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want to build a server, had some questions

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March 30, 2007 1:09:03 AM

hello,
Im thinking of building a server and I was wondering how it is different from a normal pc build?? what all hardware and software would i need?

Im sure ill have more questions...

thank you for your help.

More about : build server questions

March 30, 2007 1:52:13 AM

A server is just a normal computer running special software.

Now...yes, there IS specialized server hardware, however, a lot of server software runs on a regular PC.

The biggest question is what exactly is this server for? Web server? FTP? Streaming media? Storage?

What the answers are depends on what you're using it for.
March 30, 2007 1:58:50 AM

Good questions, kitchenshark.

I have a server (email and printer) @ home, and it uses normal components. I didn't buy or use any real server equipment or software, since I wanted to just keep it simple, and it was just for my home.

If you are building a server for work, though, I would suggest using a server type OS (Windows 2003) since they would be more for business type servers.

Again, it's like kitchenshark asked...what are you planning to do with it?
Related resources
March 30, 2007 2:02:56 AM

The first reply hit it right on the head, what is the server for?

Typically "servers" are "serving" more than the one user a desktop has to deal with so things like fast reliable drives are the norm; 10K SCSI in some flavor of RAID configuration - many times OS on a separate set of drives from data or application.

More RAM might be needed for large numbers of users or services.

Things like dual power supplies and hot swap HD's also come to mind.

Rack mountability?
ECC RAM?
Manageability?
Dual processors?
Many bays for hard drives?
Hot swap fans?

Things that might not be so important would be a powerful graphics card and sound probably isn't of much use in most servers.

So many things come to mind.
March 30, 2007 10:54:38 AM

thanks for the help guys, I'm going to use it to host web sites for people. Im getting into web design and I thought id offer web hosting.

here are a few questions..

1. what os should i use?
2. how much ram should i have?
3. how much hd space should i have and what set up?
4. anything i didnt think of?
March 30, 2007 12:37:44 PM

I know it seems like this question should have a fairly straight forward answer but unfortunately there are many things to consider.

Regarding the OS > you probably already know Windows and would be familiar with navigating the menus etc. and that would be a benefit but if you are just starting you might want to jump into Linux or BSD - there are so many distros available for download > you would be running Apache which will be included in most of the distros. Tons of support, books & on-line resources available for it. Get yourself a cheap or second hand machine and start playing (you should have a test machine anyway). Get one with a ton of RAM and install and play with VMWARE and then install sevreal distros into virtual machines and see which you like the best.

RAM depends on how many sites / current users + enabled features.
I work on some intranet application servers running IIS that several dozen people access all day long and it runs fine with 1Gb. A commercial web site I'm familiar with has several load balanced IIS servers running dual processor servers with 4Gb RAM each which seems to be plenty for them to take between 300 - 600 orders / day + casual searching including abandonded carts, searching by the companies employee's and a constant beating by the IT department uploading images, descriptions, and SQL updates.

Again, depends. The e-commerce site I described above has RAID 10's on those servers using 72Gb WD Raptors so 140Gb approximate usable.
But this is a heavy shopping site with 10's of thousands of products listed.
If you mirrored some 200Gb drives, you would probably be fine for quite some time.

What you didn't think of: why do you want to build this yourself? inexpensive hosting is very available, you might consider that - someone else is responsible for firewall configuration and patching of the servers, UPS power supplies, etc. I have a friend that does what you are contemplating > he buy the hosting and marks it up slightly but makes his $ off designing and maintaining the sites.

Also, are you thinking of doing this at home on your cable or DSL line? I host my personal site like that but I believe it violates the conditions of subscriber agreements to do so. You can do this in an office, but will you then have redundant links to the internet in case one goes down? how much availability will your clients require? You could put a server you own into a hosting facility which would take care of some of the concerns I outlined but that costs some nice $$ - I just negotiated a renewal with SAVVIS (a large hosting facility) for 1 standard rack with two servers, a switch, a firewall and remote KVM they are charging well over $1000 / month. Do you need a full rack? probably not but it will still cost you... back to possibly looking at paying for space on a server? your call, but hopefully this is the info. you were looking for.

My suggestion > buy a low end server with around 2GB RAM, put in mirrored 2Gb HD's, install Windows Server if you have it (again, you are probably familiar with configuring it) you can download a demo that will expire but who cares, I rebuild servers all the time, get used to it. Install VMWARE (free download) and learn a bit of that - then install a linux distro or two into that and play with it - your Windows host will also have IIS for you to play with - get a firewall at home with DMZ capability and set up a DMZ, put your server in it and register some domains with a free DNS company like noip.com and point a few to your server and start playing.

Wow, send me $20 to my PayPal account dude!
Have fun!
March 30, 2007 2:38:36 PM

Listen to Glockman! He's got a LOT of useful information and even considerations I hadn't thought of.

To add my 2 cents this is what I'd say would be adequate to start with.

1. I like Windows 2003 server as my OS
2. 1Gb should be plenty to start with. (256mb works grand on my home server)
3. Depends on how much you're planning to host. The suggestion of 200Gb is great to start. If you need data security, definitely impliment some kind of RAID.
4. As mentioned before, video cards and sound isn't necessary, it's just a server that's gonna sit somewhere churning away.

Also, consider a UPS if this is going to be at home. It's not good to let your server be subject to surges/sags in your power.

For software I'd recommend Apache for the webserver. I have Apache 2.0.x running just fine on Windows 2003 and it runs like a dream. Apache's reliability is unmatched in my experience. Apache's also very modular, and usually it's fairly simple to drop in new modules (PHP scripting, SQL, etc).
March 30, 2007 2:49:38 PM

I suggested the 2Gb RAM mainly if the VMWARE option is chosen - I also have a home server like kitchenshark running Server 2003 Web edition running just fine on an old Dell OptiPlex with a 6Gb drive, 400Mhz processor and 384Mb RAM - nobody hitting it to see my pictures or upload things to my FTP section would have any idea it is running on this meagar hardware > it is a little sluggish working at the console though.

You can also run a website on XPPro but I think it has a limitation of only one but I'm sure you can also run Apache on XPPro though it might violate the Microsoft EULA... I'm sure you don't care.
March 30, 2007 3:03:30 PM

To add to glockman's post:

Network interfacing:

Are you using DSL/Cable as glockman asks or is there a possability of a T1/FIOS? You may also want to look into a entry level server grade networking card to allow for more extended featuers and better performance. You may also want to look into a nice managed Switch (hp switches are nice and pretty cheap) if this will reside in your house.

I know it's not hardware for the server itself (other than respect to the NIC), but definately some thigns to think about. Also if you are going to use a local cable/dsl provider the managed switch will give you better support for port triggering/forwarding as well as port replication.
March 30, 2007 3:16:59 PM

I use a SmoothWall at home which allows two things I like; it has integrated SNORT so I get a pretty good idea of the shit hitting my fan and, it has the built in capability to check in with the no-ip service and update their records so your DNS stay updated if your DHCP for your home service changes.

The only thing I might disagree with from FTCold's post is a managed switch - I'm not sure you would get much use from this in this situation - I manage several nets with servers in a DMZ and I prefer a dumb hub - nothing there to compromise and if you want to set up a monitoring machine or IDS you don't have to do any port forwarding or anything because everything on the hub gets all of the traffic.
March 30, 2007 3:20:03 PM

Another thing to consider... is this going to just be a static site? you will most likely need to start thinking about a database. For what you are talking about MS SQL is probably way overkill - consider MYSQL. You can also get access to that with a hosting provider. Learning to manage a db is another good reason to start thinking about a test environment if you are serious.
March 30, 2007 3:26:39 PM

Quote:
The only thing I might disagree with from FTCold's post is a managed switch - I'm not sure you would get much use from this in this situation - I manage several nets with servers in a DMZ and I prefer a dumb hub - nothing there to compromise and if you want to set up a monitoring machine or IDS you don't have to do any port forwarding or anything because everything on the hub gets all of the traffic.


True, though I would rather be safe than sorry. I would rather have a server than clients actually use on a different internal net than the one I run my home pc's on. Also offers upgrades to that network if you choose to add more servers or test servers (I haven't seen a hub in years [been playing with fiber for a while now]). Again, you probably won't run into these types of things but I always go with the mantra better safe than sorry. But it'll give the OP some ideas.

Also as glock was pointing to - you may want to look at DynDNS or other free services like that.
March 30, 2007 3:56:30 PM

Hi FTC, are you suggesting creating a VLAN to segment the traffic on the switch? Generally a security no-no - if that is not what you are suggesting then apologies!
March 30, 2007 4:09:41 PM

Yep! I had Apache running on XP Pro for a good while, several months, but Server 2003 offers a TON more stability. A reboot generally every month or two as compared to a reboot every other week on XP. :) 

Also a good reason to use Apache: Virtual Servers are supported. Virtual Servers (for those who don't know) allow one Apache server to serve up as many websites as you like, all on their own domains. And they're really easy to setup! Just create a directory for the new site in the Web Root folder, drop some configuration stuff into the Apache config file and you're ready to rock and roll.
March 30, 2007 4:36:19 PM

Quote:
thanks for the help guys, I'm going to use it to host web sites for people. Im getting into web design and I thought id offer web hosting.

here are a few questions..

1. what os should i use?
2. how much ram should i have?
3. how much hd space should i have and what set up?
4. anything i didnt think of?

Wow... terribly bad idea! And it's even a worse idea if you're building it yourself... ugh... so many negatives... so little desire to type!
March 30, 2007 4:46:42 PM

Few things come to my mind:

Hardware:
1. Typical computer setup relative to performance needs
2. A good raid controller ( i recommend 3ware 9550SX )
3. UPS for those "oh noes!" moments. :x

Software:
1: Operating system (Windows server is a good choice if you have money)
DFS is particularly useful if you have things in different places you want to
make appear as if they're all in one place.
2. Client Services (IIS, mysql, ssh, apache.. etc)
3. Security: firewall, permissions.
March 30, 2007 4:54:48 PM

Quote:
thanks for the help guys, I'm going to use it to host web sites for people. Im getting into web design and I thought id offer web hosting.

here are a few questions..

1. what os should i use?
2. how much ram should i have?
3. how much hd space should i have and what set up?
4. anything i didnt think of?

Wow... terribly bad idea! And it's even a worse idea if you're building it yourself... ugh... so many negatives... so little desire to type!

Not really a bad idea, sounds like a learning experience, what's wrong with that?

The only thing that I would say mind you connection speed, along with your bandwidth limits.

I really wouldn't reccomend hosting a website off your home DSL/Cable connection. That's just my 2 cents.
March 30, 2007 5:04:16 PM

Quote:
thanks for the help guys, I'm going to use it to host web sites for people. Im getting into web design and I thought id offer web hosting.

here are a few questions..

1. what os should i use?
2. how much ram should i have?
3. how much hd space should i have and what set up?
4. anything i didnt think of?

Wow... terribly bad idea! And it's even a worse idea if you're building it yourself... ugh... so many negatives... so little desire to type!

Not really a bad idea, sounds like a learning experience, what's wrong with that?

The only thing that I would say mind you connection speed, along with your bandwidth limits.

I really wouldn't reccomend hosting a website off your home DSL/Cable connection. That's just my 2 cents.

I totally agree that it would be a great learning experience for the person building the server... I just think it would be a horrible learning experience for the people hosting with this guy... especially if money is involved. I don't see there being any money to be made in small-scale hosting at this point... there are just too many services offering super-cheap hosting... and those companies provide levels of redundancy that an individual can't really hope to offer (diesel generator power backup, climate control, off-site backups, etc)

If I didn't know any better and some friend offered to host for me... and assuming I took him up on the offer... and then he lost my site... that'd be one less friend I had.

As a general rule you don't mix business with pleasure (in this instance "pleasure" is just another way of saying "friends")

I'd suggest focus on the design side of it... not the hosting aspect.
March 30, 2007 5:20:24 PM

Glock,

No, I was more referring to that a 4 port 100 Mb hub for 1 server is cheap and easy. However, I was more referring to if he wanted to add a test server in and then say mess with game servers, etc. It wouldn't make sense to me to put 3 game servers and a web server on a hub. I know this wasn't the context or spirit of your post and I agree with you that a hub is his best choice starting out. I hate constantly changing out equipment though. Like I said granted it probably won't go beyond the 1 server for him but hey who knows; better to do it right once than doing it 5 times :D 
March 30, 2007 6:06:25 PM

Either way the first two steps are the same....it's only when you go to production that you'll need to make a decision. If your gonna charge for it, you'd better use off-site hosting. If the site goes down while your not there or on vacation - who's going to pay $$ to the customer because the service agreements weren't met?

1. Use whatever you have or can scrounge up to learn on, no matter what OS and webservice you choose. Faster is better, but you knew that, right?

2. Convert that learning machine into your staging server to test before you deploy. ( Glockman's excellent VM suggestion fits in well here) Upgrade if you need to....can probably get by with adding another 2g Ram.

3a. Charging for the website hosting? - use a hosting facility and add that cost to your maintenance fees.

3b. Family/Friends website? Host it yourself on a machine with excellent backup strategy, decent drive system, and as much ram as you can $$. Processor and network speeds count, but video and sound dont.

FYI - Glockman scores another point for the hub vs switch config. Inside firewall = managed switch & Vlan; outside firewall = DMZ = dumb stuff that can't be penetrated....and why aren't your wans all behind the vpn firewall stacks?????
!