What type of hardware specs should I be looking for to setting up Windows server 2012 with the following requirements?

We are upgrading server from SBS 2003 to Windows Server 2012 and I find the hardware requirements for Server 2012 to be very misleading. It seems to be extremely low.

We are looking at purchasing an HP Proliant ML350p Gen 8 server and I am wondering what type of hardware specs I should be looking for so the following would run smoothly without any problem.

- 20 to 25 networked computers with access to shared folders.
- Approx 60 users connecting by remote desktop
- Backup approximately 500 gigs of information per night
- Setup Exchange for close to 60 active users
JohnnyBCJAsked:
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
There is a world of difference between "requirements" and "recommended".

I would get as much memory, HD space and processor speed as you can work into the budget to allow for further growth.

Too many times I have seen companies plan for their immediate needs only to have to upgrade because their usage requirements changed.

I woluld have no less than 32 Gigs of memory, 8 146  Gig drives configured as a RAID 5 array, and as fast as processors as you can get/afford.

That server can hold 768 Gig of memory so you could expand later if necessary without too much trouble.

I would also get a model with two power supplies so you wil have redundancy.
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gbarrientosCommented:
Will all this be running on one server?
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
Nothing has been decided yet. We are only at the extremely early stages.

I don't know if this is going to be 1 server running Hyper-V or if it's going to be 2.

Again, I'm simply looking for what people's recommendations are.
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Scott CSenior Systems EnginerCommented:
It's easier to offer recommendations if we know what the requirements will be.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If only one server I would suggest running Hyper V to segregate roles and possibly break out to different servers in the future. Your going to find that your bottle neck will be IO. Make sure you get a good RAID controller and run RAID 10 if possible. Separate OS drive from storage drives. Single Quad Core Xeon processor with Hyper threading and 16 gig of RAM should do the trick. But more importantly is the hard drives. I don't know what your budget is but 10K SAS drives would be nice or even SSD's as they are coming down in price.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
I understand there is a world of a difference between "requirement" and "recommended". I'm looking at a starting point. I want this process to go as smoothly as possible and the insanely low hardware requirements for Windows Server 2012 confuses me.

As of now, Here is what is required:

- 20 to 25 networked computers with access to shared folders.
- Approx 60 users connecting by remote desktop
- Backup approximately 500 gigs of information per night
- Setup Exchange for close to 60 active users


If you have any questions on what "other requirements" could be, please let me know and I'll tell you.

We currently have a simple raid setup where 2 drives clone each other and every week I replace one of the hard drives and take it off site.

If we were to change this raid setup to be different, is there a way for me to accomplish the same thing as what I'm currently doing?

One of our bigger nuisances with the current setup is that if people decide to copy files from the network drive to local or local to network, they slow the entire network down and I get plenty of phone calls telling me it's slow.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Definitely spend the largest percentage of your budget on your storage speed. The items you specified are not process or memory intensive, they are hard drive intensive. 32 gigs  of RAM is overkill, i think. I am running Exchange 2010 on a 16 gig of RAM with 3K users and RAM to spare. The key is IO speed.
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
If the server will be a File/Print and Exchange server what I suggested would be fine for your needs.

Now if they want to add more like a Fax server, SQL, etc.  You would probably need to consider more memory, HD space or an additional server.

As long as there are no problems with your network, getting SAS or SSD drives would allow fast enough access so you shouldn't see a slowdown.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
MySQL will be used for a number of programs I've created.

Remote users will need to print from this server. Local users will print locally and not through the server.

It will also be a Fax Server as well, I completely forgot that!!

My boss was looking at getting 7200 SAS drives. I know there is a benefit of getting the 10k or 15k SAS drives but I don't know enough to say "We need 10k/15k sas drives because of reasons 1...2...3... etc"

We currently use Sata drives and the OS and storage is on the same drive.
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
I would push for at least the 10k SAS.

It sounds like this server will be getting used pretty heavily for data access.  And like gbarrientos said you need to put the $$ into your storage speed.

The reasons are:

Access speed, productivity, and performance.

You really don't want to skimp here.

I agree also you can go with 16 Gig of memory if that will get you faster drives.

You can always dump more memory in quickly and easily.

Bosses look at saving dollars without realizing the ramifications down the road.

You will also do better having the OS and data on different drives.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If buying 7200 Drives, stick to SATA. Make sure you have a good RAID controller and use RAID 10 if possible. Use RAID 10 for data and RAID 1 for OS.
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Scott CSenior Systems EnginerCommented:
I found this simple diagram that explains RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.

http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2010/08/raid-levels-tutorial/

You might already know this but it explains it very well.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
It's easy to say 'have the OS and Storage on separate drives' but it's harder to explain the performance increase of it. It's not like I can say "If we do this, our speed is 20 but if we set it up this way, our speed will be 80, what do you prefer?".

Our 2003 TS has 32 gigs of ram right now. Unfortunately the SBS only has 4 gigs as it's 32 bit.

I understand why you would want to do it. I guess the problem is that it exponentially gets more expensive. For example, I wouldn't be able to take 1 hard drive home a week, it would be a minimum of 2 (OS and Storage). If I setup as you're suggesting, I'd need even more drives than that.

So is 7200 Sata Drives the same in performance as 7200 SAS? Everywhere I've seen online suggested SAS but the majority of them compare different hard drive speeds. Clearly a 15K drive is going to be a faster speed than 7200.

I do understand Raids and the differences between them.  I guess coming up with the pros on why this would be better than what we currently have is the problem I'm facing.
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
As far as the OS and storage on seperate dirve...we recenly had a case where the data drive became unstable and needed to be reformatted.

We did that and restored the data and were back in business

If the OS and data were on the same drive we would have been looking at many more hours until recovery as the OS would have needed to be installed and configured all over again.

If it had been the OS drive that had failed then we would have needed to install the OS and configure it but would not have had to restore the data as well.

Aside from performance, it can be handy in the event of a failure.

It all comes down to how important is your data and what you are willing/able to spend to protect and access it as much as possible.
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
Your comment from above..."One of our bigger nuisances with the current setup is that if people decide to copy files from the network drive to local or local to network, they slow the entire network down and I get plenty of phone calls telling me it's slow. "

I doubt it's your network that is slow, it most likely is the server trying to keep up with all of the data access requests.

That is your realy arguement for a better storage solution.

You would need to run some performance checks on your server, but I'm willing to bet that it's the data access that is your bottleneck.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
I know you're right about the bottleneck being the IO. Too bad there isn't a way that I can show him other than to clone the current drive to a 10k or 15k drive and let him copy a file and see the difference. We're also not at our peak season yet either.

I agree with your point of view on the OS and data being on separate drives. I just don't think he'd be a fan of me bringing a half dozen hard drives home weekly. Not a trust issue, but a cost issue.

"If it does what we want it to do and it works, leave it alone. We're not changing it."
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You really shouldn't be pulling a hard drive as your backup solution. Pulling the drive and breaking redundancy means that when you reinsert the drive, the server has to rebuild the drive which is a huge burden on the server. Instead you can buy a cheap NAS like a buffalo link station for less than  $200 and perform backup jobs.
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Scott CConnect With a Mentor Senior Systems EnginerCommented:
Run some PerfMon counters and see if you can show that IO is the bottleneck.

I love managers wth that mentality.  Makes our jobs harder.

With attitudes like that we'd all still be using horse-drawn buggies.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
There are many benchmarks already out there with many real world examples. Like this one for example. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/datacenter/calculate-iops-in-a-storage-array/2182.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
I'll inform my boss your suggestions and I'll get back to this tomorrow with any replies.
Thank you very much!!
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
I was in contact with a Microsoft/HP Server rep and he agreed with what you guys are saying as well.

2 processors with 6 cores (15 MB cache) would be plenty.
16 to 32 GB of Ram.
OS on Raid 1
Data on Raid 10
2 GB Raid Controller.
He prefers SAS over Sata for a number of reasons. The 3 year hard drive warranty, the 10k-15k option and SAS has a static controller built into the drive as well.


You really shouldn't be pulling a hard drive as your backup solution. Pulling the drive and breaking redundancy means that when you reinsert the drive, the server has to rebuild the drive which is a huge burden on the server. Instead you can buy a cheap NAS like a buffalo link station for less than  $200 and perform backup jobs.


Pulling the hard drive is how we get the data physically out of the building.
Our backups include the following:
Shadow Copies at 7 AM, 12 PM.
Differential backup Sunday - Friday with a full backup done Saturday.
and of course we have a Raid setup.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I understand that pulling the drive is how you get the backups out of the building, but its not very efficient. You're better off getting 1 external hard drive and doing a backup and taking that 1 hard drive home. When you break the RAID array by ejecting the drive the entire drive has to rebuild. This is very resource intensive not to mention lowering the life expectancy of your drives. But definitely up to you.
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
Ok, so you're saying taking a backup onto an external drive and taking that external drive home would be better than breaking the raid at the end of the day and letting it build over night? A full system backup onto an external drive takes about 12 hours to complete.

The ability to plug the raided drive back in and be exactly where you were to when the drive got pulled isn't as sufficient as having to re-setup the OS and than do a system restore on an external drive? I'm just trying to make sure I understand you properly.
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gbarrientosConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Yes it's definitely better to backup on to an external drive. I recommend something like esata or USB 3. If it takes 12hrs to complete a backup job how long do you think it takes a raid drive to rebuild bit by bit? Not to mention all the processing power used to rebuild a raid array. Besides, you can do a differential or incremental  backup which will dramatically decrease your backup times.

A raid array is for disk redundancy not a backup solution. What happens if someone deletes files and didn't notice until a week later?
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JohnnyBCJAuthor Commented:
Thank you very much for your help!
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