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Three servers, how would you configure this network?

Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-18
I have three servers from beginning the office with only 4 users to aquiring a more powerful server later on, to getting yet another server in a company aquisition...we have a total of 20  users in the office (not terminal services) and 5 outside users that sometimes connect remotely and use OWA for dealing with their email.  The servers are different, and as we've grown, I've moved different services to each server and am not sure if I'm using the servers in the most efficient and secure manner.  Could you take a look at my setup now and let me know the best way to configure the network (note: the network has an external firewall, so no need to consider firewall services on any server):

All are running Windows Server 2003 Standard-

Dell Poweredge 400SC - 2.2 ghz, 512mb ram
Currently running MS Exchange, DNS, primary domain controller, terminal services, IIS

Dell Poweredge 1800 - Dual 2.8 ghz processors, 2gb ram
Currently running MS SQL server, secondary domain controller
(we'll have a couple of database services running on this server that'll eventually be pretty big, so my thought would be to have one server totally dedicated to SQL database...also, this server has 3 hard drives)

Dell Poweredge 2500 - 2.2 ghz, 2gb ram
Currently file server, print server

Okay, given those specs, what server would you have running what? The 400SC was our first, so that's why it seems to be taking the brunt of the load (I could easiy add more memory).  I want your expert opinion on how you'd use all three servers to best utilize the services we have running.  Let me know if you need more details!

500 points :)

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Top Expert 2013
Which DC holds your FSMO roles,  since 400SC was the first I assume it was that one.  What I would do is keep the Exchange and the DC roles separate.  I know it's hard with only 3 servers now but I would make Server 3 a DC and transfer FSMO roles to that box.  Then server 1 is only used for exchange

I'm in a domain of 50,000 users but we have remote sites (100-300 users) with two DC's and those DC's also have to double up and handle the print server duties as well as storing roaming profiles for the remote users.  We have not seen any performance problems on those boxes.

Exhcange and DC's are possible but not recommended


Also,  suppose Server1 went down.  If that holds FSMO roles then not only are you dealing with an Exchange outage but also your primary DC is down.  

Before you add RAM or spend any money I would run server perf advisor against your boxes and see if there are any choke points.



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Top Expert 2006
Hi ksmithscs,

I would have to agree with mike, i think your SQL logic is good, but i would be keeping your exchange box as a dedicated exchange box and not a DC, this however gives you some fun as you are supposedly not supposed to be able to change the role of an exchange server, although i have seen it done and work fine....  i would do some heavy reading on this before attempting it.

It also comes down to performance as is, if you are happy with it and the setup is working fine there may not be a reason to change, bext practices is to keep exchange separate though


It is also recommended that DHCP not be on a DC if at all possible.
My simple recommendations:


File/Print, Terminal Services, SQL


Get another 400SC or dinko server to be your other DC and replicate DNS and create a backup scope of DHCP on it.


I like the simplicity of TheCleaner's idea, but just a couple of questions:

- e-ryno suggested that DHCP should not be on the primary domain controller, but your (TheCleaner) setup says that's cool...what's your thoughts on that?

- would running SharePoint Team Services on SERVER 2 cause any conflict that you know of (which would need to run IIS)?

- Would you up the memory of SERVER 1, or is 512mb enough for DNS, DHCP and AD?

I run DHCP on my DC's, no problem.  Not sure what the reasoning would be on not doing it...

Sharepoint should be fine on Server 2.

I would up it to 1GB if you wanted to...but 512MB should suffice as long as that's all that the server does.

If you want to get really creative...lol...you could up the server's memory to 2GB, then throw VMWare Server on it and put 2 DC's on there and make them both GC's.  Then you could easily reboot one or the other for maintenance if need be.  :)

(Side Note:  You'd actually be better off and cheaper with more features if you had one nice server running SBS 2003 premium...but I'm just making recommendations)


Thanks for the suggestions...I think I'm gonna go with TheCleaner's recommendations.  However, I am gonna throw 75 points to JayJay for the suggestion about Exchange on a dedicated server, which was supported by TheCleaner's suggestion.

Thanks guys!


Just realized mkline also mentioned the Exchange on single box idea (a little more complicated that what I'm going with, but he still mentioned it).  Gave 25 points his way if that's cool.
Top Expert 2006

cheers mate
Thank you for the points.
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