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Advice on why to give up on a Windows NT 4 server

Posted on 2007-03-22
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Last Modified: 2010-04-18
We have a Win NT 4 server from the 90s that is still running.  We outgrew the 20 GB hard drive (2 SCSI drives in a raid 1 array) and have a snap server 2200 with 250 GB (2 250s in a raid 1 array).  1 of the 2 hard drives in the win nt server has died a few weeks ago and we've kinda ignored it....

the NT box is really for authentication for the domain (but that's pointless since everyone has the same rights / no passwords / same username!) and runs backup exec to a tape drive.

I keep debating the benefits of pitching a new server to the boss... why not just get another hard drive?  a few hundred bucks.  vs.spending thousands on  getting a new server, sbs 2003 (yeah, everyone uses outlook, the PSTs are on the snap server so they get backed up, and we have an outside hosting company.) and an extra 10 CALs (there's 13 users).

sharepoint, remote web workplace, OWA... nothing that people need / they are doing fine with the current arrangement for years now and boss would want to know why to spend thousands vs. hundreds


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Question by:whycantitbeeasy
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by:LauraEHunterMVP
ID: 18770539
The business case for decommissioning NT4 is very simple: it is no longer supported by Microsoft in any way, you can't even -buy- support for it by calling the 800 number and giving them your credit card number.  Your NT4 server might continune to plug along for days/weeks/months/years, but when it finally gives up the ghost (and it's a question of "when", not "if"), any business processes that depend on this server will -cease- until you either correct the issue on your own or purchase new hardware/software.  

Depending on your # of users and performance requirements, you can get a brand-new SBS box for under $2000 all-in that will be 100% supported by Microsoft and that will receive the most current updates and security fixes, not to mention hardware warranty support from the vendor you purchase from.

In my mind, continuing to operate a business on out-of-warranty hardware that's running an end-of-life operating system is a classic case of being "Penny-wise but pound-foolish."
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by:Daniel Wilson
ID: 18770558
LauraEHunterMVP is ABSOLUTELY right.
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by:whycantitbeeasy
ID: 18771491
Laura - yes - penny wise / pound foolish is a good way to sum it up.  2K for a new server and OS?  Yes, the 10 extra CALs (I am thinking SBS 2003? would you go that route even though there's more on that than a straight 2K3 server and CALs are more expensive because of that?  or go with regualr server 2003?) would add more to the cost than just the initial 5 CALs.  but could you rattle off some specs / model from dell?  3 drives - raid 5, 2 or 4 gigs of ram?  reuse the dds4 external drive that is on the nt server?  that drive is only a year or so old.

having the snap server though... what's the argument for just having that as the sole server - a big workgroup?  back it up with a desktop machine with the tape drive on it?

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by:LauraEHunterMVP
ID: 18772486
A domain environment requires one or more dedicated servers and provides centralized management of user accounts, passwords, security, desktop configuration and resource access. A P to P network does not require the cost of a server, but does not proffer any of the centralized administration benefits that are offered by a domain. Only you (or a highly-paid consultant) can determine which is more appropriate for the needs of your environment.

As far as representative pricing from Dell, here are the current "Smart Values" listed for servers in the Small Business space: http://www.dell.com/content/products/features.aspx/featured_server?c=us&cs=04&l=en&s=bsd


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by:whycantitbeeasy
ID: 18772943
Laura - thank you again for your advice.  Pay now and buy an easier to administer domain arrangement or save money now on the hardware & software and wind up spending more time administering a workgroup down the road?  I know XP Pro has the 10 user limit and that was traditionally the maximum size of a workgroup?  But I've seen servers in smaller offices, with the snap drive you culd keep the workgroup arrangement with even more people and even with a server OS, you can run it as a workgroup - just have the server act as a file sharing system, right?

Basically, besides the cost of the machine, of say, $2500, would you be able to ballpark the costs to install / get a true server up and running?  At least to an order of magnitude?  $500?  $5000?  $20000?

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LauraEHunterMVP earned 250 total points
ID: 18773148
Any workstation O/S will have a 10-user concurrent connection limit. A server o/s, even one run in a p2p environment, will not have this technical limitation, but account and resource management will become exponentially more complex as you add additional users.

Unfortunately, it's not going to be possible for me (or anyone on this site) to give you a fair ballpark on "How much will it cost to set up a server?".  Thematically, it's very similar to asking "How much will it cost to buy a house?"  Are you buying the house in the middle of nowhere Alabama/West Virginia/Wyoming or in downtown Manhattan?  Are you buying a teeny tiny 1BR house for you and your dog or a 6-bedroom 5-bath mansion to serve as a compound for your entire extended family?  

It would be very easy for me to say "Sure, it'll cost you $5,000" to set up a server", but that doesn't take into account any of the dozens of factors specific to your environment and your needs that will affect that cost, and that kind of an off-the-cuff answer wouldn't provide you with any kind of a useful answer.  

That said, the costs to take into account so that you can create an accurate cost estimate will be things like: (and even this list is probably not exhaustive, others could likely add an item or two that I'm forgetting)

* Hardware (server)
* Software (server and client licenses)
* Power protection (UPS)
* Backup software & media/monthly charges to a backup provider
* Cost of a consultant (or the cost of your time) to set up and configure the new hardware and transfer data

* Training costs, both for end-users and day to day system administration
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by:Daniel Wilson
Daniel Wilson earned 250 total points
ID: 18802905
>>account and resource management will become exponentially more complex as you add additional users.

Quite.

My personal rule of thumb is that if the network will have more than 3 regularly-used computers, I want a domain.

I know you said you're getting around this w/ everyone having the same user name & no passwords.  That right there may be the best reason to upgrade.

Unless you trust all employees absolutely, not only not to intentionally compromise the system, but not to accidentally do so (download spyware, open email attachments, etc.), you're asking for trouble.  EXPENSIVE trouble.
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by:Daniel Wilson
ID: 20314780
Most of the points here belong to Laura, IMO.  I added very little to what she said.
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by:Computer101
ID: 20324341
Forced accept.

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