Startup advice for hardware & config

Posted on 2012-08-16
Last Modified: 2012-08-29

Im in IT and specialise in virtualisation and DR so this isnt really my forte. A friend has asked me what he needs to start a new business. E.g. What server, what OS, exchange vs gmail? Can you have exchange on the same server as the DC (trying to keep costs down so 1 server that does all would be great) .... etc

I dont have a lot of experience in design so I could really use some help here.


- It's a 5 man show max with the potential to have remote sites being added in the future. What server would you recommend ... HP vs Dell?
- Exchange vs gmail? Which one would you recommend? If exchange (my pref but probably more expensive) and only 1 server for the business, can it be run on the DC or do you need a separate server?
- What router would you advise that has a firewall and spam filtering tech (draytek , cisco?) Or any further advice here would be welcome.
- Finally - on a totally different subject, who would you recommend they host their website with, taking into account cost and uptime and customer service etc?

I would love some detailed answers here, and appreciate any help I can get.
Question by:Lamont77
    LVL 87

    Accepted Solution

    If he gets an m$ SBS server, exchange is on the server that is also the main DC (except if he gets SBS essentials, that doesn't include exchange, there he can use m$'s cloud services to get exchange functionality. If he gets a non SBS server, then never put exchange (nor SQL, nor Terminal Servers etc.) on a DC.

    Personally I'd not even go for an m$ OS, you make yourself dependent of that company. Since it is a startup it would be a better idea to use an OpenSource solution, Zentyal Server includes everything he needs for example, it is free to cheap in price (depending on what he needs, the non free versions include better support services etc., and tested updates for example). It is very simple to setup, so the payed for version isn't absolutely necessary, although for a commercial environment I would recommend that. You can easily download, install it and test it to get an idea first. For that you don't need any highend hardware, it will run on old PC's or Servers, but for the production phase you should get good hardware. SBS server for example needs at least 8GB RAM just to start off, 12 or 16 is needed to get some performance out of it:

    You can host the groupware services yourself with zentyal, but using gmail or other 3rd party services is probably easier as many admin tasks fall away. Also the homepage could be hosted with zentyal...

    I prefer Dell as server and PC hardware, but probably there isn't really too much difference.

    The Zentyal Server can also act as router and firewall, so also there you are flexible and wouldn't need extra hardware.
    LVL 55

    Expert Comment

    Price up the cost of a server, Windows SBE or similar plus CALs, consultancy for installing, maintenance of software, backing up, electricity+cooling, firewall configuration and anything else you can think of (DR site) and then compare it to $50/year/user for Google Apps.
    LVL 2

    Expert Comment

    I would advice to get a 1 socket server with windows sbs standard - including exchange and support up to 75 users. windows are relative easier to maintain and use for small business environment. kindly ensure you have a dedicated IP if you wanted to house your own exchange.
    a reasonable 1 socket server with an sbs will cost around 2-3K
    LVL 1

    Author Comment

    Can anyone else give me a bit more detail in the response. I am sticking with MS and need to figure out between Dell and HP, and what OS etc. Also exchange vs Google Apps and finally web hosting suggestions ...  Id ideally love to hear from someone who manages or has setup a small business infrastructure.

    LVL 87

    Expert Comment

    As I mentioned Whether you get Dell or HP doesn't make any difference. I just prefer Dell. I also said that using a 3rd party cloud service like google apps makes management much easier. Hosting your own exchange server isn't trivial if you want to do it properly even if you use it on a system like SBS server where it is included and straight forward to setup. If you get m$ essential small business server where it isn't included and can't be added, you also have the option of using cloud mail server m$ has, which would give you similar options like google apps.

    Web hosting depends on your location. Usually a local provider from your country is the best option, maybe one which has an office close to you so you can meet and talk things up if necessary. It may also depend on what the website does and what functions it needs to operate, when that is known you would have to check with the possible providers whether they provide those options.
    LVL 2

    Assisted Solution

    get a Dell T310 with 1 CPU/ 1-2TB hot pluggable disk with Raid/ redundant power supply.)
    Windows SBS will be find for most small busineses.  as it handle your domain controller/exchange/file sharing

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