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Windows Server 2003 Fileserver - Recommended specs for 150-200 concurrent users

Hi,

We currently have a fileserver running Windows 2003 SP2 with these specs:
1x Xeon 2.80 GHz
1GB RAM
7x 250gb in RAID5 (Seagate ES Sata 16mb cache NCQ)
1x 250gb hotspare
3Ware 9550SX-16ML Raid Controller Card (PCIX/133mhz bus)
Intel Pro/1000 Ethernet onboard

We get up to about 150 concurrent users at certain times all of them with their desktops and documents folders redirected to this server.

It can seem to slow down a bit every now and then. I am looking at ways to speed up file access, as I now understand that having everybody's desktop and documents being accessed directly over the network from the server puts load on both our network and the server.

First of all I am interested in ways we could improve performance relatively easily/cheaply. Perhaps by upgrading RAM, or adding another LAN card etc. ?

Secondly I am interested in a long term solution which also would take into account distributing the storage so in the event of a failure of this 1 server, we are not in trouble. I have been reading up on SAN setups and believe this may be one way to go about this (with 2 SAN devices replicating between each other).

We expect a maximum of perhaps 200 users logged-on at a single time in the future as we have no space for more people, so whatever solution you can recommend should take this into account.

Many thanks in advance!

Paul.
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Why suggest SAN when DAS is faster than SAN if the number and speed of the disks is the same? Still, at least the cost of replication has come down, Business Copy EVA for example is only £6,000 now (for each end so double that).
In the end I am a fan of using hardware to achieve replication vs software when possible
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Thanks for all the input.

I have done some research into SAN's and there are 2 problems. PRICE and SPEED. The connection between the SAN and SERVER allows a maximum of 400mbytes/sec. Direct Attached Storage would allow much more than this, and the more drives we add, the faster it should be to spit it out.

I am thinking now of a server with perhaps:
Windows Server 2003 R2
1 Quad Core Xeon
4GB RAM
16x 147GB SAS Drives
RAID6
2 HotSpare's
Network Card(s) which support Teaming/Sharing so with 1 NIC with 4 ports.. you can have up to say 4GBIT of connectivity (of course running into a compatible switch).

That doesn't fulfill our redundancy requirements though. So I would get 2 of these and then perhaps use software as suggested 'DoubleTake' or maybe even DFS (although I would want to extensively test that first.. Have heard some bad things about DFS). I would appreciate feedback on what I propose above.

DAS to me seems like a much better value setup. My understanding of a SAN is that these are some of the extras needed (all very pricey!) and with a lower transfer rate too..:
- 2 Fiber Channel switches per end (redundancy)
- 2 Fiber Channel NIC's per Server (redundancy)
- FC link cables
- The SAN unit's themselves - backup batteries, spare modules, hdds, controllers etc.

In regard to user profiles, we have taken documents and desktops out of the profile, so they are no longer copied when users log on and off (which was causing us big delays early on, before we did folder redirection) - this is where the major file-size comes from. These folders are 'redirected' using group policy, so everybody's desktop and documents are loading/saving DIRECT from the server. IE Cache is disabled. We have trimmed the profile as much as possible, its around 1.5 meg for 600 of our users (mandatory managed profile) - the other 120 or so users profiles are editable.

Thanks,

Paul.
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I will have to agree with you on that.. It's unlikely that it will be maximally utilized, however if I go for Direct Attached Storage, then that rules out that as a potential bottleneck completely - the bottleneck would be the RAID card and it's bus connection into the motherboard, which would be a fair bit higher than the Fiber Channel speed.

If my budget was entirely dedicated to storage, then I would probably go with a SAN, however it needs to stretch much further, so DAS is looking good. Thanks for the tip though.. I understand a SAN can have a lot more redundancies built in which is (i'm guessing) why IBM put that in for you.
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Thanks for all the information- what I have learned from you will contribute to my research for the best fileserver setup! Best Regards, -Paul.