Time for a Server and Building a Server specs

Its time to upgrade and get a server.
Workgroup of 4 computers ( 3 running XP Pro and 1 running Media Center 2002 )

Here are my components of the network
-Dlink DIR-655 DHCP Router **This will be replaced WITH Netgear FVS336G Firewall/Router** (on the way from newegg)
-Netgear FVS516 Switch
-Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ includes 4 Seagate 500GB ES drives setup as xRaid (xRaid is netgears version of Raid)
-Dlink DNS-323 includes 1 Seagate 250gb drive this unit is used just for msicellaneous stuff
-APC SmartUps 1500 VA link: http://apc.com/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=SUA1500X413

What i would like to do with the server is,
1- Host my companies Email (not sure what i would need to do this, we send and receive about 300-500 emails daily)
2- Host a MS Access database which contains our products and our customer orders. In this case i need to have MS Office installed, which i have.
3- Backup of all computers in the network to the Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ (im planning to buy Symantec BackUp Exec System recovery to do this)
4- the server will be running some scripts to automate the processing of our order system in MS Access throughout the day. such as downloading order files, uploading files to various FTP locations.
5- Im planning on building a SQL Database.

Parts i currently have and will use in the new server build are
1- Adaptec 3405 Raid Card currently installed in a system running 2 of the 4 seagate drives bellow as a Raid 1
2- 4 Seagate Barracuda 160gb 7200rpm 8bm Cache Model number ST3160812AS (should i use these or upgrade to ES drives)
3- Intel Server Nic Model EXPI9402PTBLK ( on the way in from Newegg)

What i was thinking of doing was buying a Supermicro barbones system either one of the 4U systems, too many to choose from an list, or this one http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816101073

1-  2 Intel Xeon E5410 ( did not buy yet)
2- 8gb of memory ( did not buy yet)

My dilema and questions
From what i understand Windows SBS premium will only function with a max of 4gb memory. so basically its pretty much useless that i buy any more than 4gb and install it on the server. In this case would it be better for me to buy Windows Server Premium?
With that in mind now that i have to buy Windows Server Premium, now i have to go out and buy SQL, MS Exchange, Outlook. and what else? would be a heck of allot easier if they would of just made a version of SBS that can handle more than 4gb of memory.

Another question is: regarding RAID, what would be the best raid configuration for the fact that i want speed of accessing the MS access database, reliability, and in case of failure i want do not want any downtime, system needs to keep running till i hot swap the failed drive(s).
Since i really want performance and reliability and in case a single drive fails, would it be smart to setup the OS on a differrent array and then the MS Access database on another? What are some suggesstions on how to correctly set up the server OS on a raid system? I hear so many people instaling the OS on its own Raid array or partition so im consfused about this. I just want to be protected in case a drive fails or something goes wrong with the system. I guess if something goes wrong wouldnt i be able to just restore it using the Symantec Backup Exec backup file stored on the Netgear ReadyNAS device?

I would like to set it up as a domain too. and leave the system i build some room for expansion, if i bought SBS then im stuck only buying 4gb and no room to upgrade the memory. But what happens when i decide to upgrade to Windows Server? do i still have to buy the inidividual MS exchange and all the other good stuff that comes with SBS?

last thing i wanted to buy is this APC enclosure to house it all in http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816225011
Who is Participating?
Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
"would be a heck of allot easier if they would of just made a version of SBS that can handle more than 4gb of memory."
They did - it's called Small Business Server 2008 and it's already been released to manufacturing.  Some have suggested you can even get it NOW if you use Volume licensing or purchase through certain OEMs.  Otherwise, it should be on store shelves by Mid-November.  (It's 64 bit only and supports up to 32 GB of RAM, the standard version includes Exchange, the premium version includes SQL AND a second server license so you can run SQL on a second server OR run a terminal server.

You said, at one point, you "do not want any downtime...

so WHY would you even think of building your own server?  Really, building your own server may seem like a nice idea, but what happens when you start having weird problems... especially, weird problems with the RAID controller or something else that interacts with another key component.  Case in point - I have a client with a Promise RAID controller and Western Digital RE model hard drives (designed for RAID).  These are two well known brands.  The RAID controller started claiming there was an error with the disks... Promise swears "nothing wrong with our card" and Western Digital says "nothing wrong with our disks"... so now what do we do?  No one will take responsibility and if this data is lost, what happens then.

Do the wise thing - buy a server class machine, fully assembled, from Dell, HP, IBM, or some other BIG, WELL KNOWN vendor.  (those are about it actually, at least that I see).  Personally, I hate HP and IBM is very expensive... that leaves Dell - and I've used and recommended Dell for years.  Indeed, RIGHT NOW is the perfect time to buy a Dell server because they USUALLY offer the best pricing about 2-3 weeks from their end-of-fiscal-quarters - which so happens to be the end of this month.  By the way, DO NOT BUY A DELL SERVER OFF THEIR WEB SITE.  Configure it on the web site, but then call up, get yourself a small business account rep, and have him quote you a price on the server.  I usually pay about 5-20% less than the web site price doing that... and occasionally EVEN LESS.  And remember, you want a RELIABLE server that you can feel confident will experience minimum down-time... that means you MUST get a 3 year 24x7 warranty (you don't necessarily need a platinum warranty, but you DO want a warranty that has the 24x7 coverage - with a 4 hour response time if it's available in your area.  Who cares what the workstations are - workstations can be replaced dirt cheap... if the server goes down, EVERYONE stops working - this needs to be cared for.

FYI, if you bought SBS 2003 and wanted to upgrade to standard server, you would be best advised to purchase the SBS Transition pack which removes the SBS restrictions (NOT the RAM limit - that's a limit of 32 bit Windows Server 2003 - not specifically an SBS limit)

Keep in mind, to properly operate a domain, you will need all workstations to be running XP Pro or Vista Business (or Vista Ultimate).  Media Center/XP Home will not work appropriately (you can make them "kind of work" - but not in the way the system is designed to work and make things easy).

So what are you doing about off-site backups?  What happens if the place is flooded... or burns down... or is robbed... or a disgruntled employee (or angry customer) comes in and starts trashing your equipment.  A NAS device is not, in my opinion, an appropriate form of backup.  You need something you can take off site.  More appropriate would be multiple USB2 external hard drives that you would swap out nightly (they are also cheaper).

Note: you would not install Access (Office) on the server.  You would store the data file on the server and use a front end file (with your forms and reports) copied locally to the workstation (this would be a best practice - in my experience, Access is a horrid database system and corrupts frequently unless you have it setup EXACTLY RIGHT... which I've seen can be difficult to do - more power to you if you've figured it out... but I'd be STRONGLY recommending your DATA (not the forms and reports, but the DATA) should be moved to the SQL Server (once you have it) ASAP.

By the way, Access is single threaded... so multiple cores, let alone multiple CPUs on the server - especially a server handling 5 users at most) is VERY, VERY, VERY overkill.  Now, I am a proponent of making sure you have options, but given your size, anything more than a single dual core (TO START) would really be a waste of money.  Get a system CAPABLE of supporting DUAL QUAD CORE CPUs, but buy it with a SINGLE DUAL CORE CPU.  If you need to, you can always upgrade, but from 14 years of experience, it's RARE that CPU is the bottleneck on a server except in the most intensive of database systems.  RAM and Disk Subsystems are USUALLY to blame for slow systems.

Ok, I THINK this is finally...

FINALLY, your disk subsystem.  Frankly, for the number of users you have, almost anything will probably be fine.  I would suggest you understand that when multiple actions need to take place at the same time, disk will slow you down... that means if you have, for example, volume shadow copy kick off at the same time you need to copy a 1 GB file over the network, it will be slower.  There are several tips for optimizing disk performance, but it's unlikely they would be worth the cost or effort for a small company right now.  For example, I might suggest a 5 disk configuration where:
2 disks in a RAID 1 mirror form the C: drive and perhaps a D and E drive for other uses (WSUS updates, Exchange logs, etc).
2 disks in a RAID 1 mirror form the G: drive for group shared data and another partition for Exchange server.
1 disk (NO RAID) is used for the page file and volume shadow copy data.  This means when Shadow copy runs, it's creating the copies on another drive.  And since shadow copy data really can't be backed up, it doesn't need RAID.   You might keep other things here as well, such as a repository of software (copied CDs to the server that you can share and install on your network (with appropriate licensing of course)).  Personally, I hate wasted disk space, so before I go about buying a server, I make sure I know what data goes where - and I partition EVERYTHING - Exchange has it's own partition, SQL has it's own partition, user data has it's own partition, shared data has it's own partition, etc. - this is so that no one process can take the entire server off-line by "accidentally" filling a disk.

On the RAM limits, if you use the 64 bit version of Small Business server you're limited to 32GB, not 4. Even so, 4 is probably plenty for your needs. That will give you all you need for the server. Don't buy the premium version unless you are going to need SQL Server (not just Access). Windows SBS should be fine for you for the forseeable future. It supports up to around 50-75 users. Beyond that you will need Windows Server Standard (or enterprise, datacenter, etc), but I believe they sell a kit that helps you convert from SBS to normal Windows Server when needed.

The RAID card you have can use 4 drives. Assuming you use the 160's you have, there's a couple of ways you can do it:
2 drives mirrored for OS, 2 drives mirrored for data (gives 2 160GB logical drives)
4 drives in RAID 10 (gives 1 320GB logical drive)
4 drives in RAID 5 (gives 1 480GB logical drive)
3 drives in RAID 5 with 1 as a hot spare (gives 1 320GB logical drive)

I'd probably just go with the 4 drives in RAID 5, or maybe the 4 in RAID 10. RAID 10 would give a slight performance gain, but less total storage. Both will protect you from a single drive failure. RAID 10 will protect from 2 drives, but only if the right 2 happen to fail, so only count on being able to lose 1. If you lost 2 at a time and the array failed, then you would restore from your backups on the NAS.

Set up the RAID in the card's BIOS in RAID 5 or 10. When installing Windows, set up the OS on a smaller partition, maybe 20-30GB. Then after Windows is create another partition with the rest of the space in computer management.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Commenting on CrashDummy_MS's points:
I do not like RAID 5 because in my experience it's too unreliable.  It's not that the disks fail, it that something happens too often to the controller - or a bad sector on a disk - or SOMETHING and the RAID ends up offline and then you struggle (and are paranoid, because you don't want to accidentally delete everything on the RAID) to try to get it back online.  RAID 1 typically doesn't have that problem - if it fails, you just have two complete copies of the disk.  Yes, it's more "wasted space", but given disk prices and how much I enjoy sleeping at night (or in the mornings as the case may be), a RAID 1 is worth it in my opinion.

With regards to SBS limits, I agree, you are no where near them... but if you ever do reach them, they are 75 users - and then you would be well advised to move to Essential Business Server (EBS) - which is like SBS but for larger organizations of 25-250 (and I've heard that number go to 300 and 500... not sure the exact limit).
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RogercoAuthor Commented:

You talking about this SBS version?


i love your answers they are awesome. but i have more questions, and im exhausted ill get back with you on this tomorrow. Great thing, I live in NY and i see you run a consulting company maybe we can hire you for some additional things i may need done.

thanks ahead of time for everything
RogercoAuthor Commented:
oh and BTW reason im looking to build it on my own is because i have a Newegg Prefered account with $2500 i can spend and pay it off in a year with no interest.

so now im looking at a full server system from Newegg to see what i can get.
if you have any reccomendations post back.
RogercoAuthor Commented:
and with dell i only have a 1500 credit line and costs me interest. so hmm which way to go. looks like neweeg only has HP, & IBM
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
If you need to stay within a budget like that, I would suggest splitting what you need.  For example, based on what Microsoft licensing told me today about OEM licenses today, you may be able to purchase an SBS OEM license from Newegg along with appropriate backup equipment and get the server from Dell.  Problem is, most Dell servers, with what I consider a required warranty, will definitely run you more than the $1500 credit line.  And I can't say with NewEgg, but I have a card with them as well and the interest is NOT low.  From what I see on their web site, they are offering no payments for x days, but you can definitely expect interest as far as I know.

I'm referring to this:
(Newegg doesn't have the product listed yet as near as I can tell - again, it's not due to be released until November 12 (I Think... might be the 9th).

(Note: the link you provided is for the Premium Client Access Licenses (CALs) to the full SBS product - since SBS comes with 5 CALs, you would not need to buy this, but you the SBS 2008 Premium license that you need (for SQL) would cost you $1800 FULL RETAIL.  OEM might be around $1000, but I'm really not sure.)

(Hoping I'm not violating the rules here... we're not supposed to solicit in questions... if you would like to consider my services outside of this question, please refer to my profile and contact me via e-mail).
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