Scaling up from SBS2003 and Dell R200

Posted on 2011-03-16
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hey Everyone,

Thank you for helping me out in advance. I truly appreciate it. I have limited experience in scaling hardware networks beyond a certain point, and thus wanted some help. I have a small business, 30 concurrent users, but expect that to grow to about 50-60 in the next year or two. I use a few applications only

1. An enterprise ERP that runs on SQL
2. Tally (which is an account software, but is only used by 4-5 users, who are a part of the finance department)
3. Google Apps (for GMAIL), but each node has it's own outlook, and uses POP3 to check and store email locally on individual machines. Computers do not have access to internet, but have the required POP ports open via ISA firewall.

My hardware is a set of managed switches, and a DELL R200 server ( that currently runs SBS2003, SQL and manages the domain. I also have 1 network drive (Seagate) and 1 USB drive connected to the server for backing up on a daily basis.

I find that my server even though not completely utilized crazes once in 2 days, I haven't found out the reason why. So, I was thinking of adding another server, as a backup, in case this one fails, the other would kick in automatically. My question is, can another R200 server be good enough? Can SBS allow us to do that? Should I update to SBS 2011?

I'm also thinking of buying a backup solution, such as the Dell MD1200, MD1220 or MD3200.

Can anyone tell me if anyone is better than the other?

So in essence, I want to convert my network to be slightly more robust, with a server redundancy, backup solution, and possibly reside data heavy applications like SQL to sit on network storage as opposed to the server hard drive.

Thank you so much for your help! I truly appreciate it.
Question by:jatina
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Lee W, MVP earned 500 total points
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Since you're not using the Exchange component of SBS (using GMail instead), SBS is, in my opinion, inappropriate for you.  Each new CAL is going to cost you about $75.... but each STANDARD CAL costs about $30.  If you add 30 users, that's over $1300 in additional costs you otherwise don't need to incur.  If I were called in to your business, I would either switch you off Gmail and use the built-in Exchange mail server OR I would switch you off SBS to standard server with cheaper CALs and no real user limit (SBS is limited to 75 users).

The problems with your server are PROBABLY not hardware related so I would ask what have you done to try to resolve them?  

"kick in automatically" services are not as cheap as you may think.  There's a level of redundancy you can gain with a second server, but it's not quite as reliable or transparent as you might think.

Also SBS 2003 is now two generations old.  Upgrading to SBS 2011 when you are not using Exchange isn't the greatest of options (again, expensive due to the CAL costs) and the SQL component (SBS 2011 premium add-on) is considerably more expensive than it was in 2003 or 2008 (it wasn't a component then, but the full "premium" product was $1600, now it's effectively $2600 or more).  

thinking about it, given the age of the software you're using and how you're using it, I would probably replace all the server related software (pending application compatibility) with newer versions and NON-SBS versions (again, assuming you want to keep using GMail).  It might end up being more expensive in the short term, but in the long term, I think you would see 3-5 year costs are likely LESS with a more reliable, stable system.

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Thank you so much for your response! I totally agree, the reason we used SBS was because someone suggested it to us prior to me stepping in, and we already have CAL's for up to 60 users sitting with us (don't ask me why).

Having said that, and SBS 2003 being old and obsolete, I agree, we should switch to either a newer version of SBS or a new windows server edition. In terms of why the server is crashing, I have tried monitoring events to figure out, but I'm unable to point my finger to it, I believe it is some data transactions (as of right now, all user files are stored on the server, and users access them from the server at all points of time) that cause it to hang or slow down.

Therefore (and I have limited knowledge in this regard), i'm thinking of a) adding a backup server that can kick in (I have no idea how to do that or configure that) and connecting a network based storage device that users can reduce the load on the server in terms of I/O operations.

What do you think?

Thank you for your help once again :)
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