adam.arca
Blogger
Share this content
0
11
2159

Upgrade small network

Upgrade small network
I run a small network (3 machines + dedicated server with SBS). One machine has now died suddenly and that has crystallised an issue I have been putting off for a year or two, namely upgrade. Before I talk to the IT guy, I would really appeciate any bits of help or need to know that fellow accountants can offer (and bearing in mind that I've never felt the need to be cutting edge on IT). I have the following software-related questions but would also value any hardware advice you can offer:
 
 
We're still on Windows XP. Can we stick with that or is it better to go to Windows 7? As that's new, is it proven in a business context?
 
 
We're still using Office 2002 (with exception of Outlook). As above, are we going to have to upgrade all the way upto Office 2010? Do you have to accept the ribbon or is there an option to use the old-style menus (I've used the ribbon in Excel and don't mind it but still prefer dropdown menus)? Presumably there are no compatability issues between Office 2007 (which lots of clients now have) and 2010?
 
 
Upgrading Office on 3 computers is going to be expensive. What are the pros and cons of only upgrading on the new machine and leaving the other two as they were? More radically, I know quite a lot of posters on here have mentioned using OpenOffice or similar: how does that work, presumably OpenOffice can open MS Office files? In particular, though, I've written my own practice management app in Access with VBA. Would I be right in assuming that OpenOffice cannot handle that?
 
Many thanks for any and all answers.

Replies

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By c.szpak
05th Aug 2010 12:10

A different angle

I know you are only considering replacing one pc at present and not the server, but before proceeding with any upgrades whatsoever I would consider hosting your applications and data.  I use www.systemhost.co.uk  and they have made my life so much easier as far as IT is concerned.  All I do when one of my pc's dies is replace it, no installation of applications or copying data.

Also we're just about to move from MSOffice 2003 to 2010, additional cost...... nil.  I pay a fee per user per month for everything.  Just think how much this alone could save you.

There are far too many other benefits to go into here so look at their website and give them a call, it won't cost you anything.

Good luck

 

Chris

Thanks (0)
05th Aug 2010 12:19

Upgrade?

My advice is that you should upgrade to W7. It is very stable and the small network configuration is very good indeed. In October 2009 I upgraded to W7 from XP on 2 pc's - the third is a back-up machine and so was left running with XP. I have found W7 to be stable, with no crashes.  On the down side: you have to ensure that any directories you want to share over the network are fully shared on each pc; it's not good enough to share the root disk only. I am still running Office 2003 and can find no compelling reason to upgrade to the 2010 version.  If what you work on in your current version of Office works - then stay as you are. There is an office converter that allows you to read output from later versions of Office in your earlier on.

"I've written my own practice management app in Access with VBA. Would I be right in assuming that OpenOffice cannot handle that?" Correct. Neith can you read Outlook in OO.  I am unhappy with using cloud computing too. There are data protection issues that are unresolved (especially as to where the data is being held).  I hope that I have helped you.

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Aug 2010 12:29

Lots of questions!

Yes, you can stick with Windows XP (it works).   But, Windows 7 is more secure, and support for XP is slowly ebbing away.  I can heartily recommend Win7 on NEW machines.  BUT - Don't bother upgrading your old XP machines to Win7 as they will likely be too slow.

Office XP/2002 will work fine on Windows 7.

IF you decide to go to Office 2010, then you DO have to accept the new user-interface (there's no 'classic mode').  But, I'd argue that it's worth the effort.

There are no compatibility issues between Office 2007/2010 - the file formats are the same.  (Although there are new advanced features in 2010 which won't work if opened on a 2007 PC - zero risk for general correspondence and stuff).

You can leave the older machines, it won't be an issue technically, although you might have to condsider the hassle of keeping two different systems running, making it harder for staff to switch machines if needed.  As mentioned above, DON'T upgrade your old hardware with Win7, just wait for each machine to die and then replace with Win7 machines.

OpenOffice is perfectly nice, not nearly as polished as MS Office 2010.  It will open Office documents (most of the time!). It's free, so don't expect miracles, but as you're used to Office 2002, it'll be very familiar.

VBA is NOT supported on OpenOffice.  You'd have to re-write using OpenOffice macros and tools, although I understand that there are utilities to help you with the translation.

 

Thanks (0)
05th Aug 2010 13:05

Systemhost

We are at exactly the same point, without the machine crash, of having to decide what to do re upgrading our network.

We have virtualised our servers and operate on SBS and exchange with 20 machines.

We had systemhost in and they were very positive about the benefits they could offer and the service levels. We asked for a price and people we could talk to. Absolutley no problem at all they said and the price would be indicative only so we could negotiate.

That is over a month ago and we are stil waiting for any kind of response or follow up from our meeting.

Very disappointing because if it worked for us we would have happily recommended to our client base.

Anybody use a similar provider who actually wants the business and can get back to us.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By pmtate
05th Aug 2010 13:07

personal view - upgrade

 

We're still on Windows XP. Can we stick with that or is it better to go to Windows 7? As that's new, is it proven in a business context?  Practically you can stick with Windows XP even on a machine delivered with Windows 7, as MS has changed its licence policy http://oem.microsoft.com/script/contentpage.aspx?pageid=552836With Windows 7 64 bit you can utilise all the memory in a PC/Laptop even running 32 bit applications, Microsoft even recommend using the 32bit version of Office 2010. Having used Windows 7 since release candidate days I find it more stable than the XP on my clients machines.We're still using Office 2002 (with exception of Outlook)Office 2002 (XP) uses different file formats to Office 2010 though 2010 is downward compatible to 2007 and 2003 but ISTR a policy change in 2007 that warns or prevents it reading 2002 out of the box, not sure that is carried forward to 2010.are we going to have to upgrade all the way upto Office 2010? Do you have to accept the ribbonThe ribbon seems to be the future of Office and as with all changes you can get used to it and find it tailors itself quite well to your usage.I have no experience of using OpenOffice in a production environment.I've written my own practice management app in Access with VBA.There was a major change to Access in Office 2007 so it is unlikely this application will work without some major tweaking in either Access 2007 or Access 2010.My personal view is to actually keep up to date whenever a change in work station hardware is called for, file compatibilities in Office are a nuisance at first but over a short time become the norm.

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
By nickja
05th Aug 2010 14:08

Windows 7

I agree with the comments about better stability in Windows 7.    If you buy the 64 bit version, but want to run older, 16 bit programs such as Money Manager and Payroll Mananger, get the 64 bit pro version, with which you can access from Microsoft a virtual XP add on extension.   Without that extension, you won't be able to access 16 bit programs.

If you go for Windows 7 64 bit, watch out or you may, like us, discover only after the event that your current shared printer just isn't compatible with 64 bit and will need to be replaced  (I guess the same must be true for any shared hardware).   You may still need the old printer though, if only to be able to print from within virtual XP if you're using it.

Office 2000 runs perfectly well on the Windows machine, as does Sage and Keytime tax software.

We have only a 4 user network.    Our server, which we used only as a file server, died last year.  We replaced it with a twin disc (it runs 2 discs in case one packs up) NAS device that cost about 20% of what we paid for the server 7 years ago - and the new kit not only does everything we need it to do but also is the size of a small paperback and was fairly straightforward to install.    All we have to do on a daily basis is switch it on and off.

I've nothing against online servers other than the fact that our broadband connection is too slow for it to be a viable option (something that's all too evident when running online accounting software.

Sorry if that's all been a bit random but I hope it helps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks (0)
05th Aug 2010 16:36

I think many are missing one vital point here.

Adam,

You can take all the advice you wish from some of the very valid offerings made above, I could offer similar advice, but I would like to ask one quesion.

Do you trust your current IT service provider??
It is clear to me that you do not!

Your comment "Before I talk to the IT guy" tells the real story.

If I need advice on accounting, I go to an accountant. If I need advice on a problem with my gas boiler, I ask a Gas service engineer. The fact that you haven't discussed it with your IT provider tells me that you don't trust them and there's no point using someone that you don't trust.

My advice therefore is before doing anything else, speak to an IT provider that you can trust.  Then, follow their advice.

If you need independant advice on your IT system, please feel free to contact me directly.

Roger Neale
Perkeo Computer Systems Ltd

Tel 01623 857972

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Aug 2010 16:59

change when change is necessary

Quote: "There was a major change to Access in Office 2007 so it is unlikely this application will work without some major tweaking in either Access 2007 or Access 2010."

^^ Sorry, au contraire. Access 2007 will open and operate databases right back to version 2000. (Anyone who has tried please correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I'm aware that situation holds true for 2010 also.) The single biggest change in version 2007 was the ribbon, but that doesn't stop you continuing to use your existing databases, created in Access 2000 upwards, with a decently high level of compatibility.

I appreciate that many respondents here have the tendency to advocate the upgrade path without necessarily requiring a business reason to do so, or citing a particular cost benefit. Personally I say that if what you have works for you & isn't causing issues, consider spending your cash on more important things (tape backup drive, fireproof safe, UPS's, hardware firewall, redundant infrastructure, etc.) and sticking with the setup style you have. It's tempting to go with the flow and get sucked into the hype & marketing designed to part you from your cash with little or no real tangible benefit.

If your needs aren't complex, and superficially it sounds as if they aren't, chances are that a decent 2-4Gb RAM PC with both XP & Win7 included in the box (widely available off the shelf, & both OS will be supported for years to come) will replace your recently failed unit & you can maintain your consistent Windows XP environment just fine as you are.

If the version of Office you had running on the machine that died was running a boxed copy of Office 2002 (ie. not 'OEM') then it's a trivial matter of simply reinstalling it onto the new machine & utilise the old serial number (you're allowed to do that) - job done, carry on as you were.

If the dead machine had an OEM edition of Office installed, and assuming you're still happiest with older toolbars sported by Office 2002 (aka Office XP) or 2003, to the quote the Microsoft Volume Licensing program, "Downgrade rights in the Volume Licensing programs provide customers with the right to downgrade to any prior version of the same product". That is, buy Office 2007 or 2010 via this licensing service & you're entitled to download & install an older version such as 2002, 2003 or whichever you prefer. Best to speak to a decent software supplier or IT administrator about this.

Richard

Thanks (0)
avatar
By pmtate
05th Aug 2010 18:16

Migration considerations for Access 2007

 

<quote>^^ Sorry, au contraire. Access 2007 will open and operate databases right back to version 2000. (Anyone who has tried please correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I'm aware that situation holds true for 2010 also.) The single biggest change in version 2007 was the ribbon, but that doesn't stop you continuing to use your existing databases, created in Access 2000 upwards, with a decently high level of compatibility.</quote>  <p>Microsoft’s Migration considerations for Access 2007 are here http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc178973(office.12).aspxThe major change was of file format (as well as the ribbon), Access 2007 can open earlier files and would prefer to convert to the new format, If you don’t convert then whilst it allows access I have found some objects in the old file are not editable in Access 2007. Some VBA is also not converted properly in all cases, you could be lucky it depends on the complexity of your application and whether you have the original mdb file.

Thanks (0)
12th Aug 2010 13:34

Simon Hurst's summary

Based on the original post and advice offered here, Simon Hurst picked up the baton and put together a Windows upgrade guide to explore the options for Windows & Office, and the alternative route of taking up Cloud applications to by-pass the hassles of maintaining a server. These are the main options he considers:

Tarantual in the bananas - accept the fact that one of several computers will be using a different operating system and version of OfficeLowest common denominator - downgrade the operating system and/or Office version to maintain consistencyGrasp the nettle - use this as a prompt to initiate a general operating system and application updateOpen to change - conduct a wholesale review of the software infrastructure and consider abandoning Windows and Office altogetherDump the desktop - conduct a wholesale review of the whole system and consider moving from an internal network running desktop software to a cloud solution.

Do come back and let us know which route you ultimately choose!

UPDATE 15 Sept: In answer to this query, and another about remote networking, Simon Hurst has collaborated on a more hardware/infrastructure-based guide to networking. If you're just a one- or two-person band, you could take the low road like Simon did, and just use a state-of-the-art network attached storage (NAS) device as your network file server and let individual users continue with different operating systems.

Thanks (0)
avatar
13th Aug 2010 14:45

Many thanks

Wow, lots of answers and all look incredibly helpful and informative (and apologies for my delay - have been out of office and wasn't expecting such an avalanche of responses).

Yes, I'll let you know what I end up doing but it won't be cutting edge (so I won't be going down the Cloud route).

Thanks (0)