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Small Business Upgrading Server, Will This Be Suffice?

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  • Business Computing
  • Servers
Last response: in Business Computing
July 31, 2013 12:53:49 PM

So, we are a small business (6 employees, 6 PCs), that is upgrading our trusty PowerEdge 840 that has lasted us 7 years. In all honesty I would stick with the 840, but my tech consultant is urging we upgrade due to expectant failure. We actually did have it crash on us about three weeks ago when (2) capacitors blew on the RAID board. It was an exceptionally hot weekend (a/c is off on weekends), and I honestly think that is why they blew.. Luckily, with help from Google, I quickly became some sort of electrical engineer, and learned that I could salvage some capacitors off an old computer (which I happened to have), provided they match up. Sure enough, some solder, and we were back up and running!

Anyway, long story short.. We had the 840 running exchange, and AD. We have a T100 that we acquired via a UPS infrastructure upgrade (as we use UPS to ship on a daily basis, and they were offering 'free' hardware with contracts, I took advantage) that acts as our application server. It runs our order management software, accounting software, etc.
So, with the new server, we are looking to go back to running exchange, continue running the AD, and maybe put our now SQL equipped order management software on there. Our consultant wants to run Acronis Backup w/Universal Restore, and plans to use the 840 as a failover server in the case we have a crash.
I am hoping to have another 7- year run with this unit, and would appreciate any insight you all might have. Here it is spec'd out below:

225-0883 1 PowerEdge T110 II Chassis with Cabled 3.5 Hard Drives
331-2391 1 Shipping Material, PowerEdge T110 II
317-2022 1 Memory for 1CPU Platform
319-1757 1 16GB Memory (4x4GB), 1600Mhz, Dual Ranked, Low Volt UDIMM (speed is CPU dependent)
319-0202 1 Intel Xeon E3-1230v2 3.30 GHz, 8M Cache, Turbo, Quad Core/8T (69W)
330-5552 1 PowerEdge T110 Heatsink
341-4158 1 HD Multi-Select
331-2398 1 H200 CBL, PowerEdge T110II for 3.5 Hard Drives
342-0729 1 PERC H200 Adapter RAID Controller
421-5256 1 MICROSOFT Small Business Server 2011, Standard, Factory Installed
430-2008 1 On Board network Adapter
313-7919 1 Baseboard Management Controller
313-9097 1 DVD+/-RW, SATA, INTERNAL
331-2399 1 ODD Cable, PowerEdge T110II
421-5277 1 1-Pack of Windows Small Business Server 2011 USER CALs (Standard)
331-2505 1 Electronic System Documentation and OpenManage DVD Kit
331-2618 1 Add-in SAS6iR or H200 (SAS/ SATA Controller), 2 Hard Drive - RAID 1
931-5387 1 Dell Hardware Limited Warranty Plus On Site Service Initial Year
935-9418 1 Dell Hardware Limited Warranty Plus On Site Service Extended Year
951-2015 1 Dell ProSupport Plus. For tech support, visit www.dell.com/prosupport/regionalcontacts

951-5875 1 ProSupport Plus: Next Business Day Onsite Service After Problem Diagnosis, Initial Year
951-5908 1 ProSupport Plus: Next Business Day Onsite Service After Problem Diagnosis, 4 Year Extended
951-5911 1 ProSupport Plus: 7x24 HW/SW Tech Support and Assistance, 5 Year
900-9997 1 On-Site Installation Declined
926-2979 1 Proactive Maintenance Service Declined
310-9057 1 No Power Cord
310-8509 1 Power Cord, NEMA 5-15P to C13, 15 amp, wall plug, 10 feet / 3 meter
331-0846 1 Optical Mouse, Two Buttons, USB, Black
331-2254 1 Dell QuietKey Keyboard, No Hot Keys, English, No Palmrest, ESG
421-5255 1 Microsoft Small Business Server 2011, Standard Edition with Media
342-2073 2 300GB 15K RPM SAS 6Gbps 3.5in Cabled Hard Drive
430-2008 1 On Board network Adapter


Any insight? Our consultant is also my best friend since pre-school, so I trust him to keep us safe and sound.. However, this server is coming in at $2,7xx, and in all honesty, I want to make sure it lasts us a good run. We do not have a budget, in both the good way, and the bad way. Good, because I get what I need, but bad, because where do you draw the line..? ;c)

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July 31, 2013 1:42:29 PM

The server system that you listed above is a good entry-level system which has the capability of running what you need with average performance experience. However, there are a few key things that I would recommend to get the best performance and configuration out of this server the first time which can make a huge difference for you in the future.

First, I would recommend looking into a nice hardware RAID controller with onboard cache. Especially if you are looking at doing multiple tasks simultaneously on this server, and protecting your data is crucial, then go for a nice RAID controller. For the T110 I believe that would be the H200, and I wasn't sure if you had that included above or not, but I would definitely recommend it. Also, what kind of storage space do you need, and how are you planning to configure your storage? I see you have two 300 GB 15k SAS drives listed above, but is that going to be enough storage space to fit all of your needs, or do you have some other external storage you are utilizing?

Next, I'd suggest leveraging Windows Server 2012 Standard. It's more expensive, but you get many huge benefits, the main one being virtualization. Any new business server really should be utilizing virtualization for added flexibility, compatibility, and fault tolerance. Virtualization is built in to Server 2012 Standard through Hyper-V, and also includes licensing for running two virtual machines under the same license as the physical system. This would be ideal for your situation, as I would recommend setting up one VM to do your domain controller, print services, file sharing, etc. and another VM to do your application server. In the event of a hardware failure, you can quite easily move the virtual machine hard drive files to any other computer running Windows Server 2012 or Windows 8 Professional, load up the VM in Hyper-V, and start it right up again. This cuts downtime from failures from days or even weeks to as little as hours or minutes.

My concern with the T110 is that you might be a little limited in your growth capabilities in the future. Given the size of your network with only six users, the server should offer plenty of performance, but it sounds like you are planning to do quite a bit with this server in the future as you expand to support additional features such as an SQL database system, exchange server, etc. You may wish to consider stepping up to a higher performance server, capable of upgrading to dual processors even, which has more processing cores and room for additional hard drives and memory as your needs expand.

I've set up a number of HP ProLiant ML310e G8 servers recently, which are comparable to the Dell PowerEdge T110 II that you are looking at. For a small business they offer great features at a low cost, but just be careful that you aren't fully loading the server and then expecting it to grow much further. With the ones we have set up so far, they can run two or thee VMs pretty well, but anything more than that puts a pretty big load on only two gigabit network ports (one reserved for the host OS), memory, and processing cores.
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August 2, 2013 9:37:24 AM

Hey Coucove - thanks for the input!
The server will be running SAS6iR or H200 (SAS/ SATA Controller), 2 Hard Drive - RAID 1. For storage, we have a Synology NAS.
As for failure, we will have NBD Onsite, so that should be suffice for us.Also, we were going to run Acronis Universal Backup - which enables the ability to have the server environment up and running on another machine even with different components in a matter of minutes.
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August 10, 2013 6:15:01 AM

Hi Seane,

The server you've detailed is certainly a decent spec at the moment, as you would expect from a current model. However it doesn't offer you a great deal of future-proofing, being particularly limited with expansion capability.

I always recommend to go for a dual socket machine where you will reap the benefits of greater expansion capacity, allowing you to add a second processor in a couple of years time for next to nothing. As a rule of thumb components for those machines are also easier to come by and cheaper (due to the greater number of machines in existence and the more interchangeable parts creating a larger secondary market).

The big 3 manufacturer (HP, Dell and IBM) will always have their standard, hallmark 2U server (DL380 G8, R720 and X3650 M4 at present, I believe) and i'd strongly recommend investing in the tower equivalent of that line. Again, your parts will be interchangeable with the rackmount chassis for the most part and right now the RDIMM memory is significantly cheaper.

The savings to be made of refurbished servers are simply huge, should you wish to go down that route. Reliability is rarely a consideration on anything but hard drives and perhaps PSUs, given the insignificant failure rates on parts such as RAM and CPU's. For that reason I might recommend splurging on a 3rd PSU at the time of purchase, and investing in brand new enterprise class hard drives.

If you're European based then you might want to check out bargain hardware for custom configurable tower servers and compatible workstations. And if you're US based then EZ Trade Live or Server Monkey would be a good place to start.
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October 1, 2013 6:50:12 AM

Tomcomp,
I actually ended up going with exactly what you stated, a dual cpu capable mobo... The thing is a beast, and we're very happy with the purchase... It also does have dual PSU's. Our main concern is simply having next business day parts/labor, as now we'll be using Acronis - so we can use the old Poweredge as a failover and be up in a matter of an hour or two in case we need to... However, losing a day is not the end of the world for us as we're not exactly a critical supplier.
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October 1, 2013 7:44:40 AM

Sounds like a good place to be for having a backup system in place to keep you up and going in the event your primary server goes down. It's not full high availability, but it's a lot more cost effective! There are also other means of helping with failover situations in Windows Server 2012 including Live Migration. It's not a solution for everything or everyone, but it might be something you wish to take a look into.
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