Hardware advice for an online school

The_Computer_Guy
The_Computer_Guy used Ask the Experts™
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I am gathering requirements for a local school who wishes to begin an online program.

The software will be 2 open-source projects Mahara and Moodle.

What I need help with is figuring out the optimal hardware and connection needed to run these for what we hope is over 1000 students, with room for scalability.

Uptime and performance are key.

I know I need one server as the application server, and one as the mysql server, and maybe a NAS as the file storage. As well, offsite backups will be done via FTP (most likely).

We are looking at running Debian on the servers. What specs would you recommend?
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Commented:
1- with 1000 students you will definitely need more than just one App Server and one MySQL server.

2- I recommend you Ubuntu. You can batch order your CDs for FREE.

3- This is a list of validated hardware for Ubuntu ..

http://webapps.ubuntu.com/certification/list/?release=9.04

Commented:
Storage does not have to be on NAS. It can be done on regular networked machines. Better and cheaper.

Author

Commented:
What setup would you recommend? Give me your ideal scenario.

I am looking for processors, ram, hard disk, and connection type/speed.

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Commented:
All your server could be running in cluster
http://www.linuxvirtualserver.org/

You can choose of the Ubuntu certified list, from DeLL or HP. Hardware specs do not really matter above certain limits in a cluster; let's say every one server with multi-core 2.x GHz and RAM above 4 GB can handle 100 users together. Hard disks are no longer a problem, you will find many hard disks above your needs, and prices have dropped a lot.

For the server load, it does not mean that you need 10 servers for each type, it just means that you have to handle the anticipated count of simultaneous users.

For network, get Unmanaged 3Com switches, like

16 Ports GB
http://www.3com.com/products/en_US/detail.jsp?tab=features&pathtype=purchase&sku=3CBLUG24
24 Ports GB
http://www.3com.com/products/en_US/detail.jsp?tab=features&pathtype=purchase&sku=3CBLUG16A

they work just fine, no troubles.

Commented:
For the connection, an ADSL2+ line with speed of 12Mbps should be OK. But you need to control that. I advise you use SmoothWall

Commercial Option:

http://www.smoothwall.net/products/schoolguardian2008/

Free Option:

http://www.smoothwall.org/

Commented:
One thing I wanted you to clarify: This will be an online school, meaning you will educate "online" students?

If so, then the connection needs will be much different. You need either:

- older technology bundled-copper-wire Leased Lines
or
- Fiber Optic connection. I heartily recommend the latter.

Speed should be in the same range 12Mbps. BTW, this will cost a lot, more than servers.

Author

Commented:
So, from what I gather it may be best to go ahead and lease some rack space. Would you agree?
Commented:
OK, since you are considering this, you will have your win. Service providers - like yourselves - sometimes insist on hosting on their own. But it is much better in many ways to use hosting services.

The best hosting service you can get today is Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute), which provides as virtual  servers as you please, and charge you for just what you consume.

http://aws.amazon.com

Author

Commented:
Yeah, I may be a service provider, but I prefer to also ensure a happy customer. I will have to read a little more on their per hour pricing, but this does seem like the most advantageous option for the school.

Thanks for the input.

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