Server build question

wfcrr used Ask the Experts™
This was my previous question:

what should I look for in a board that makes it a "server" board?  I like the recommendation Choward made, but, we don't need that much of a server.  I would like help in selecting a board and processor for my next server build.  Is anyone up to helping with that?

Max outside users logged into the web page interface at one time is 25.  
Server will run SQL and Exchange
SBS 2008
Will use a second machine for file serving.
Am open to Virtual Machine, but may explore that in another question.
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Best thing to do is buy a server, rather than build one. Look for an entry level Dell T110 or a HP ML 1 series. These will come with warranty options and can be configured surprisingly cheaply. If your business depends on the server, then get a server you can depend on.


Prefer to keep this post focused on DIY builds.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
I agree with gmbaxter.

Keep in mind, this is a searchable database so even if you insist on building this yourself and you're going to ignore professional advice others reading this question may see the wisdom which is why I'm still going to point this out.

Running a business on custom built servers is not wise in my opinion.  Are you going to spend weeks of burn in testing to ensure all the components you're assembling work well together with no oddities or unexplained issues?  Are you going to enjoy the support headaches when the RAID array starts failing and the Controller manufacturer blames the hard drive manufacturer and the hard drive manufacturer blames the RAID controller manufacturer?  (I've had that happen).  You're saving very little money and trading the warranty and single point of contact for a whole bunch of unknowns.

If you INSIST on doing this yourself, the three server-class manufacturers I've used are SuperMicro, Intel, and Tyan.  (they obviously have non-server class things too).  That's my order of preference as well.  I build test systems on custom built servers but I DO NOT and WILL NOT advise my clients to buy a custom built server.  I've been using Dell for years but am currently switching to a local OEM that's been around a LONG time and can offer me even better service than Dell because they are local and I know them (literally).

(If you want to build your workstations, go right ahead.  The time spent building negates any savings in my experience, but if you have fun doing it and can keep a spare or two, go for it... but for servers - systems that, should they fail, leave EVERYONE and not just one user unable to work - that's just unwise).
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I suggest a Dell T410 or T610 with at least  terabyte of drive space and 12 to 24 gigs of ram. I use Dell servers at all my clients. As the owner of a Dell server, they will provide tech supt 24x7 and provide basic server and driver supt 24x7 for life time after the warranty expires.

You can't beet that. Think down the road..


If anyone has suggestions on build components that are purpose built compatibile, please offer. Otherwise, I recommend we delete this question.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

I did offer.
Board - must support ECC memory, ideally an Intel Xeon CPU
Dual PSU support would be nice, but unsure if you'll get that off an off-the-shelf. Memory mirroring or sparing is a good feature
Memory - Must be ECC
CPU - Intel Xeon - ideally dual sockets for dual CPU


Thx, gmbaxter. I appreciate the focus on my question.  Can we explore server sizing that is appropriate for my need?  We have 5 users logged on LAN to the SBS 2008 and currently have 1-3 logged on from WAN where those on WAN are only accessing a web page that queries SQL database.  The new server would do the same, but needs to handle up to 25 WAN users where those on WAN are only accessing the web page that queries SQL databse.

I felt dual CPU was overkill from Chowars build in other question.  I think a 300-400.00 CPU is probably sufficient if the OS is on a SSD?  That is my assumption, based on the performace I have expereience with my i7 core desktop example of OS performance.

Mirroring vs RAID.  In a scenario where we can be down for a few minutes or an hour or two, and, where data loss that occurs over a few minutes or even an hour so is inconsequential, is it feasible to use Mirroring instead of RAID?  Mirroring where the OS and apps and data are mirrored onto other drives in a way that we just swap and get back up?
Hi wfcrr,

Build away - my suggestion is use a barebones from a reputable company like ASUS or SUPERMICRO as a starting point.

With your stated downtimes, a single CPU and powersupply will only get you in that window if you have spares on standby ready to put in place, which would then suggest that you may as well build the server with that level of redundancy.

I would NOT put a server OS on a SSD. While the SSD performance looks good, the limited number of re-writes that SSD's have would be killed by a swap file. Not having a swap file is certainly sub-optimal for most servers.

Mirroring is a level of RAID - RAID 1 if I recall. I suspect you mean RAID 1 vs RAID 5, and in the scenario you describe, using two drives mirrored should be more than adeqaute performance. RAID 5 can offfer increases in IOPS because of the ability to write across multiple drives.

If I were building based on what you described and the thought that I wanted to keep costs down, and accepted that I might be waiting for a part to be overnighted to get back online:

Barebones by ASUS

CPU (Your disks will be a bottleneck long before this low end CPU from your descriptions)

(heatsink and fan for CPU)


2 of these HDD

Ultimately you may not save much over a unit from Dell - have you considered Dell Outlet for a server:

And also, I think I still suggest one more time considering Dual CPU, Dual Power supply, Dual NIC type solutions for most servers, but I also understand the $$$ can be tight.

I sometimes still just like to build hardware :)

I have had really good luck using supermicro. I've built alot of servers and 6-7 years later they are still running strong. Make sure you use a good raid card, redundant power supply, quality parts and you should have zero problems. We spent 20 grand on an IBM server and the mobo took a crap after three months. Nothing is a 100%, just have a good disaster recovery policy in place

Also, at a minimal use raid 1. I would suggest looking at a raid 10 if you are looking for performance. SSD's are great, but can be expensive. A couple HD with data 3 in a raid 10 will save u some money and give good performance

Sorry, I meant sata 3
I prefer to use Intel server boards as I've found them to be stable, reliable, and for the entry level ones at least, reasonably priced. I've had a couple of servers using Intel boards that lasted more than seven years of 24/7 service (excepting downtime for PSU changes).

A single CPU will be quite adequate for the usage that you describe in your question, but as you're planning to use SQL and Exchange then lots of RAM and storage will help performance considerably. If your users are making constant use of those services, a minimum of 16GB of RAM should be considered; the amount of storage you need will probably depend largely on the size of your database and its logs, but the RAID10 proposed earlier is well worth considering not only for its speed, but also for its redundancy.

If a server is light duty then the onboard RAID suffices, but if you want complex RAID configurations and perhaps battery-backed controller caches then I've had excellent results from Adaptec, LSI, and 3Ware SATA RAID controllers, though the latter was bought by LSI about three years ago.

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