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I need a good webserver....

Posted on 2002-04-01
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
Hi there,
          I need to buy a good web server
for our company and I don't want to buy clones anymore.
Do you suggest any brand name and model?
What is the difference between Hot-swap hard disk drive and raid?
What are the most important thing that I need to look for when buying the server for a small company and a site that will not have more than 30-50 users a day.
Thanks
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Question by:andy98
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by:highstar1
ID: 6910452
How much is your budget?
Are you willing to go to the Unix side or are you committed
to only MS/Intel based machines?

There are many good platforms out there. What you need depends on what you are using it for and how important it is to your business success.
Other factors depend on in house expertise and the amount
of time you are willing to use to support your system.

Hotswap drives can be removed without powering down your
system.

Raid is a systematic way of storing data on multiple drives
inorder to safe guard it. Raid drives can be Hotswapable and Raid comes in a number of levels like Raid 1, Raid 5 and so on. Each is a slightly different way of doing things.

Reliablity is the most important thing to look for in any server.
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by:highstar1
ID: 6910460
Other factors to look at are:
Do you want to rack mount everything?
UPS system to use?
What kinds of software you want the server to run?
Will this system also be used as a workstation or will
it be a dedicated server?
What kind of connection or network are you using to the
outside world?
Would it be better to have a server colocated with your
Internet Service Provider?
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Author Comment

by:andy98
ID: 6910504
Ok.. this is what I need..
Intel based tower, running 2000 server, Coldfusion, Webtrends.
Will be stand alon server, not used as workstaion. Will be connected directly to a T1 line.
Will be used for a small website with 30 users a day. Maybe will have some audio video streamed from it from time to time.
Which is more expensive, Hot swap or raid? Which one is better and why
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by:magarity
ID: 6910518
30 to 50 users per DAY?

This is a such VERY light load it might as well be nothing as far as CPU power is concerned.  You can use anything down to the minimum installation for the operating system used.  In the case of Linux or BSD, this would be a 386 with 32MB of RAM.  In the case of Windows2000, Pentium 133 with 128MB of RAM.

Consider buying whomever at the company has the slowest desktop a new system and using the old desktop as the web server.

Before making a firm recommendation, you will need to supply some more information:
On the other hand, how certain are you of this traffic load?  Is it an internal use website only?  Are customers going to place orders via this site?  Is the webpage relatively static or is it a monster of php?  What is the internet connection speed?  ISDN?  DSL/cable? T1? OC-12?  Oh, and as highstar1 asks, what is the budget?  I can recommend an IBM Ecommerce AS400 web server, but I bet it's out of the budget.

HOWEVER

The above is all just my opinion of what you should be doing instead of the actual question you have asked.  To answer your question point by point:

1.  Do you suggest any brand name and model?
The smallest and least expensive "small business server" from IBM is the pSeries 610 Model 6C1, IBM part# 7028-6E1L.  Perhaps you may want to consider a stanard PC or workstation class IBM machine used in the capacity of a server.  Without a firm number for budget, I can't make a recommendation.

2. What is the difference between Hot-swap hard disk drive and raid?

Hot-swap means you can pull a defective hard drive out of the computer without turning the computer off.  The computer will continue to fuction perfectly.  You can then put a new drive in place, again, with no interruption.  RAID means 'Redundant Array of Independent (or "Inexpensive", depending whom you ask) Disks.  These two operate together so that the RAID controller uses the remaining drives while the defective one is hot-swapped for a new one.  There's much more to it than that, but that's the executive summary.

3.  What are the most important thing that I need to look for when buying the server for a small company and a site that will not have more than 30-50 users a day.

I supposed my rambing at the beginning is the answer to this one.  This is truly an insignificant load on a web server of that number and timeframe are correct.  No user of the website will be able to tell the difference between a minimalist recycled old computer and a new top of the line beast.

If this were my project, I would:
Buy the slowest PC's user a new machine.  For the old machine, buy an IDE RAID level 1 card ($79) and a pair of matching small hard drives ($69 each) in hot swap bays ($89 each) and call it a fault tolerant web server.  I assume it already has a netowkr card.  If not, add a 3COM 905 series for $25.  Total outlay, ~$400, including shipping.  Yes, I'd buy two new drives rather than one and use the exising one just because the old one may have several years of wear on it.

regards,
magarity
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by:magarity
ID: 6910532
OK, I took a while writing my response and I didn't have your updated specs.

Since you want a new machine, get any IBM Celeron based PC and install your own IDE RAID controller and get another hard drive to match whatever comes with it.  Your performance requirements are VERY low and do not require much horsepower at all.  2k server wants plenty fo memory, which is still reasonably inexpensive.  Go with 256MB and you'll be all set.

How swap without RAID is frivolous.  With RAID level 1, two disks are exact copies of one another.   If one fails, pull it out while the computer is on (hot swap).  The RAID controller will think 'hey, drive #1 is gone, but I'll just operate off of disk #2 because it's an exact copy.'  Windows 2000 and the web server software has NO IDEA that the hard drive has failed.  You put in a new hard drive and the RAID controller thinks 'Hey, here is a brand new blank disk!  I'll copy everything on the disk I already have to this new disk so they will both be exact copies again.'  It copies everything and again, Windows and the web server have no idea that a drive failed and was replaced.

Without RAID, you pull out the hot-swap disk and suddenly Windows doesn't have a drive.  It WILL panic and stop working, I assure you.

SCSI RAID is VERY expensive (Think $500 for a starter model) and completely out of line with your requirements.  An IDE RAID controller can be had for $79.  Hot-swap IDE drive bays can be had for $79-$89 compared to how-swap SCSI bays starting at $200 each.  Your performace requirement does not even begin to require the added expense of SCSI unless you just want to throw away money.  Also, while you can order IDE RAID equipment installed by IBM, they will charge a fortune.  Install it yourself; it is not hard and you can always ask here if you have a question.  I have installed IDE RAID controllers and it is quite easy.

regards,
magarity
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by:magarity
ID: 6910550
PS - Windows2000 has software RAID capability so you don't really need to buy an extra controller, just two matching capacity drives.  I can't really recommend it because I've never tried to hot-swap a 2K software RAID and I have no idea how the software would react.  I have done it with a Promise IDE RAID 1 controller and it works perfectly under 2k.  The extra $79 is well worth the extra layer of sophistication, IMHO.

Anyone here ever hot-swap a 2k software RAID?
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Author Comment

by:andy98
ID: 6910558
magarity,
           Thanks for your help and suggestions, I really appreciate it.
The only reason I was looking for a more robust server, even though we have 30 users a day, is that sometimes we will put out studies or info for others to see and that number will reach 2000 -10000 users might want access the server to access the info. This might last only couple of days or so. I just want something that I will need to upgrade or fix in few months from now.
What is the different between SCSI and IDE raid beside the speed?
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by:highstar1
ID: 6910628
IDE is concidered a Poor Mans SCSI.
The limit to most modern systems is 4 IDE devices 2 per
IDE chain.

SCSI's can have 7 to 15 devices per card. You can install
multiple SCSI cards.

SCSI and IDE can coexist on the same system.

SCSI devices are multitasking. The different disk drives may be used at the same time.

IDE are not multitasking. Only one device can be accessed on any given chain.
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by:highstar1
ID: 6910634
Additional IDE controler can be added.
The max IDE machine that I'm aware of is 8 devices.

SCSI has more variety of devices. Simular to USB.
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magarity earned 20 total points
ID: 6910680
With a worst-case of 10,000 views per day, that works to one every 4 seconds if we assume perfect distribution across a 12 hour day (to allow for time zones).  4 seconds is a relative eternity for a CPU to give out a web page.  Especially if the web page is reasonably static, like a basic HTML.  If your reports are simple writeups, this is the case and does not require CPU or disk at all.  Once a page is loaded into the web server's memory cache, there is no more disk activity.  If your web site is small enough to be in system RAM, you're all set.  Either get more RAM or pare down the site.  RAM is cheap even with recent increases; get more.  If the HTML is in RAM, you can have the slowest hard drive ever and users will never know.  Forget I even mentioned SCSI.  It is out of line with your requirements (more below).  I do recommend IDE RAID in hot-swap bays just because if one disk fails it can be replaced without even turning the computer off and it doesn't cost very much at all to add this wonderful feature.

If the reports are searchable and/or do database lookups to create a custom page per user, you'll need a lot of machine.  There is a HUGE disparity in processing power needed between simple HTML web pages and fancier custom-per-user pages.  Much more than you would expect.  

Strategies (assuming customized pages per user as the normal website):
1.  Buy a huge computer that can generate custom pages for 10,000 hits per day and let it sit idle the rest of the year.  Costs a lot and depreciates quickly while doing no work.
2.  Buy a basic computer even if your 30-50 per day users get custom pages. (I don't think you can make a 30-50 user/day customized website that would begin to stress, say, a Celeron 800 even if you tried very hard with streaming video to everyone.)  Then, when a new report is released, have a backup web page in place that only dishes out static HTML to the 10,000 users.  Revert to the complex web page after the flood.  As an example see CNN.  They do this conversion quickly when really big stories break and their website gets hammered.  Read it today and you get fancy graphics and all.  Read it at noon Sept11 and you get text HTML with no graphics, did you see that then?  Same server, different delivery of content based on load.

Up to you and your budget, but if this were my project, I'd pick #2.  #1 assumes you have money to burn.  Discuss both options with whomever designs your website because that person(s) will need to have the secondary version available when new reports get flooded with users.  You can discuss it with your controller, but it's a no brainer which option is preferred to a controller.
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Author Comment

by:andy98
ID: 6910706
magarity,
           Thanks again. Money is really tight for us and that is why I asked this question to begin with.
I wanted to know if people were satisfied with servers that cost them 800-1200 and if they recommend anyhting.
Thanks again...
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by:magarity
ID: 6910821
"servers that cost them 800-1200"

As an example, IBM is peddling Pentium 4 based Netvista workstations, model A-22P, (229222U) starting at $699.  No monitor, but once its configured you don't need one.  IBM wants $60 to boost RAM from 128 to 256 or $159 to go all the way to 512.  Good prices.  Unit inclues Intel EtherExpressPRO 100Mbit network card.  Comes with a 20GB drive.  Is that enough?  Larger options are available.  Be sure to plan with your web designer/maintainer about how much capacity is needed.

Pricewatch lists a 20GB IBM drives at $83.  Promise brand's "Fast Trak 100" IDE RAID controllers at $79:
http://www.promise.com/product/subsys_detail_eng.asp?pid=8&fid=2
Promise brand IDE hot-swap bays to match the Fast Trak series controllers at $70:
http://www.promise.com/product/subsys_detail_eng.asp?pid=14&fid=5

Total cost is then 699 + 60 + 83 + 79 + (2*70) = 1,061 (or 1,160 if you get wild and go with the 512 RAM; this extravagance would not out of line)  Plus shipping, of course.  Plus your time to assemble it (although IBM sell and install all of this for you at a premium cost).

This would be a MUCH more than enough web server for most of the time and perfectly able to handle occasional large loads as discussed earlier.

Enjoy, and be sure to write back when your first 10,000 user day hits.
magarity
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