Custom Computer Build Running SQL Server 2012 R2 on a Budget

I build my own computers for gaming, although I am not an OC'er. Work has asked me to build a computer for running MSAccess, Excel and SQL server.

Here is the back story; work has an MSAccess 2010 front end, running SQL Server 2012 R2 (free edition) in the back end; the Access application imports text files received from external sources, parses that data into SQL Databases and then exports the data results to an Excel Spreadsheet; the process is semi-automatic and is monitored. The current computer is an IBM Think Center computer; which is showing its age.

This computer will be the daily workstation for the programmer that monitors the application and as well as being a stand alone SQL Server and there are no external user connections; however application updates and testing are done on this computer.

Suggestions on where to begin?
Frank BryantJOATAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
"Work" needs to understand and let you know about long term expectations. I get machines like with 3 or 4 year warranty so we can get them serviced quickly when they break.

Building a reliable, well engineered computer that will run non-stop for 5 years or more will likely cost as much money (or certainly near enough) as a solid commercial computer.

You may not wish to provide service for that long so think about that.

Also, cheap computers are usually cheap because the parts are cheap (the margins are not large in computers at a quantity level of one).

Where to start? Get a couple of quotes for commercial (business) computers and compare this to your cost for good parts and assembly labour.
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
SQL Express (32 or 64 bit?), ram and disk io speed are important think SSD for disk i/o
and perhaps 8G RAM.
Frank BryantJOATAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the comments so far ...

David,
SQL 2012 R2 64 Bit and for speed, SSD is the way to go. Unfortunately SSD's are not in the budget; even for me.


John,
Not calculating the expense of Service Contracts; just building the workstation. Which is for some special use situation; 2-4 units.

Well here is my first draft ...
Tower Case: Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-02 CC-9011051-WW
PSU: Corsair CX Series 750 Watt CX750M
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-F2A88X-UP4
CPU: AMD A8 7600 FM2+ AD7600YBJABOX
RAM: Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB 2x8GB DDR3 CMY16GX3M2A2400C11R
Video: Gigabyte AMD Radeon R7 240 GV-R724OC-2GI Rev 2.0
Hard Drive: WD Blue 1TB 3.5 Inch SATA 6Gb/s 7200 RPM
CD/DVD: Asus 24x DVD-RW Serial-ATA Optical Drive DRW-24B1ST (Black)
I/O: Logitech Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo MK270
Monitor: Acer 21.5" HD Widescreen G226HQL Bbd
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Frank BryantJOATAuthor Commented:
Here are the specs of the current workstation ...

IBM ThinkCentre M82, Model 2697 AY9; 32 GB RAM, (x2) 500GB Hard Drives, (x2) USB 1TB WD My Passport External Drives, CPU Intel i7-3770 @ 3.4 GHz, Intel HD 4000 Graphics, running on Windows 8.0 Pro 64 Bit.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Your specs look fine. Just be sure the collection of commercial parts you list is not greater than or equal to a purchased machine. A purchased machine gives at least a one year warranty and some give three.

Also, this is a machine for "work". Think twice about giving your time away free. I see no need to do that.

I think factoring in your time and some repair time to equal the 1 - 3 year warranty supplied in the price that you will be fairly comparable. Plus or minus $75 is fairly comparable.

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Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
I'd get 32G RAM, as RAM is dirt cheap compared to the performance payback you get from it.

SQL Express won't be able to directly use that RAM, but every other function on there will.

You should also set the min and max memory for SQL to the full 1GB (if it allows it, I think so, but not 100% sure for Express edition).  Will give you somewhat better performance, and 1GB reserved won't affect the server itself anyway.
Frank BryantJOATAuthor Commented:
John,

Thanks for your commentary. I feel that I need to clarify something; I used the word "build" (force of habit). Actually I would not be assembling (aka building) these computers. The IT Support Department has that responsibility. When asked, all I agreed to do, was to create the "computer specification" and ITSD can use that information in anyway they see fit. I priced all components from Amazon.com. The spec noted above came in $261.44 less than a current "work" computer.

Since you commented about warranties and service contracts, I posed that question to ITSD and they said that all "work" computers come with a 3 Year On-Site Next Business Day Parts/Labor Warranty from the vendor.
Frank BryantJOATAuthor Commented:
Scott,

I think you might be right about setting the memory limit to 1GB; something to look into. I concur with your 32GB RAM suggestion.
Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
Let me clarify to be sure I've stated this clearly enough.

SQL Express edition is limited to 1GB of RAM.  You can't change that.  But in licensed versions SQL allows you to specify a fixed amount of RAM for it to use, which improves performance because SQL "knows" memory addresses will stay static once loaded.  I believe SQL Express also allows you to fix the RAM.  If so, that should give you somewhat better performance, and would definitely be worth it because forcing 1GB to be reserved to SQL out of 16 or 32GB won't hurt anything else running on the box anyway.
Frank BryantJOATAuthor Commented:
Thanks Scott,

I did understand your first post. Perhaps I was a bit vague in my reply; anyway, 1 GB for SQL, 32 GB for overall System RAM and I did find the SQL Memory settings here ...

I checked the computer's SQL 2012 R2 Express memory current "Configured values" and they are ...
Minimum: 0
Maximum: 2,147,483,647 MB


Also I took some liberties with the computer spec noted earlier and made some suggested changes; same specification but ...
1) ... with 32GB RAM it came in $165.17 less than a current "work" computer.
2) ... with 32GB RAM and 2 Video Cards came in $4.81 over the current "work" computer.
2) ... with 32GB RAM, 2 Video Cards and 3 Monitors came in $104.80 over the current "work" computer.
Scott PletcherSenior DBACommented:
Minimum: 0
Maximum: 2,147,483,647 MB

Right, that is the default.  You want to set it to:

Minimum: 1024MB
Maximum: 1024MB

That will allow SQL to use a fixed memory allocation, which gives better performance.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@d2beetle - Thanks and I was happy to help.
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