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Recommended file server / sharing solution

Posted on 2004-10-15
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I'm not sure if this is the right area for this question but here goes....

Our office currently has a network wtih approximately 25 users.  We're running Small Business Server 2003 and exchange and the Primary Domain Controller(DC).  About 10 of our people are CAD users who keep and use their drawings right from the DC.  As we've grown, I think the needs of the CAD users and exchange is really slowing the DC down.  AS a result we're considering putting a stand alone file server / sharing solution in place for the CAD users.

What would be the best solution to meet our needs in terms of hardware and operating system requirements?  There's such a wide range of server options out there and my knowledge of the server market and server hardware technologies is quite limiited.  I also dont' know which operating system would be most appropriate for this scenario.  Do we need to purchase another verison of Windows SErver 2003 or can we get a way with something else?

Thanks in advance,
J
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Question by:Intricate
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by:Caseybea
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I'll start my answer with a question :-)

What are your budget limits?     I

n any case, sounds like you do need a new server to offload things.

In short-- this can range from another Microsoft 2000/2003/whatever server ($$$$), or you could also get a separate server and load some variant of LINUX on it.    The cool thing about LINUX is that a) it's free, and b) You can add "SAMBA" in.       You'd then only need the cost of the hardware and some disk....

SAMBA is basically "Windows file sharing, but on a Linux box".   To the workstations, it would look, feel, and behave like a Microsoft server.   About the only thing you CANNOT do with Samba is Domain-controlling.

Let us know the budget you have to work with, and we can provide better recommendations, if the above does not suit your needs!

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by:crazijoe
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by:Intricate
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Thanks a lot for the input.

As for a budget I'm hoping to keep this under $4000 US.

J
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by:Caseybea
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The NAS server is a great recommendation.

Check this out:   http://www.snapserver.com

LOT of disk for a reasonable price.   We've used them at my office- easy to set up, works well.

As fas as I know, you can set it up so your users must be authenticated in the domain before they can have access.   You can also set up simpler access like FTP and such........

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by:Intricate
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Are the NAS servers fast enough to operate off of....not as an application server but our CAD users will all keep and use the files while they're on the server.
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by:Caseybea
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If the files are on the server - be it NAS, or file server, or whatever---   the idea is the same:   The files are accessed over the NETWORK.    The network is the bottleneck, then.

They're doing it NOW--- accessing files on the other server you have.   A NAS is basically a "file server that does nothing but store files".   A "true" file server (Windows 2003, etc) has a lot more functionality- and additional security, and so on and so on.

In your case--   you have a small contained environment with a half dozen users.

SO----  I think the solution would be a low-cost linux-based file server (which would allow you to spend more $$$ on some big honkin' disks), OR, as mentioned abobe- a network attached storage device (NAS).

Since you're dealing with CAD files, which tend to be HUGE:   No matter WHAT you do, if you aren't already doing so, you should be using a gigabit-speed network.     Therefore, some of your budget $$$ may need to go to a gig hub and some gig network cards.    If you already have that, cool!   If not, THAT more than anything may be a huge part of your performance issues.  

In fact--  if you are not at gig yet; consider upgrading the existing server to gig-speed, as well as the workstations, and see how your performance is doing.   You may end up doing nothing more than buying some gigabit-speed gear, and maybe an additional disk drive for the EXISTING file server.   technically, this becomes an elegant and VERY easy solution....................

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Caseybea earned 400 total points
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WHOOPS----     slight modification.  I didn't remember you have 25 users.

Consider this tweak:  A second gig-speed network card for the CAD users- and put them on a private gig-speed network that includes the server.

(MULTIPLE USERS) ----- [regular network] ------  [[GIG HUB]] -------  [gig network] ----- (CAD USERS)    
                                                                            ||
                                                                            ||
                                                                      File Server


Lots of ways to do this; the above is a simplified option!

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by:gjohnson99
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This is what my office did

Used windows 2003 server std  $500-$600

Server tyan mother board with 2 and operon 64bit cpus,  2 gig ram, gig nic,  2 sata 250 gig drive under $3000

I yet see any thing fast out there at near hat price.  
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by:cooledit
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hi, there

You could try with saving the money on the OS and go with E-Smith server no limits can do with very little administration, less hardware.

It's easy to configure and run like a walk in the park cost 0.00000000$
Server version 6 is out there.

www.e-smith.org (running features)
DNS,DHCP,Domain logon server, AC, FileServer, Printserver, FaxGateway, Firewall

The only place where it might not be feaseble is backup's "you need to do a full backup" restore can only restore all not per file.

Remember to get a storage device for backup for your solution.
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by:FishMonger
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When buying/building a file server, the 2 most important areas to concentrate on are bandwidth and disk access.  The other areas (os , cpu, ram, etc) are also important but to a lesser degree.

Bandwidth:
You’ll defiantly want to use a gig nic on the server.  Gig nis’s on the workstations would be great but in your case probably overkill, good quality 100Mb cards would be just fine.  Instead of the hub that Caseybea recommends, I’d use a switch, preferably a managed switch.  Using a hub as the main connection point to the backbone would not be a very good choice.

Disk Access:
Often I see people recommending using “big honkin' disks”, when multiple smaller disks in a (striped and/or mirrored) RAID array would be a better choice.  My (minimum) recommendation is to use at least 3 SCSI 15k rpm drives with a 5ms access or better in a striped array.  My company uses 16 drives per server, 6 in a striped array with 2 spares which is mirrored to the other 6/2 set.

OS:
Buy MS only if you like to continually throw your money into a bottomless pit, otherwise use anyone of the free Linux distros.  Besides being free and open source, Linux is also far more stable.
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by:crazijoe
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Cutting edge CPU is not necessary for a file server. We are using a single 1.6 Xeon, gigabit lan, and a 409GB PowerVault.
http://www1.us.dell.com/content/products/compare.aspx/scsi?c=us&cs=555&l=en&s=biz
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by:Intricate
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Thanks a lot for all the input guys.  I knew there might be a lot more to consider than the server.  Going gigabit will probably be our first step, along with a good look at the current network layout to make sure everything is setup as efficiently as possible.

J
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by:gjohnson99
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on gig cards speed

32 bit  max 125 mb
64 bit  66 mhz  250 mb
64 bit  133 mhz 350+ mb
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by:Intricate
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I've somewhat continued this question on if anyone has anymore thoughts.

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Q_21177457.html

Thanks,
J
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