that will allow them to upload any media that may be of help to their project.  This can include other marketing campaigns and ideas that the client would like to include.

·       Database Server – Macrohard Marketing will have many databases to house the numerous documentations for each client.  The data stored in the databases will be useful when creating reports internally and for the clients as well.  There is a notion that the finance department will want to take advantage of this in the future, but that is out of the scope of this particular project.

·       Human Resources – Macrohard Marketing expects to have most of their human resource capabilities online within secured access.  This includes things like payroll and health care.

·        VPN – Virtual Private Networking will be provided for employees in the firm.  Many of the employees will be traveling throughout the country to meet with clients; this allows them to collect the data needed from the resources located on the local network. 

·        Backup – All of the major project work of the firm will be saved on a tape backup system.  This will allow the staff to take tapes off-site as per the disaster recovery plan.  The high capacity of the tapes will work well for our need, as the file sizes are going to be relatively large.

·        IT staff – The IT support staff will have a knowledge management system that will contain procedures and records related to IT support.  The staff will also have remote capability (Dameware), to troubleshoot various IT related issues in the organization. 

 

The marketing firm will house approximately 80 desktop computers and support 10 laptops.  The 6 managers in the firm will have laptop computers with an additional 4 laptops to support consultants and creative personnel that need to travel.  Additional devices that are going to be connected to the wireless network other than the laptops are PDA type of devices.  The major tasks handled by the PDA devices are syncing e-mail, contacts, schedules, etc.   But they also want to design so that expansion or special project work can be handled very easily.

The following diagram is a fairly accurate representation of the floor plan.

 

 

This floor plan also hints at the placement and channel selections for the wireless access points.

The Network.  Now we will describe a few aspects of the existing network with more of a focus on where it will be going.

The companies Internet connection is provided as a wired fractional T3 Ethernet line.  The current physical network, uses Category 5 Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) wiring and old (100Mbit) networking equipment.  The current infrastructure has a router located in the network room. 

This layout will have to be changed quite a bit.  First, all of the networking cable will be upgraded to Cat5e.  This will provide the firm with gigabit transfer speeds, but also keep the cost down when compared to Cat6.  The only advantage to Cat6 in this application would be distance, but the area that the firm currently occupies is well within the limits for Cat5e. 

Next we give the logical topology of what will be done and then discuss this after the diagram.

 

 

The new infrastructure will implement two Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series (48 port) switches tied into the Cisco 7200 Series router for all of the internal network needs.  This router will provide DHCP and internal routing for the entire network.   The switches will be used as the basis of the wires to desktops and the wiring to the access points.

A firewall will be implemented in order to minimize the risk of unauthorized network access from users from other networks.  The firewall will be used both as the gateway and external router.  Firewall appliances are available from Cisco, however these are typically expensive.  Instead, Macrohard Marketing will use a Cisco 7600 series router with the Cisco Firewall Services Module installed.  A firewall works in addition to the router program to filter all the packets, both incoming and outgoing that passes through the network.  The initial firewall strategy that the marketing firm may implement is to accept packets that come from predefined domain names and IP addresses.  This is a more secure but limiting approach, however the firewall can always be opened up over time if need be.  The Cisco Firewall Services Module is a high-speed firewall that can be easily integrated with the Cisco Catalyst® 6500 switches and Cisco 7600 Series routers.  The Cisco Firewall Services Module offers high speed data rates, 5-Gbps throughput, 100,000 CPS, and 1M concurrent connections.  Another supportive feature this product offers is scalability.  If the marketing firm were to enter a dramatic growth stage and the amount of data that flows through the network increases, up to four Cisco Firewall Services Modules can be installed on one chassis; each chassis can support 20 Gbps. 

For the wireless network, we are going to be implementing the Cisco Aironet 1400 Series Wireless Access Point.  The Cisco Aironet 1400 Series access point provides both, a high-performance feature-rich solution for use in the office, or connecting multiple LANs in a metro area; which is the ideal product for an office located in Stamford.  As with any wireless network, security is always of high concern.  The metropolitan area wireless infrastructure is provides the employees with flexibility, and ease of use while meeting the security requirements of a Wide Area Network (WAN).  This high performance solution is designed to be suitable for line-of-sight operations, with the following features:

  • Support for both point-to-point or point-to-multipoint configurations

  • Industry leading range and throughput, supporting data rates up to 54 Mbps

  • Enhanced security mechanisms based on 802.11 standards

  • A more rugged enclosure optimized for harsh outdoor environments with extended operating temperature range

  • Integrated or optional external antennas for flexibility in deployment

  • Designed specifically for ease-of-installation and operation

One of the features that the Cisco Aironet 1400 Series Wireless Bridge offers is the ability to provide Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint Applications.  For example, if the marketing firm continues to expand in terms of hiring more personnel and requires more office space, they do not need to purchase an additional Internet connection for the new building.  Cisco Aironet 1400 Series Wireless Bridge can connect offices in the surrounding buildings with wireless network access. 

Conclusion.  The employees of Macrohard Marketing Services will have a variety of services available for them.  One of the key elements of the case is the necessity for a network capable of transferring large media files.  This is made possible by the secure gigabit backbone supported through various Cisco products; Cisco Catalyst® 6500 switches, Cisco 7600 series router with the Cisco Firewall Services Module, etc.  The Wireless network will be supported by the Cisco Aironet 1400 Series Wireless Bridge, this product has a distinct advantage that allows Macrohard Marketing Services’ wireless network to be easily scaleable.