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Sizing of a server for SBS 2003 R2 - your thoughts?

Posted on 2007-03-27
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Sorry, I am having some self doubts.  I haven't done a new install of SBS 2003 in a while.  Was wondering what people thought of this machine for 25 users using exchange - heavy use of shared calendars and contacts, 50% of the users will be accessing the server from the outside / on the road, file and print sharing, and 5 users will be using Quickbooks 2007 which will be installed on the server:

Dell PowerEdge 2900
4 GB RAM
2 of the Quad Core Intel® Xeon® E5310, 2x4MB Cache, 1.60GHz, 1066MHz FSB processors
4GB 667MHz (4x1GB), Dual Ranked DIMMs  (are single ranked DIMMs worth the extra $147?)
Hard drive controller:  PERC 5/i, Integrated Controller Card
5? of the 250GB, SATA Universal, 3.5-inch, 7.2K RPM Hard Drives - 4 drives in a raid 5 configuration and 1 spare drive

I'm building the system myself, with a 25GB C drive, and the rest D drive (some people have talked about 5 drives - 2 in RAID1 and 3 in raid 5... but the first 2 drives for the C drive?  Would you use 250s?  or smaller SAS drives?  Seems like a waste to dedicate 250 GB to the C drive?

Redundant Power Supply with Dual Cords
Dual Embedded Broadcom® NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit Ethernet NIC
56K Internal Modem for PowerEdge and PowerEdgeSC,Conexant, Unleaded
PowerVault 100T, DAT72 Tape Backup, 36/72GB, w/Controller, Internal  (they currently have 60 GB of data...20 of it is several years old / could have an archive made of that data, but realistically, the system has 750 GB of hard drive storage. How do you 'backup' that data when the drive gets even 1/2 full?

We're going to use the SBS backup app
DVD drive
floppy drive
17" monitor

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Question by:babaganoosh
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by:camori
ID: 18805747
Sounds like you have a good system going.     That configuration is no problem for 25 users.   Forget the RAID1, just do a RAID 5.   Load up on Hard drives, they are cheap!     Hot Spare if you really think you need it.       That DAT is a waste...  You are going run out of room immediately.  60GB of data is already exceeding the NATIVE capacity of the 36GB tape drive.   Don't rely on compression to get you over the hump, I would not even buy it.    With that much drive space, you are going to either have to put a massive Tape in there (i.e. 100/200 DLT+), or move to NAS or CDP (Continuous Data Protection), and/or off-site storage.

You may want to consider a separate Exchange Partition.   Not that it will change anything,  just gives you it's own area, makes it easy to identify.      Minimum of 100GB.   The rest is fine in One Partition.  We normally do  C: 23GB  D:  BIG  E: 100GB.

Happy Networking!
Chris A.
Network Depot, LLC
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by:Dinga84
ID: 18806328
Just for thought I just built a system as a demo one and had 2 80gb, 2X320GB, and 2X160gb, each pair mirrored,
80 had the OS
320 had exchange and file share
160's had SQL

I would not bother with tape, why not just use removable hard drives? they are portable, cheap as chips, reliable, and easy to use.

Otherwise that system will be more than enough for 25 users.
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by:NeilParbrook
ID: 18806838
I installed a machine not to far from this spec for a client not that long ago.  We only installed two Gigs of RAM to start with but that soon ran out!!  The server now has 4GB and runs like rocket with 20 users attached.

As others have said always good to patition the drives and stick exchange on it's own.
I'd go with RAID 5 and the Hot SPare just in case.

But again the Tape drive is not gonna do what you want it to.  To agree with camori I would go down the NAS CDP or offsite route.

I would look into some of the third party Backup software, Accronis Trueimage is a good one just in case it all goes wrong but there are many others on the market.

Oh yeah don't forget the UPS you will need a big one for that APC 1500 or something along those lines.

CHeers

Neil
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by:Dinga84
ID: 18807039
Just to add to Neil's post, if you buy the UPS from HP its about $200 more than buying a similar model elsewhere.
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by:babaganoosh
ID: 18807870
THanks guys!  You are great for taking the time to offer your advice!   Yes, sorry I didn't mention.  I have an APC 1500 UPS we'll be using.  

I'm making another question (so there's more points to offer) for more info / questions about the backup strategy.  

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Server/SBS_Small_Business_Server/Q_22477484.html

actually, I should be (and will be!!) making a bunch of questions.  the more I ponder this, the more I am almost 'scared' of this project.  I have a bunch of SBS servers I 'take care of', but I've kinda evolved (very slowly)  from peer to peer networks to SBS.  On none of the machines am I doing WSUS, most are still using outside hosted emails (for 1 client, they are using exchange for their email... but getting the reverse DNS, etc set up was a nuisance.  How do people do it reliably with dynamic IP and dealing with port 25 blocking!?) , no shared calendars or contacts, no group policy, no remote access, no, no, no.  

I have both of Harry's books, along with the Microsoft administrator book for 2003 AND I just got the R2 version and I do have my SBSC.

That said, this project is for a long time time client.  their NT4 server died recently.  All their data had been and still is on a snap server - they outgrew the storage capacity of the NT server a long time ago.  Most everyone uses the same username / password, have outlook with PSTs, etc.  a bunch of guys are in the field. and were using webmail from the hosting provider.  So I am excited for the chance to really implement most all of the features of SBS and I am also anxious about the chance to really implement all the features....

my hour on the couch is up?  Thanks doctor!

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by:Dinga84
ID: 18811946
The best thing you can do is install sbs on an old PC, or on a virtual machine (see VM ware or Microsoft virtual PC/virtual server) and play with the features, it really isnt as hard as it sounds to set up and if you have the small busines specilist primer book you should be able to ace it.
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by:NeilParbrook
ID: 18812064
Dinga84 is right as long as you have a basic understanding of SBS systems your laughing.  Just remember the wizards are god in any SBS deployment.  Follow them and you'll be OK.  Plus with a set up as good as the server your putting in you should walk through it.

I'm sure it will be fine mate but maybe the old ms sbs step by step would be worth a read just in case it's found here...

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=483b6e22-8ed2-420b-915e-96d469347fb2&DisplayLang=en

All the best mate

Neil
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by:babaganoosh
ID: 18813115
Oh yeah, the basics I have no (not much) issue with.  I have a lab w/ 2 desktops and a server.  It's the web connection type things that I can't reproduce at the house with cablevision / port 25 blocking, dynamic IP, not being able to set the reverse DNS, etc...  and then just not knowing which anti-malware suite is the 'best' / the one I should promote.  I've been using AVG - it's much cheaper than trend micro, panda or norton and no one's been swamped with malware / infected with viruses...  doesn't degrade machine performance, etc...    but is it 'best'.

And things like the point of this question - 2 quad core processors sounds nice (actually, great).  but is that 'enough' for 25 users?!  4 GB ram single vs. dual rank - do you really see an improvement enough to warrant the extra cost for single?  total HD space - is it better to have 3 drives that are bigger in raid 5, or 4 smaller drives also in raid 5 - either way, same total storage.  statistically, more drives = higher probability that 1 drive will fail.  but my (incorrect?) experience is that bigger drives run hotter / more likely to fail than a smaller drive?
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by:NeilParbrook
ID: 18814383
If you got5 a good ISP and Hosting providor setting up the mail is a breeze really.  A static IP is a must with out a doubt and then just set up the A and MX records and your off.  The reverse DNS and PTE are a bit harder but you could always route the mail through their SMTP server instead.

I also use AVG and their new SBS edition would be worth you looking into as it covers all the bases (file server, email server, central admin etc) and in my experiance is easier to use and deploy plus finds a lot more stuff than others.

I would say that two quad processord is more than enough for you 25 users.  I personally would run 2 x 2GB RAM in dual rank it's cheaper and I don't think you'll see the differance.

As for drives well in my experiance a drive can last 5 years or 5 months depending on the quality of the drives and luck.  The key regardless of drive size is to make sure that you have the redundancy to deal with any problems and a good backup system capable of turning round a dead server in the fastest time possible.  I see your point though and in theory having more smaller drives in the RAID array would mean that each drive does less work therefore less likely to go down.  Whatever you do make sure you have a hot spare just in case.

As for drives running hotter a good server case should be able to cope with drive heat very efficieantly.  THis is how they are designed and why we pay a premium for them.

CHeers

Neil
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by:Dinga84
ID: 18814417
Neil is correct there, you can also get hard drive coolers if you are really paranoid about it, some have been benchmarked to cool the drives external temp by 7degres.

I wouldnt be too worried about drives failing unless they are being used heavily for a large database in which case i would go SAS drives, but definatly ensure your backups are done properly, and practise restoring from them on your lab setup, this not only ensures they work but gives you the know how in case of a failure.
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Dinga84 earned 175 total points
ID: 18814435
As for the other question about size i have 15 employee server with a pentium d 3.2, 2gb of ram, and 2 320gb mirrored sata drives, and it runs fine, they are a not for profit so didnt have the cash to spend and it was the best i could do for them on the budget they had, but it hasnt missed a beat.
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by:NeilParbrook
NeilParbrook earned 175 total points
ID: 18814611
I got a 3GHz PD with a 2gig of ram running 8 users on the main site and a further 6 remote users.  It works great wouldn't want it to do to much more that's for sure but it goes.

I also have which is a bit more like the machine you are putting in..

Dell power edge 1800 with 2 XEON 3.2Ghz HT processors, 4gb ram, SBS premium, 5 x 250gb SATA four on a RAID 5 and 1 HOT spare, AVG network edition.  All this running over twenty users of which five could be anywhere in the world at any given time.  Bar the upgrade from 2gb RAM to 4 this server runs sweet as a nut.

I reckon you'll be fine.

Neil
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by:camori
camori earned 150 total points
ID: 18821451
Forget about the configuration, you will be fine!     When you watch performance on these servers, you will quickly see that the CPUs are barely breaking a sweat.     We used to put Dual CPUs in all SBS installs, but have stopped putting them in for small (i.e. less than 10 users), because the new Dual Cores are basically 2 CPUs anyway, and 4 theoratical CPUs is just silly.    There have been no performance issues.      2 Dual Cores is perfect for 25 or even 50 users.
On the drive side, if you are using a Dell 2900, it is going to provide plenty of airflow to cool the drives.    SATA drives don't run as fast as some of the SAS or SCSI drives do, but again, don't worry!    The bottom line is ALL drives will fail, it is just a matter of when, so be prepared with solid backup plan.   With a little luck, your drives won't fail for 10 years or so, long past the useful life of the server!

I am not convinced that less drives is any better or worse.    ALL the drives spin, ALL the time.  Just a question about head movement to read the platter, and since the head really doesn't touch the platter, there shouldn't be any friction.   I guess you could wear out the head servo, but the way that RAID is setup, I think they are all going to be working anyway!
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Author Comment

by:babaganoosh
ID: 18822469
Thanks for all the reassurances guys.  not sure why I'm so nervous... and 2 quad processors - does the box / SBS even know how to distribute the work amongst them : D  you'll have 7 processors twiddling their thumbs?!

As for wanting processing power, it's the biggest number of users for me, they will be using the system much more than other clients - quickbooks, exchange, file sharing - because there's more people and because they are a more interconnected group of people (rather than some clients that just write word docs from a shared drive, don't have shared calendars, etc....

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by:babaganoosh
ID: 18848263
Thanks guys!
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