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Posted on 2012-08-15
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HP Compaq Proliant ML110 w/ Server 2000
1GB RAM

- hosts Quickbooks company files (usually has 1 remote user .. rarely 2 .. sometimes 1 local user)
- hosts Service 2000 "S2K" networked automotive application
- is used as workstation for S2K and various web-based app's
- file server for the office

5 Windows XP workstations:
- use the S2K app on the server
- some workstations access files on the server
- 2 are Quickbooks workstations .. usually just 1
- workstations open Word and Excel on files resident on the Server

Trend Micro Worry Free Business Security Service is used on all the computers.
cpu use for the core process is sometimes on the high side but not surprising or alarming as these things go.

The computers and network appear to be free of "parasites"; viruses, etc.

Problems:

The problems aren't new but seem to vary.  In general "the network is too slow" is the complaint.  
In fact, it's probably an app(s) that are being too slow or maybe a web site but I'm working on this because it seems actually much worse than that.

The network is a star topology centered around a new managed switch.  (This was installed to better monitor the network).
I've fairly well surveyed the network, looked for errors and high bandwidth, etc.  I installed a managed switch to help with this.
At one point I found a bad ADSL modem and replaced it.  That helped but now there are more troubles.

****

Sometimes Internet Explorer freezes up.  This can be on the Server or on the Workstations.
Because there are  multiple websites critical to the business, this is a real problem.

I have seen some instances of IE use over 200M of memory .. that seems odd.
I believe that one workstation had 4 or 5 instances of IE running and stopping those processes didn't reduce the number of instances right away.

****

I'm launching off on a quest to fix the problems here so that the business can operate with common performance.  It doesn't have to be *great*, it just has to work.  I have no reason to believe that there are performance problems at the hardware level .. well, there are a couple of computers that could use a bit more RAM but not enough to cause what we're seeing here I don't believe.  For example, there is an XP workstation that has 1GB RAM (my current notion of "minimum" for XP) and that one is showing not enough memory at times.  

I'm looking for high-leverage hypotheses to test.  This one has me stumped.  For one thing, they don't always tell me when there's a problem so I come into these things without as much history as I'd like.  And then, it's sometimes hard to capture a "failed" system.  But yesterday I saw the problems described above.  So I'm feeling that this is a good time to investigate .. and hopefully fix once and for all!!

I'm going to post another related question about how to re-architect the system.  I have my own ideas about doing that.  But THIS is not that question please.
What should I be looking for?
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Question by:Fred Marshall
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 450 total points
ID: 38299487
What are your network cards speeds?  What is your ISP's rated speeds? I have absolutely no idea what service 2K is ..

have you run perfmon on your server... What is your disk queue length?
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38307278
Service 2K is an application that uses Sql Server is all.  But, it's critical and the app is served up by the server to the workstations.

I've not run perfmon... how?
I've not measured disk queue length ... how?
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38312088
It appears that using perfmon implies this:
1) set up SNMP on all the computers... right?
2) then one can monitor cpu usage.
Otherwise I'm using PRTG and a managed switch to monitor bandwidth.
Might PRTG be used for the computer monitoring as well?  I rather like it and am used to it.
... I guess it will.
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Author Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38335277
More information:
The network has reasonable traffic, no malformed packets, no errors.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 38352524
Server 2000

You do realize that Server 2000 is no longer supported by Microsoft and is a security nightmare. Server 2K3 will become unsupported in the very near future.
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by:Ryan McCauley
Ryan McCauley earned 1050 total points
ID: 38352592
I can't even find a tutorial for perfmon in Windows Server 2000, and I feel like this is a cop-out, but your server is way under-powered and I'm not sure anything you do with it could result in "common performance". The server you're talking about has about the same resources available as the XP Workstation you're giving as an example (and the hardware is likely older and, as a server, generally has much higher load on it).

However, given that, I'd recommend checking the disk queue length as well - you'll likely find the server way overloaded. To do that, just type "perfmon" at a command prompt, and add a performance counter for "average disk queue length" for each of your physical disks. Anything where it stays over 1 for an extended period of time is a bad sign - that mean that the server always has people in line waiting for disk access, with no breaks, and that means that clients are always in line behind somebody else when making a request. The queue may spike well above that level even on a newer server, but it's a bad sign when high is normal.

Also, is the server doing DNS for the network? Anything else besides serving files? Running SQL Server (as you mention with the S2K app)? Any of those could bog down an under-powered server, let alone all three of them.

If the S2K app is really "mission-critical" for this company, why are they trusting it to 8-year old hardware and a version of Windows that hasn't had security patches for 4 years? They probably don't want to spend the money, but they have to compare it to the cost for loss of their data and the productivity they'd lose if that app went down for an extended period of time, not to mention the time they're losing while the office sits around waiting for the "slow network" to respond. I suspect they'd find a $3K investment in even a new entry level server well worth the trade-off in improved office productivity, not to mention the security of a still-supported OS and hardware that supports failure of internal components while staying online.
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38352635
I don't know that the server is doing DNS but it's an interesting question since, if it's overloaded (which I don't doubt for a minute) then that might explain the IE issues.
But, I think the router is doing DNS in this case.  I'll check.
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by:tenaj-207
ID: 38352963
Without "re-architect"-ing their system you should throw as much ram as you can at the server and the workstations.  That's a distent 2nd option to replacing all their systems with new hardware though.

-Jeff
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by:Ryan McCauley
ID: 38354589
I'd agree that cramming this server full of RAM is your best bet aside from replacing it, which I'd favor between the two choices. Crucial.com doesn't list RAM available for the original Proliant M110, but it looks like there are 7 generations of that server - can you confirm which generation it is? It looks like the original M110 supports 4GB of RAM, but some of the later generations support 16GB - even an upgrade to 4GB would make a huge difference for this server.

I've never purchased from this site, so I can't vouch for it, but it puts a 1GB ECC module for the original M110 at $45, making an upgrade to 4GB under $200.

http://www.memorystock.com/memory/CompaqProLiantML110.html

This memory type sounds about right for a computer sold 10 years ago, which is about the age of your server, so I suspect this is what you need. However, later generations of that server take different types of memory that aren't compatible with this kind (different physical form factor, not just different speeds), so make sure you know what you're buying!
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by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38354838
I did look at adding memory to the server.  Yes, it would take a bit of sleuthing to make sure one purchased the right type.  

Unfortunately the owner tried to increase memory on one of the workstations by calling a major electronics supplier  [name witheld] who pledged they were sending the right memory.  Once the memory was installed, the computer wouldn't start up even with the original memory and I had to fix it.  Don't ask me why it worked out that way.  Anyway the owner is a bit gun shy re: memory size increases now .. even though I've recommended using Crucial or MemoryX scanners.

Upgrading the application software on a new server is likely going to be a big deal.  It's one of those things that seem to *require* a 3rd party software installer - at least that's how the software company presents it to the world.  No prices on their website, etc. etc.  But that's down the road......
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by:tenaj-207
ID: 38355158
I think we've exhausted this topic, unless you want to talk about re-architecture.  Do you have a link to your new question regarding that?
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by:Ryan McCauley
ID: 38355206
The owner may be a bit squeamish, but to ensure that you get the memory type correct, can you shut down the server after hours and pull out one of the sticks to look at it? That would tell you exactly what type/speed it is and you'd know exactly what to order. The speed that's in there may not be the fastest that will fit (for example, it might have DDR-2100 in it now but support DDR-3200, which would provide a boost in performance as well.

Also, make sure you buy ECC memory for the server if you do get more - it supports error correcting (if the computer does - most desktops don't, most servers do, including this one) and it protects the server against memory corruption and improves stability. It's generally a touch more expensive (since it requires an extra chip) but it's well worth it where it's supported.
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Fred Marshall earned 0 total points
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by:Fred Marshall
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Thanks
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