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File Server  Hardware

Posted on 2011-03-13
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what is the minimum server we can go for the File server . current machine is just the normal PC . but we have backupEXce to backup our Data .
Do you think that worth going with RAID 1 and server  with redun. Power as well

thank you

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Question by:cur
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Lee W, MVP earned 21 total points
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If you have ANYTHING important, then there is (in my opinion) no good reason you should be running anything less than a RAID 1 mirror on TRUE server hardware.  Hard drives WILL fail.  And an Extra $100 or so for a second hard drive is NOT MUCH.  Redundant power is a consideration, but you need to determine what your tolerance for an outage is.  For me, I find hard drives fail more often than power supplies... but both have moving parts and BOTH WILL FAIL at some point.  
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by:Malmensa
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I would not set up a file server without at least mirroring the hard drives.  Software mirroring works with any Microsoft server OS, but it cumbersome, & slow.  It is not all that expensive to select a board with hardware mirroring & a second HDD.

Also get a UPS, these help a lot.
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by:CompProbSolv
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A VERY important comment here was "you need to determine what your tolerance for an outage is."  That will push you toward an answer.

I have set up a number of "servers" (holding shared files on a small workgroup) using desktop PCs.  The scenario is where cost is very important and speed of repair is important.  While specialized server hardware may be more reliable, unless you have immediate access to parts, repair time can be slow.  Of course, such access is available, but at a price.

An advantage of using a fairly generic system (with quality parts, of course, and RAID 1) is that parts are so easily obtained in case a repair is needed.

The approach I'm describing works in SOME cases.  The key is to identify what your specific case actually is.

I had a customer recently buy a server from Dell that was surprisingly inexpensive.  I believe it was around $1,300 for a Xeon with 4G of RAM, dual SATA hard drives, and also included Windows Server Foundation.  For them, it fit well.
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by:Patmac951
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Completely agree with both the above posts.  A server should always at least have some sort of data redundancy, RAID1 at the minimum.  In my opinion you should also have dual/redundant power supplies on servers.

I am not sure what your budget is on this server but hard drives have become very inexpensive using SATA drives with SATA controllers .  A great configuration in my view for a file server is:   On a standalone Disk Controller use a  Mirrored OS using RAID1 (requires 2 drives)  This will give you the ability to boot the OS from two drives in case of a hard drive failure on the primary drive .  Then on a second Raid Controller use RAID5 (requires a minimum of 3 hard drives) for the file server data.  This way not only is your OS (Operating system) redundant but so your data will be redundant.  On average depending upon how many drives you use for your RAID 5 configuration figure that the amount of one of the drives will be reserved for the Raid striping on not be able to be used by the OS.  Example if you have a RAID5 array using 4, 250GB drives.  The RAID 5 volume should be 750GB because 250GB or 1 drive will be used to manage the RAID5 array.

You always want to separate your OS from your data on separate drives...better yet separate disk controllers.  This will give you the best bang for your buck performance wise because will create less I/O on your disk controllers because the OS is using one controller and your data is using another.
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by:Seth Simmons
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this would depend on your needs.  someone's 'minimum server' configuration might differ from someone else.  if it's just for file sharing purposes and you're planning to run, say Windows 2008 R2, then a system with 4gb or 8gb of memory should be fine.  we have a 2008 file server with 8gb that also does WSUS and uses only about 50-60% memory.  how much disk space again depends on your needs, though like the other comments, definitely a raid 1 at a minimum - preferably hardware raid.  as far as redundant power, again, depends on your needs.  if it fails during the day and you can afford downtime while waiting for a new one, then get only 1; but if you want/need to maintain continuity, then go for redundant power supply.
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by:cur
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$1,300 for a Xeon with 4G of RAM, dual SATA hard drives ? what is model please . is this US $ ?
any 2 x power supplay ?

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by:CompProbSolv
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Take a look at Dell PowerEdge T110:
http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=beswlfs1&c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04&model_id=poweredge-t110

They start at $925 (US) with two 250G SATA drives and the Windows Server software.

I don't believe it supports a redundant power supply.  Consider purchasing a spare if quick replacement is important.  Of course, a redundant supply would let you schedule the down time for replacement (or no down time if hot-swappable).

This solution fits well with some (but certainly not all) scenarios.

Do watch out for the limitations of Server Foundation.  There is a user limit (10 or 15, I believe), no dual CPU support, extra cost for Terminal Services/Remote Desktop.  Microsoft's site will spell out all of the limitations.
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by:CompProbSolv
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Can you give us some info about what applications will be run and how bad it is if the server is down for a day?  Those answers would help a lot here.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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> Do watch out for the limitations of Server Foundation.  There is a user limit (10 or 15,
> I believe), no dual CPU support, extra cost for Terminal Services/Remote Desktop.  
> Microsoft's site will spell out all of the limitations.

Don't recall Dual CPU support, but if your running a small business, 99 out of 100 small businesses shouldn't care.  It DOES support multiple cores, so not supporting 2 sockets (IF it doesn't, shouldn't be a concern)

What version of Windows DOESN'T have an extra cost for Terminal Services/Remote Desktop?  So I don't see why this was mentioned - all it does is unnecessarily increase FUD.

The limit is 15 users (excluding built-in accounts).  And it doesn't matter if it's a DC or not.  15 users in the domain is it.  Any more and you are violating the EULA.
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by:Patmac951
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How bad is it if a server goes down for a day??  It's bad.  I don't care what your business is or what you use your server for,  downtime is bad no matter how long it is. The key to not experiencing downtime is redundancy especially for your data and power.

Take into consideration how specialized server parts are, for example a Dell PowerEdge T110 with a single power supply.....if it happens to fail do you actually think you can buy that part from Best Buy, Staples or a local reseller?....No way!  Best case scenario on a blown power supply for a server is you order the part for next day delivery and by the time  you get it and install it....you have been down for at least two days maybe three if you order it too late in the day.  A server without a redundant power supply and redundant data is like driving a car with no insurance.....it will work but it is not recommended.  Hard drives fail everyday, even brand new ones and power is fickle even with a UPS.  

I have been building networks and servers for over 20 years.  My goal is to never experience downtime.....but that is impossible. So best case scenario, plan like an insurance company and try to minimize potential downtime by planning ahead and building the best backbone you can. Even for the smallest network I would not recommend a server without at least data and power redundancy. Of course a good UPS is very important too.  A server is something that you just never want to skimp on to save money....investing in redundancy is a good investment.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Back to my original statement of "you need to determine what your tolerance for an outage is."

If you are a greeting card shop in the middle of July, then your tolerance for failure should be pretty high.  If the server fails, it's not likely to impact business much if at all.  Even during a busy season like Christmas, you probably won't lose significant money of the server is offline for a few hours.  So if you're a greeting card shop, spending thousands on fast SAS disks, huge amounts of RAM, a 24x7x4 warranty and multiple CPUs with redundant power doesn't make much sense...

On the other hand, if you're a telemarketing company with a database, sales materials, and other key information all stored on your server and that server goes down, then your whole business can grind to a halt until that server is running again.  Not only are you losing sales while everyone is idle, you're also paying everyone (at least a base wage) to sit on their hands and do nothing.  So in this case, yes, having redundancies and performance can be worth considerably more...

It's like insurance... the telemarketer can probably get away with the "simple" server to start... but it's like operating without insurance - and if you ever have a failure, you'll likely lose more than the extra it would have cost to prevent that loss.

So how do you decide?  Figure out what your business does and consult with an IT specialist who can come in and help you evaluate not just what you tell him, but what he SEES with his eyes - how you work, where you work - and can advise you on ways to prevent a catastrophe from becoming a business ending event.

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by:cur
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nothing running . all the company related documents and other thing
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by:CompProbSolv
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I think leew said it well.  I run a small business with a server with a non-redundant power supply.  If it fails, there will be some inconvenience, but nothing I can't tolerate.  It would take me an hour or two to replace it.

Am I typical?  Not at all.  Nor are any of my clients.  They cover a wide range of conditions, from one who lives on telephone/mail-order sales and puts a high price on no downtime to others who are not nearly as concerned.  My job is to try to find the right fit of hardware and software for them.

The insurance analogy is an excellent one.  For some people, life insurance is unnecessary; for others (especially those with dependents), it is critical.  Even with auto insurance, some (typically those with newer and more valuable cars) want full coverage; others just go with what the law requires.  Just as with servers, it's not "one size fits all".
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by:CompProbSolv
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@leew
re: mentioning the licensing for TS/RD
The client I have who purchased the server I mentioned was under the impression that the licensing was included with the software.  He couldn't cite where he got that information, but was pretty insistent when I was setting it all up for him.  He purchased the system without my involvement.  I mentioned it here to ensure that cur wasn't similarly misinformed.

I do believe that there were versions of SBS that included TS licenses along with the CALs.  You are correct in your implication (at least to my knowledge) that it is an additional cost with any current Windows Server software.
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by:CompProbSolv
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@cur
Am I correct to understand your response to mean that all the server will be called upon to do is to host documents?  There will be no special software (no database engine, etc.) running on it?
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