Best recommendation for Server for client

I have a client that runs a Hair Salon.  Their salon software really should be on a standalone server, but right now it runs on one of the three desktop Lenovos.  Each Lenovo are plenty powerful for a workstation, but should not be doing double duty as a server.  When things get busy, the whole system slows down because all three workstations are banging the program that exists itself on one of the workstations.

Of course they are concerned somewhat about price.  They do not need an ultra powerful server, but a moderately powerful one is needed in my opinion.  Can I hear suggestions on good, reliable, fast servers that I can suggest these clients to buy? And best Windows server OS too. Thanks.
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masnrockConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Just use a dedicated workstation to act as the server for the application... buying a true server would be a total waste of money at this point in time. Plus given that you have an offsite backup service, you're in more than good shape.
This is a bit like asking people what the best car is...

I'd suggest a Dell tower server, perhaps a T310. It's quiet, reasonably priced, and has more than sufficient grunt for the task you outline.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Check out the HP Proliant Microserver G8. It was designed with smaller businesses in mind and is a good fit for specialty duties like you describe.
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Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
What are the specifications of the software?  Can it run on a server OS or just Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 ?

Larry Struckmeyer MVPConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Entry Level server class hardware with specs slightly better than any of the workstations.  A bit more RAM.  Microserver should be fine, but you really could just get another PC.  The Dell model suggested above, or the equilivent HP or Lenovo should also be fine.

If Server os, then Foundation Server or Server Essentials.  Essentials has the advantage of backing up the other PC;s on the network.

Consider the licensing for the software.  Some charge considerbly more if installed on Server os, and some require the database and the exe both be on the server with the stations just starting the exe over the network.
Does the application in question really justify the need for a true server? You would probably be able to just use a dedicated workstation. That would be the lowest cost feasible solution to the problem. The need for a server OS depends on future needs and requirements.
I know nothing about hairdressing, being a mostly bald man, so perhaps you could give us some idea what these computers do on a daily basis.  Presumably there is a customer database with appointment scheduling, and obviously email functionality, but what else?

Multimedia content to show customers different types of celebrity hairstyles they might choose?
Online booking portal?
Point of Sale software?

Without having some idea of the workload it is hard to make any suggestions.
ArtG2521Author Commented:
Customer database
Appointment setting
Online booking
Assembling and printing reports
A couple of other tasks similar to a database program
jayneeConnect With a Mentor IT ManagerCommented:
Interesting.  is the current peer-to-peer network running under XP, Windows7 or other?

Are backups currently being taken of local data?  Is any data hosted offsite and is that backed up?

Time to do a bit of requirements analysis. If there are no backups happening, then that really should be addressed, and getting a server would help there.  Remember that you can install a server OS on a reasonably high end workstation with a couple of NICs and a backup device.  I've used Small Business Server in this way quite a few times, and the modern equivalent Windows Server Essentials (I'm with Larry there).

However, if the client really is strapped for cash and can wear the loss of their data, then another peer could be the answer - as masnrock says, its the cheapest solution and it would also be the easiest.  But you'd have to match the existing peers' OSes, and impress upon the client that the workstation running the salon software can't be used for anything else.

Whether they go for HP or Dell servers (both of which I like, for different reasons - HP ultra reliable, better parts shelf life, feature-rich; Dell cheap but still good tho drivers can be a problem) make sure they get a same-day service contract because their first server fault shouldn't put them out of business!
Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Can you please answer ALL the comments from ALL the experts not just the last one that posted.

Many thanks

PerarduaadastraConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Is the number of staff/computers accessing the server likely to increase? You have three computers at the moment, but if that is going to double in the next year or so then you need to make sure that what will work now is going to work then as well. A "proper" server will give you more flexibility and room for growth;  however, if no more than three computers are going to be used (besides the server) then a simple workgroup might be sufficient for your client's needs, in which case a well specified desktop with Windows 7 Pro would be able to handle the load with out running out of steam or TCP/IP connections.

The software your client uses will influence the choice of OS; if a key application doesn't work with 64-bit Windows then that's a problem.

What about email? Does your client want his own mail server or is he planning to use hosted email services? If the former, then SBS 2011 would be the way to go as Windows Server 2012 doesn't include Exchange and buying it (that is, Exchange) standalone would be horribly expensive.

With only three machines/users to service, virtually any entry-level server will be able to handle the workload outlined, so the choice of hardware will depend on other factors such as price, physical size, and especially the amount of noise it makes. Hairdressing salons are warm places (so I'm told) and it would be distracting for patrons (matrons?) and staff alike to have the genteel ambience of their surroundings compromised by the background howl of overworked server fans.

One point about HP servers - I've heard rumours that HP is planning to start charging for firmware and driver updates for their hardware; if this is true then that additional cost will need to be factored into TCO calculations.
ArtG2521Author Commented:
Sorry, I will fill in answers as I know them.  Just been very busy lately.

Windows 7 is OS
Backup is to a Cloud Service every day.
No data hosted off-site
Have to double check that the software can run on a server OS, but I believe it can.
No multimedia running on the software (no videos or heavy graphic stuff)

Dedicated workstation could be an option for sure, but I am going to check on prices for an entry level server as some of you suggested.  Staff workstations are very unlikely to increase which lends more credence to a fast workstation as server.  Apps are working with 64 bit Win 7, so that should be ok.  Email is simply handled by the ISP for their web site.  I plan on locating the this workstation/server or entry level server in a room in the back so it will be virtually untouched.

I will give a little time for any last thoughts and then I will award points.  The points may be split up a lot because there were many good answers and I really appreciate the help.
Larry Struckmeyer MVPCommented:
Just to comment on HP... the change in support policy is that Firmware/Bios updates will be free to any device under warranty or extended warranty, but there will be a charge for out of warranty servers.  While different from the historical perspective, it seems to make sense from the standpoint of the costs of developing such updates.

You could actually make the same argument that repair services should be supplied without charge.  After all... one did pay for the box.  But all of these things have related costs, which is why you see the warranty on hard drives drop every few years, only to be extended again by one or the other mfg. to gain perceived competitive advantage.
Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Does the software actually run on a server?  Have you checked?  Before you even venture down the road of buying a server, make sure it does work, or simply stick to a dedicated workstation and leave it at that - should be way cheaper.

ArtG2521Author Commented:
Thanks again for the great answers!
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