Sharing File Server, Domain Controller or Exchange Server roles between (2) Servers

Tercestisi used Ask the Experts™
I'm in the process of upgrading an old server that utilized non-server hardware (P4, RAID1 with PATA, 1GB RAM ). This runs  W2k03 R2 x86 with no active directory; it currently currently provides roles for file sharing access and SQL access for 15 users. Once decomissioned, the old server will be used purely as an SQL server with updated RAM hard drives.
Users complain of slow access (opening Work or Excel files can take up to a minute); database access is also very slow. The network currently runs over 100Mb/s hardware, and is also being analyzed.

I ran perfmon on the server for a few days, and noticed that the memory was definitely lacking (constant paging). The processor utilization never crept above 70%, and only peaked there a few times. Hard disk access was at 100% for roughly 20% of the time. A memory and hard disk I/O upgrade are due.

The CEO would like to move to active directory, for centralized management, security, etc. We will also be adding an Exchange server to our network.

Our budget is 10k max (includes hardware costs, OS/Exchange costs,etc.); curious as to some views on recommended server setups.

Requirements for the file server include using SAS in RAID10, so much of the hardware budget goes there.

From my calculations, software and licensing costs run around $3700 alone; that leaves $6300 for servers. I'm thinking of utilizing only (2) servers, and sharing (2) of the titled roles on (1) server. Is there a better than not recommendation when deciding which of the two roles to combine?

Should I shoot for a very low cost Poweredge for the domain controller, as that will not be largely resource intensive (anyways, I'd rather have (2) low cost domain controllers, than (1) high-end one; then I can put the rest of the budget to a more powerful Poweredge for an Exchange/File Server combination?

Domain Controller
SATA 7200 in RAID1

Exchange/File Server
2x Quad Core Xeon
8 x SAS 10K in RAID10

Both servers would have redundant power supplies, Intel NIC's, and DRAC.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

$3700 for software?  How do you figure?  Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 comes with Exchange and costs about $1100 ($1700 for premium which gives you the two server licenses) and licenses for another 10 users (bringing total licensed users to 15) shouldn't cost more than another $750.  

Are you not considering small business server?


Didn't include that: we are not considering small business server.


With utilizing only (2) physical servers, the total software cost would be $3086, so around $7000 for hardware (max).
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

why?  It's cheaper than other products, easier to manage, and includes features not available with the standard products.

Perhaps you don't understand the product (I've seen a lot of people dismiss SBS because they are misinformed)

Is there a reason you need trusts?  If not, then there's really no reason not to use SBS.


I've (unfortunately) had to install/administrate SBS extensively in the past and don't care for the product. I'm certified by Microsoft in SBS, have read all the books, understand it... and still don't like it. I don't like the wizards, and I just don't trust the house of cards I've experienced it to be. To me, coming with more experience with larger enterprises, it's completely unconventional; it may work for some but I don't prefer it. Let's just say we want to expand to 50+ employees within a year, and forget about SBS ;)

My question is on the hardware alone; given what I would like to accomplish and the budget allowed, I'm curious as to recommendations. I already have the entire upgrade drawn out, but I'd like to hear some differing opinions.

Such as:

1) It's better to keep all roles separate: low-budget for domain controller, mid-budget for Exchange and mid-budget for file server.

2) Combining the file server and Exchange shouldn't pose a problem here, I'd go for a low-budget domain controller and a high-budget Exchange/File server.

3) Don't go too low budget on the hard disks or the memory for the domain controller, the processor shouldn't matter though I'd stick with C2D.

with any details.


Or to keep it even more simple (which I was going to originally write the questions as):

If you found it necessary to combine (2) of the (3) server role on (1) physical server, which (2) would you combine?

Beyond that, I'm only looking for discussion.
Technology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

I started as a tech and later a systems administrator for a large company where I managed 35+ servers in 2 sites for about 1000 users.  

What was the last version of SBS you used?  SBS supports 75 users.  And if you expect to grow beyond that, you should be looking into EBS.  

When I left my day job to be a consultant and installed my first SBS server, I thought the product was just a bundling of Exchange and Server 2003. I thought I could do whatever I wanted - I hated the wizards and how the "My Business" OU was setup so I renamed OUs and set things up according to what I learned working in the large environment.  I SCREWED THAT SYSTEM SO BAD IT WASN'T FUNNY.  

Then I learned the product - and in so doing, I've come to understand just how incredibly reliable the system is - IF YOU SET IT UP CORRECTLY.

I strongly recommend you either learn the product appropriately or pass this opportunity to one of the thousands upon thousands of SBS professionals there are.  Otherwise, you are doing your client a disservice.  You are forcing your client to pay THOUSANDS of dollars more for the same features SBS includes AND your withholding useful capabilities ideal for small businesses like the Remote Web Workplace.

Frankly, I think you're overdoing this.  15 users.  You want to have 2 Quad Core Xeons (8 total cores) for 15 users.  You don't think this is excessive?  You've already established that processing power is not your issue right now.  Exchange is not a processor intensive application (it's a RAM intensive application) nor is file sharing.  Nor is Active Directory for 15 users authenticating.  

You mentioned a SQL database - what kind of SQL?  MySQL?  MSSQL?  Which server were you going to put this on?  

If you went the SBS route, for UNDER $1700 you could have Exchange 2007, TWO Server 2008 licenses, and SQL 2008.  

And of course, it's better to keep all roles separate - but this is not generally practical - nor economical - for small businesses.  One of the ideas of separation of these roles is so that you don't disrupt the entire business if you have to, for example, reboot the DHCP server.  BUT... in a small network, this is not going to cost thousands in lost productivity making it warranted to have a separate server.


A house of cards stands if you set it up correctly, hence my point.

I agree with a lot of what you say, but don't want to get into a bout of sorts; I can agree to disagree on different parts.

I appreciate your response, very much; in the end it may just be best to close the question as it may completely derail.

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