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Network Storage Solution For 25 User Office

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November 30, 2007 1:43:04 PM

I work in a small office of 25 users. We are replacing our Win2000 server with Win2003 next month. I'd like to split the workload between the new server and a NAS solution. We currently use about 100GB worth of disk space for files on the network, access databases, etc (but we're adding a few GB per month). I'd like to start with 500GB - 1TB of storage and am considering RAID as well.

I don't know if a separate file server PC would be a better solution than a dedicated NAS device. If a PC is the better route, what OS would provide the best performance while remaining compatible with Active Directory? Since I'm a 'one man show' I'd like a solution that requires minimal post installation administration. I have plenty of Win & Mac experience and some Linux exposure so I am not opposed to a Linux solution.

My budget for this is roughly $1,000.

Thanks,
James
November 30, 2007 2:37:36 PM

Quote:
For much less than $1,000, you can build
your own file server with an ASUS P5B-VM DO, or
comparable mATX motherboard with integrated graphics,
and start out with a RAID using 2 x WD7500AYYS "RE2"
wired to the Intel Matrix Storage Manager ports.

A Celeron 440 is more than enough power for
routine file serving, and dual-core Intel CPUs
are only a few dollars more.
/

Do not use software raid and useing it on a low end cpu will make it even slower.

you can get a nice amd dual core for same price as the Celeron 440.

as well as a nforce board with dual gig-e tcp / ip off load and teaming.

this board has 2 x16 slots set it to x8 x8 mode.
you just need a low end video card even a pci one will work and pci-e raid card.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

a AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ is $64 the 3800 x2 is $62.99 and they will blow the Celeron 440 that costs more away.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
November 30, 2007 2:44:24 PM

So a "DIY" PC solution is the right option. Thanks for the replies.

Any idea about the OS? Should I just use one of my XP Pro licenses? Use the old Win2k server license?

Thanks,
James
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November 30, 2007 3:05:08 PM

Why do you want to split things?

Most likely, this will not be the best option.

#1 - Most NAS devices in that price range do not offer excellent performance or fault tolerance.

#2 - If you go for a Seperate Custom PC - You will need an OS and to connect 25 people, it will need to be a Windows Server Edition due to restrictions built into the DESKTO OS. Now, you could go Linux, but you said you want things simple and that is not simple for a one man solution.

#3 You also want the system to be as fault tolerant as possible and will need backups. Your Server is most likely a real server with redundant power supplies, a Server Class Raid Controller with excellent redundancy on your drives.

That being said, I think your company should really look at it's budget and factor in two servers of about equal quality. That way if one server goes down, you still have a secondary domain controller.

You could also replicate the data from one server to the next.

How much would it cost your company to be down for say 1-day while techs and parts are ordered?

While I fully understand the rational for going it cheap, it will likely come to bite somebody one day. And if they refuse to buy off on the idea of decent fault tolerance, ensure it's in an email so your tail is not on the line when systems are down.

I recall years ago I worked for a company and setup real nice redudancy between different systems but I finnally moved on.
A few months after I left, they had to turn all of their systems off for a fire system safety check. Turns out they left their primary application server turned off to 2 months before they realized it was off due to a redundant configuration. If the system had really failed and there was not good failover, there would have been heads on platters.
November 30, 2007 3:29:46 PM

I agree with zenmaster. The file server is the last place you want to skimp. If budget is an absolute show-stopper, build a less expensive machine for the domain controller (or use the old one), and turn the higher-end fault tolerant server into the file server. That way, really the only thing you need to buy is another Windows Server 2003 license and some kind of backup system.

25 users is getting up into the range where SOHO and light-duty NAS things have no place. You're entering enterprise territory. You need to be thinking about, in order:

Primary (protect the data):

- RAID 5 for the main file share
- Backup system

Secondary (uptime and fault tolerance):

- Two domain controllers
- UPS for all central IT equipment
- Redundant power supplies on the servers
- Hot spare or at least a cold spare for the RAID 5 system

Tertiary (performance):

- Infrastructure improvements, such as Gigabit Ethernet
- Higher-end servers (Dell/HP)
- Faster Internet

For small companies like yours, down time is bad, but not nearly as bad as losing all data. The backup system and the RAID 5 system are where you need to be putting your money. Being down for a day or two can be dealt with. Loss of all data can potentially cause the business to go out of business.

I cannot be emphatic enough on this: When the sh*t hits the fan, the single most valuable thing that will save your *ss, your boss's *ss, and the business is a tape that's holding last night's backup. It's not a question of if that's going to happen. It's a question of when.
November 30, 2007 5:31:16 PM

Quote:
Why do you want to split things?
Our biggest bottle neck & resource hog is Exchange Server. My plan was for our new server to be the PDC, handle Exchange & IIS, etc., and offload the file server work to a PC or NAS device.
Quote:
#2 - If you go for a Seperate Custom PC - You will need an OS and to connect 25 people, it will need to be a Windows Server Edition due to restrictions built into the DESKTO OS. Now, you could go Linux, but you said you want things simple and that is not simple for a one man solution.
I have the Win2K Server license from our soon-to-be-replaced server. That can handle the 25 users (though the current 5 y/o P4 needs to be replaced).
Quote:
#3 You also want the system to be as fault tolerant as possible and will need backups. Your Server is most likely a real server with redundant power supplies, a Server Class Raid Controller with excellent redundancy on your drives.
Yes, the new server we're looking at has RAID & redundant power supplies. We have a removable hard drive based backup solution that dovetails with our Disaster Recovery plan. The backups are verified daily and the DR process is tested quarterly.
Quote:
That being said, I think your company should really look at it's budget and factor in two servers of about equal quality. That way if one server goes down, you still have a secondary domain controller.
My budget for the new server + OS is $4k - $5k, with some room for additional user licensees.
Quote:
You could also replicate the data from one server to the next.
I currently use an old PC for replication which copies the DB's at 9am, 12, 3 & 6pm.
Quote:
How much would it cost your company to be down for say 1-day while techs and parts are ordered?
That's always a concern. Our DR plan has scripts in place that can convert existing PC's into a temp DB server, a temp file server and a temp mirror. Each workstation has a script in place to remap network drives & attach to the temp servers.
Quote:
While I fully understand the rational for going it cheap, it will likely come to bite somebody one day. And if they refuse to buy off on the idea of decent fault tolerance, ensure it's in an email so your tail is not on the line when systems are down.
The file server $ are left over from my $10k total budget for the new server, OS, CAL's, A/V, etc, as well as a new gigabit switch and a new UPS.
Quote:
If budget is an absolute show-stopper, build a less expensive machine for the domain controller (or use the old one), and turn the higher-end fault tolerant server into the file server. That way, really the only thing you need to buy is another Windows Server 2003 license and some kind of backup system.
The total budget is my limit though I certainly can reevaluate the distribution. "Twins" could be a very palatable way to go.
Quote:
Primary (protect the data):
<snip>
Secondary (uptime and fault tolerance):
<snip>
Tertiary (performance):
I'm certainly looking for RAID on the PDC. The more I read the more I want it on both machines. We have backup systems in place & UPS's. The current server that I inherited does not have RAID and was originally running on just one drive: the boot partition (including Exchange DB) & the data/files partition. I've split things up on to three drives but I finally have approval for the new server. We are getting a Dell server & a gigabit switch. Our cable internet service is pretty fast (speed tests regularly give me 12 - 15 down & 4 - 6 up).
Quote:
For small companies like yours, down time is bad, but not nearly as bad as losing all data.
Indeed. Our backup drives leave the building every day (they have a 5 week recovery horizon). We do full backups (not incremental), the DB's & system state are also copied to a separate PC and we have four quarterly backups at the ready.
Quote:
It's not a question of if that's going to happen. It's a question of when.
It already has (due to User error rather than HW). Procedures & documentation were in place and everything went as planned.

Thanks for all the input so far.
December 15, 2007 9:54:49 PM

With a little good luck & great timing I caught a nice sale at Dell and have ordered 2 PowerEdge 2900 III's each with 2 Quad Core Xeons @ 2.66Ghs (1333 FSB), 4GB RAM, Redundant Power Supplies, RAID & 4 500GB drives (and $20 overnight shipping). With the OS & client licenses I went a little over budget but it's nothing too drastic and nothing I can't justify as a good long term investment.

Thanks again to everyone for your input.
December 17, 2007 6:15:41 PM

Excellent choices. Those are great servers and will work well for you.
!