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Hardware recommendations for a Win 2003 SBS server

I think I asked this question yesterday in the wrong section.  I'm hoping I can get additional clarificdation to my questions by placing it here.  This is the narrative so far:

The customer is pushing us to hurry and advise them on a server to buy, and then they want us to get it up and running and support it.  They will be running a mid-range accounting system on it, and hope to someday add Exchange.  This will be our first server, and theirs as well, so I need some guidance on a few issues since the vendors have not been much help so far.  We currently have them set up with 10 XP systems that do file sharing on another XP system, but they plan to add at least five more next month, so they while they are growing they want to replace this XP file-sharing system with a server running Win 2003 SBS.

One requirement they have is that we buy them IBM, so I have no choice on that.  With their budget, it looks like the IBM 8490J2U at about $1200 is in the right price range and has good specs.  The info on that model is at this link, at the bottom of the page:

After much research on e-e, it looks like RAID-5 will be best for them.  And, further e-e research indicates 3 WD Raptor SATA drives running on a hardware controller would offer good performance at a good price.  Does that sound like a good choice?  

I need a recommendation on a good controller.  And, is it safe to assume that we can put this controller and these 3 Raptors in this IBM and expect it all to easily 'come together' into a RAID-5 setup and work right without a lot of hassles?

Since we are new to Win 2003 SBS, we were thinking about buying the retail package this time, MS part no. T72-01411, presumably getting all the docs with it.  But for $200 more, they have a part that seems to offer 'software assurance' and support.  Does anyone know if you get much of anything for your extra money--keeping in mind this is our first server install.

I do understand that I will need to buy more CALs since they will have 15 XP systems connected.  But is there anything else that I'm obviously missing?

Any recommendations on the configuration will be appreciated!
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 Comment from Netman66
Date: 11/15/2006 07:48PM CST

I wouldn't sell anyone a server with SATA RAID drives.  For production servers that have to stay alive you still cannot beat the reliability of SCSI RAID systems.  Don't forget, it should be Hot-Plug (or Hot-Swap) drive cage if you want to be able to repair failed drives on the fly.

Just my 2 cents on that.

SBS is fine provided you understand that EVERY product in the Suite must be installed on the same server.  You cannot split the product up over multiple servers.

So, that being said, you need to be certain this server can run the following (allowing for your future with Exchange too):

File and Print
Active Directory
ISA server (if you want a software firewall rather than a hardware firewall).
Your accounting system AND possibly the Database it uses.

That's not a huge tap on resources, however the more users you have the more it will impact performance.  That server (IMHO) is a little too small for production with 20 users +.

I would look at something like this:


Buy 2 GB of RAM (2x1GB or 1x2GB to keep slots available for later use) and start with 4x72GB drives in RAID5 (216 GB storage).  This will give you 2 extra bays to add additional 72GB drives to your array as required.

This should be a good start.


Comment from sasllc
Date: 11/15/2006 08:12PM CST
 Your Comment  

Good info.  This is a relatively small company who up until now has been relying on a garden-variety IBM XP box with a single IDE drive, which fortunately has been reliable.  So, we're not necessarily looking for "incredible uptime" unless it's cost effective (for their budget).  Can these SATA drives I mentioned be made to work--and it's just that they're not as reliable?  Or, will my whole idea of 3 SATA's on RAID-5 controller just not work?  It did appear to me that these WD Raptors were about half the price of similar sized SCSI drives, and seemed to have similar specs.

If you have a favorite drive and controller, both brand and model, that info would be very helpful.

When you talk about the hot plug cage, is that something that is typically built into servers such as the IBM you pointed me to?  I assume the 'hot' concept is designed to assure me more uptime in the event of a failure, right?

Then, when you list things that we need to 'be certain this server can run', are you simply talking about resources, such as fast enough processor and enough RAM--like the IBM you mentioned?

Finally, for this Win 2003 SBS novice, do you think it's worth it to buy the version of the operating system with the extra support and upgrades from MS...or is that likely to be worthless?

If anyone has any additional details regarding my questions, I would appreciate it!  TIA

1 Solution
I can only address the hardware aspects of this question.  It would be nice if they offered Xeon 51xx cpus, since those are the best performers right now, but the Pentium-D 940 might work.  3 WD Raptors in a RAID-5 will give you the best SATA hard drive performance, but I would say the controller in a RAID-5 setup will have a bigger impact than if you got decent 7200 rpm drives.  I have an Areca 1220 controller with 8 ports that performs superbly with 5 Samsung 7200 rpm drives, turning in 250MB/sec-150MB/sec data transfer rates from best to worst.  It costs more than most SATA RAID controllers, but it delivers.  It needs a PCI-e x4 slot, which you may have, but if you only have PCI-X slots, you can go with the 3-Ware 9550 or LSI MegaRAID SATA 300-8X, which I think are cheaper.  I have had mine running 24 hours a day for about three months without a problem, and when I accidentally unplugged a drive, it detected it and rebuilt the array after I plugged it back in (danged SATA connectors come loose too easily!).
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