Re: Need Ideas For A New Server, Long Post

Discussion in 'A+ Certification' started by Gareth Church, Jul 26, 2003.

  1. "Yummy" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > I have been building new desktop PC's for years, but I have always
    > bought servers from Dell, Compaq, etc. I no longer wan't to give Dell
    > or HP a cut of the action, so I want to build them myself.


    That's fine, but remember a lot of the extra cost of brand-name servers is
    the support they provide. This may well be fine, but be sure to point this
    out very clearly.

    > I need some recommendations on hardware, such as serverboard
    > preference, proc., etc. Below is what I think I need, please post
    > ideas.
    >
    > Current Specs:
    >
    > 6 Users now, will grow to 11 within 2-3 yrs (an insurance agency)
    > Current server is a Gateway P2 400 single w/128 meg PC100 ECC Ram, (1)
    > 8 gig SCSI HD running SBS 4.5 (yikes!), travan tape backup, UPS, ext
    > 56k modem for faxes
    > The server is used as a workstation in emergencies (I told them not to
    > do that) ***This server is as slow as molasses, they know its a
    > problem)
    >
    > Client PC's are a mix of W98/2K/XP


    That's good, keeps things simple.

    > No DSL, only have ISDN avail.
    > Even though they have exch., they use web-based e-mail instead.
    > Multi-line ins. agency that uses online apps from underwriters such as
    > Allstate, Progressive. Other apps that are proprietary to their
    > companies are client/server, some are 16-bit.
    >
    > The server is approx 4 years old, and was supposed to be replaced in
    > December. However, forced software upgrades are having to move it up
    > to the end of August.


    I know when we think of the word server we think high-end xeons with gigs of
    RAM and SCSI hard drives, but is all of that really needed here? You have
    said the number of users you have (and expect to have in the future, which
    is great to see you thinking ahead), but you haven't said what they will be
    doing. Will it be a file server? Print server? Will it share the Internet?
    What about services? Will it be running DHCP, DNS, Active Directory etc? And
    how important is uptime? If a service or the whole server goes down for half
    an hour, how disastrous will this be? Without knowing the answers to these
    and other questions it's impossible to say exactly what is needed. I will
    simply answer the question with more questions.

    > What they need and I want them to have (my opinion):
    >
    > Single Xeon proc, 2.1ghz range and up


    What will the server be doing that will hit the processor the hardest? Once
    you've answered that, will a top-end P4 suffice, or is the extra expense of
    a xeon warranted?

    > Intel or Supermicro serverboard. I can't seem to find a Intel Xeon
    > single proc board. Are Tyans or Gigabytes any good?


    This is probably the biggest decision in my opinion. The motherboard is
    pretty critical to the stability of the system. I have found gigabyte to be
    fine for desktop machines, but have heard some negative comments from other
    users so wouldn't trust them for a server board. Tyan's make high-end boards
    so I would trust them more, but have no experience. I would also trust
    Intel. Whatever you decide, research and plenty of it is the key.

    > 1 gig of DDR ECC ram.


    Again, what will hit the RAM the hardest on this server? 1 gig (or more) is
    warranted if it will be running a large database that is accessed by lots of
    users, but for your purposes is this needed? That said, RAM is pretty cheap,
    so it won't hurt too much if you have far more than is needed. Try to get it
    in a single module if you can, so you have plenty of room to upgrade. ECC is
    probably a good idea, no matter how important or not the server is, it's a
    nice thing to have. It's a fair bit more expensive than non-ECC, but worth
    it in my opinion.

    > Onboard AGP video, at least 8 megs worth


    Agreed.

    > Adaptec Onboard SCSI U120 or U320
    >
    > Support for RAID 5, prefer Adaptec
    >
    > SCSI HD's, prefer 30gb and larger, hot swappable. HS would be nice,
    > but not mandatory.
    > ***Any ideas on using SATA or IDE RAID instead?***


    I would really question what SCSI offers you over IDE, and whether or not
    the extra price is worth it. SCSI used to be leaps and bounds ahead of IDE,
    but IDE has really matured in the last few years. Since you want to use RAID
    5, if one drive dies you will not lose any data. I would suggest you
    seriously look at SATA (I wouldn't go PATA - SATA is hot swappable and will
    help future-proof your system. Also smaller cables - better for airflow -
    and only one device per channel).

    > ATX or EXTATX case, I like the Intel SC5250-E black case, 400w PS or
    > better, redundancy not necc. Rackmount is not an option. They also
    > specified the case must be black.


    This really makes me wonder how important the server is. If redundancy isn't
    important, they obviously aren't too concerned about the machine going down
    for a while (are you planning on buying a spare power supply - if not it
    could be down for a very long while if the power supply fails, while someone
    goes out and buys a new one). It is advertised as a server case, so I would
    expect the cooling to be adequate. I would also expect the power supply to
    be high quality, but check anyway.

    > (1) Intel 10/100 server adapter (onboard) and (1) Intel 10/100/1000
    > server adapter (onboard or add-on)


    Yeah, gigabit sounds worthwhile to me. Not too much more expensive than 100
    base, especially given the budget. Updating all the clients probably isn't
    worth it though, maybe you should get a 10/100 switch that has one gigabit
    port.

    > USB front/back/2 serial/1 LPT/No SND
    >
    > 20gb and greater DDS tape drive


    Good. I would suggest something larger. It's amazing how fast disk space can
    get taken up, and it's incredibly frustrating if you have top swap tapes and
    only end up using 5% of the second tape. Also, now is the time to sort out a
    backup strategy. The number of companies that buy tape backups and use them
    once or twice then forget about them, or leave the backups on-site. Sort out
    what is to be backed up, when and by whom. Be specific. And make sure you
    have a backup off-site. One common strategy is called
    grandfather-father-son. That is you have 3 sets of tapes, when you come to
    do your fourth backup you use the oldest (grandfather) set of tapes and the
    father becomes the grandfather etc. This should ensure you don't chew
    through too many tapes, and should always have a copy even if something goes
    wrong with one of the tapes. Oh yeah, check that the backups worked. Nothing
    worse than needing to get a file and finding the backup didn't work
    properly. Also, you might want to buy lots of extra tapes now. The
    grandfather-father-son model works well, but you don't want to rely on the
    same tapes for years on end. And it's much easier to get money for tapes
    now, than go to the bosses in a year or two asking for more money for tapes.
    They won't understand. Lastly getting a failry new drive is important. You
    may even want to buy a second. Nothing worse than having a fire destroy all
    your data and having a nice set of off-site backups, only to find the drive
    was destroyed in the fire too and the drive is no longer available to buy.

    > IDE CD-ROM
    >
    > Floppy
    >
    > Standard keyboard/mouse


    Yep, yep and yep.

    > I want to implement NAS for file sharing, etc., if costs aren't out of
    > line.
    >
    > Windows Server 2003 or the new SBS 2003 (I don't think SBS has been
    > released yet) Yes, I know I will need to dump the 98 OS, that's been
    > discussed.


    Again, hard to say. Just be sure to consider all options, and justify
    whatever you do decide.

    > Anything I missed?


    Monitor, but I assume that's because it's a fairly unimportant aspect.

    Gareth
    Gareth Church, Jul 26, 2003
    #1
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  2. Gareth Church

    Yummy Guest

    Gareth,

    You gave great advice, however i do have concerns about SATA as RAID.
    I'm not concerned about speed, but about longevity. If a SCSI drive
    lasts about 4-5 years on average, how long would a SATA drive be
    expected to last?

    All applications that aren't online apps are run through the server,
    no applications are installed locally. If I constantly have 6 or 7
    people accessing the same info and programs at any given time, I need
    to have high "headroom" for processing power. That's why I want to use
    a Xeon instead of a P4 or Dual PIII's. I'm also thinking of the
    future, because they aren't going to be willing to repalce anything
    within 4 years.

    BTW, PATA is hotswappable, with the Promise Fast Trak controller and
    the associated drive bay cages. I just don't have any experience with
    it.

    Same reasoning for the min. of 1 gig ram, headroom. If something
    changes within 1 or 2 yrs, say another app is installed or whatever, I
    don't want to say "I'll need to upgrade your server memory." Memory is
    cheap right now, 2 years from now it may not be.

    I do plan on using active directory, but not to its fullest extent,
    mainly for system policies. Some apps also require SQL server, plus
    they will be using Crystal Reports in the future (I just found that
    out).

    Probably will be using Win 2003 Server, SBS 2003 won't be release till
    later this year. I will not re-install SBS 4.5, its only caused
    problems.

    I'm considering using their old server as a NAS, after a few cheap
    modifications.

    Since they aren't many PC's, and they have only a ISDN router, I'm
    using Static IP's. When the time comes for DSL, I'll switch to DHCP.

    I will provide a spare PS. Redundant and hotswappable PS are too
    expensive.

    They are providing their own monitor.

    Another reason I'm dumping Dell and HP is lousy technical support. I'm
    tired of being on hold , and its like getting teeth pulled to get
    parts replaced when needed. Ex. I was on the phone for over an hour
    trying to get a dead power supply replaced. If something I put
    together fuc*s up, I know who to bitch to.

    I know some of these specs seem like overkill, but I wan't to make
    sure my client is happy, satisfied, and not having to spend money
    later to make up for shortcomings.


    On Sat, 26 Jul 2003 13:27:31 GMT, "Gareth Church"
    <> wrote:

    >"Yummy" <> wrote in message
    >news:...
    >> I have been building new desktop PC's for years, but I have always
    >> bought servers from Dell, Compaq, etc. I no longer wan't to give Dell
    >> or HP a cut of the action, so I want to build them myself.

    >
    >That's fine, but remember a lot of the extra cost of brand-name servers is
    >the support they provide. This may well be fine, but be sure to point this
    >out very clearly.
    >
    >> I need some recommendations on hardware, such as serverboard
    >> preference, proc., etc. Below is what I think I need, please post
    >> ideas.
    >>
    >> ***snip***
    Yummy, Jul 26, 2003
    #2
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  3. "Yummy" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Gareth,
    >
    > You gave great advice, however i do have concerns about SATA as RAID.
    > I'm not concerned about speed, but about longevity. If a SCSI drive
    > lasts about 4-5 years on average, how long would a SATA drive be
    > expected to last?


    Ah, sorry. I meant to say that but forgot. Hard drives failures follow the
    bath-curve. That is, they tend to either die immediately or last a long
    time. For a server, I wouldn't use an IDE drive for more than 2 or 3 years.
    After that period I would retire it to a less important role in one of the
    client machines, even if it still seems to be going strong.

    You are the only one that can decide whether the expense of SCSI is worth it
    or not. They really are a lot more expensive than IDE drives, and tend to
    have a lot lesser capacities, and the situation is only going to get worse
    as SCSIs niche gets smaller, so that is my feeling for considering SATA very
    seriously.

    > All applications that aren't online apps are run through the server,
    > no applications are installed locally. If I constantly have 6 or 7
    > people accessing the same info and programs at any given time, I need
    > to have high "headroom" for processing power. That's why I want to use
    > a Xeon instead of a P4 or Dual PIII's. I'm also thinking of the
    > future, because they aren't going to be willing to repalce anything
    > within 4 years.


    Right, the server is quite a lot more important than I assumed then, because
    if it goes down all clients are going to be affected.

    > BTW, PATA is hotswappable, with the Promise Fast Trak controller and
    > the associated drive bay cages. I just don't have any experience with
    > it.


    Wow, I never knew that. How does it handle power? I have accidentally
    plugged power into a drive when a system was running before, and that wasn't
    a fun experience!

    > Same reasoning for the min. of 1 gig ram, headroom. If something
    > changes within 1 or 2 yrs, say another app is installed or whatever, I
    > don't want to say "I'll need to upgrade your server memory." Memory is
    > cheap right now, 2 years from now it may not be.


    Yep, sounds very fair to me.

    > I do plan on using active directory, but not to its fullest extent,
    > mainly for system policies. Some apps also require SQL server, plus
    > they will be using Crystal Reports in the future (I just found that
    > out).
    >
    > Probably will be using Win 2003 Server, SBS 2003 won't be release till
    > later this year. I will not re-install SBS 4.5, its only caused
    > problems.
    >
    > I'm considering using their old server as a NAS, after a few cheap
    > modifications.
    >
    > Since they aren't many PC's, and they have only a ISDN router, I'm
    > using Static IP's. When the time comes for DSL, I'll switch to DHCP.


    Unless there's a strong reason to stick with static, I would suggest using
    DHCP. It's very nice not to have to make a change on all client machines
    when you make a change to the default gateway etc.

    > I will provide a spare PS. Redundant and hotswappable PS are too
    > expensive.
    >
    > They are providing their own monitor.
    >
    > Another reason I'm dumping Dell and HP is lousy technical support. I'm
    > tired of being on hold , and its like getting teeth pulled to get
    > parts replaced when needed. Ex. I was on the phone for over an hour
    > trying to get a dead power supply replaced. If something I put
    > together fuc*s up, I know who to bitch to.
    >
    > I know some of these specs seem like overkill, but I wan't to make
    > sure my client is happy, satisfied, and not having to spend money
    > later to make up for shortcomings.


    Nothing wrong with overkill. As computer builders we all love to make a
    system as cheap as possible, but most clients would much rather pay a large
    premium to get something that works and will be stable for years. A few
    hundred or even thousand dollars isn't much to pay compared with the thought
    of having an office full of people unable to do their work.

    Good luck with it,
    Gareth
    Gareth Church, Jul 27, 2003
    #3
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