What do we need in a server?

Our school needs to replace its server tower as it's running Windows server 2003 and isn't very fast. What I need to know is, what kind of hardware we should get to give good performance over the next few years. Here's what it needs to be able to handle:

Main domain controller of 2 DCs (other is win 2008)
DNS, DHCP, file server
150 client PCs
500 user accounts with "my documents" and desktop redirection to this server
No email, database or other server roles

I'd appreciate some recommendations as regards CPU, RAM, makes and models, etc.

Thanks in advance!
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CLR BenjaminCommented:

Dell or HP server. You can google HP Prolian DL320e Gen8.
Need at least 4gb ram,  Xeon E3, 1-2 TO DD.

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Can't go wrong with an HP ML350 tower model, with Dual Xeon CPU's, 32 GB RAM, about 4 x 600GB SAS 15K disks. Sets you back around 6000 bucks, but this will be pretty future proof (4 hdd bays still free)
CLR BenjaminCommented:
But I think RAID 5 would be appropriate to stock user documents
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
So what have you done to determine your cause of performance issues now?  Is the CPU pegged?  Is the RAM too low and paging to disk often?  Is the network card 100 Mb and overloaded?  I don't understand how everyone else can offer "solutions" without understanding how much your load is now!

How can you recommend 4x600 hard drives when we don't even know how much usage?!?!  500 users with Docs and Desktop redirection at a school could easily need more than that recommendation - or far less if quotas are enabled.
Virtualize your servers. You are more flexible. Either use VMware ESXi for that or Hyper-V. Use one OS license as your 2nd DC, and another for the file server. You should never have any other roles on a DC than the DC, DHCP, DNS roles, so file-servers should be separate.

Don't use RAID 5. RAID 5 is obsolete, old stuff, and unreliable compared to other RAID types. It had an advantage a long time ago as the disks used to be very small and expensive, so you could optimize space and still have some redundancy. Today's disks are very large and cheap in comparison, there is absolutely no need to optimize the space. You should rather use something simpler, like RAID 1, or with more redundancy, like RAID 6. Either way you still get a lot of space if you use large disks.

Make sure your server has enough RAM so it accommodates for the OS's you will be running on it. I'd recommend either HP or Dell Servers.
ste5anSenior DeveloperCommented:
How old is your system? What CPU, how much RAM and how many disks?
mark_D74Author Commented:
Thanks for the suggestions everyone.  Here are the stats of the current server:

HP Proliant ML150 G5
Intel Xeon CPU E5205 @ 1.86GHz (dual core)
2Gb RAM PC2-5300 (667MHz) according to SIW, max is 16Gb, 6 slots total
RAID 1 array almost full (although this can be solved easily enough with bigger disks)

I've had no complaints from users logging on, etc.  But on a superficial level, the CPU does look a bit under powered at 1.86GHz.  I know there's a lot of scope to increase the RAM, but is the CPU up to the job of running Server 2008?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
2008 is Vista class.  But server was "ok".  I wouldn't say you shouldn't get a new server, but you're still being vague.  How does the CPU look underpowered?  You just think 1.86 is too slow?  How much is it utilized?  How many cores?  And 2 GB for a file server running AD is borderline ok.  (I use VMs with dynamic RAM and most of the time they don't hit the 2GB utilization mark, so I wouldn't worry too much about that... UNLESS you're doing a lot of paging.  I'll repeat myself - you need to analyze where your bottlenecks are.  Almost anything server class will be better today... but knowing what your ACTUAL utilization is may mean the difference between a $1500 server and a $4500 server.  I can't stress this enough - a question like this should never be "answered" the way you want here - because YOU need to answer it based on your needs from ACTUAL PERFORMANCE MONITORING!
mark_D74Author Commented:
Meant to say we'd be running Server 2012, not 2008 (it was late when I typed that).  Thanks for everyone's help.  I'm grateful for the effort and valid points contributed by Lee, but I had decided from the start to change the server hardware, as although there are currently no serious performance issues, it's 6 years old, the disks are full and the CPU isn't fast by today's standards at a time when we're jumping two notches on the MS server OS ladder.  So it was really suggestions for specifications and/or models I was looking for.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
So it was really suggestions for specifications and/or models I was looking for.

The problem is you're asking us for input on what will perform well for you... I can point to a fantastic system that will outperform your existing server to an extreme.... but are you seriously saying you don't care about how much you spend?  By identifying your ACTUAL NEEDS FIRST, you can determine what you need in a new server.  THAT was my point... if you just want a new server, then go buy a new server - ANYTHING will replace what you have - but if you want to do this intelligently, you need to understand your existing equipment and needs.

Go ask the sales guy at Dell or HP - they'll happily give you something that will be more than sufficient for your needs.  FAR MORE.  OVERKILL more...
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Windows Server 2008

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