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Configuration for small office server advice please

Last response: in Components
a b α HP
December 13, 2009 11:01:12 PM

I need to order a new server for the office of a small charity in the UK. I'm looking at Dell, HP etc. I have to order it before year end. What should I get? Here are the requirements:

The network has 12 users with WinXP and Office 2003. These will be upgraded in 2010.

The current server is an HP Proliant ML110 with 3.00ghz P4 with 3g RAM running Win Server 2003, MDeamon mail server and a contact management database on MS SQL server V9.

We upgraded from a simple Access database to a much more complex SQL database. We are disappointed at the slow speed of the new database. That and the servers age has provoked the upgrade.

I expect to run MS software as it is sold to NPO's at a negligible price. I have a reasonable budget and I'm told to buy something fast that will last.

So what specs would you recommend?


BUDGET RANGE: Up to GBP £4000 or about USD $6000.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: SQL database, mailserver, file server.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitor, mouse, keyboard



OVERCLOCKING: I don't think so.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: low maintainance

Form Factor: Tower

Some questions:

dual or single quad processor?

which CPU?

SAS or SATA discs?

how many discs?

Four discs in Raid 5 or two pairs in RAID 2?

The main thing is I want people at work to love me and not hate me when this is done.


December 14, 2009 1:26:05 AM

Well, if the server only needs to support 12 users it does not need to be powerful by server standards. A simple single socket budget quad solution should be enough for you daily usage. However, this all depends on the amount of users using the server at the same time and whether you plan to increase the workload over a longer period of time. If your requirements remain roughly static a single slot solution should be enough for you. However if the business is a growing one you might want to invest in a motherboard with more sockets for future expansion.

Also, you might want to consider alternative server options that may be cheaper to run for small business such as a server mac mini which is inexpensive for the reliablilty and security of such a SMB platform.
Just a few questions:

How much disk space do you require for operation?

Are you going to build your own?

December 14, 2009 1:33:04 AM

Just answering you questions, based on your current workload a single quad-core should be enough for your organization. Trust me, it will blow your Pentium 4 out of the water.

SAS disks will require a bigger investment but the motherboard will allow for drive hot swapping. FOr your business size, I recommend SATA drives, they are cheaper to buy and putting two into mirrored RAID should guarantee reliability. Try to stick to Hard Drives with long warranties, like the Caviar Black series.

The amount of disks depend on your data you need.
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December 14, 2009 1:38:54 AM

I'm guessing your mail and fileserver useage are relatively low?

otherwise this isnt an ideal combination combined with an SQL server.

any modern single quad processor box will run rings around the current server.

I'd go for 8gb ram and a 64bit os if possible.

For storage I'm not sure what you are calling raid 2?

do you mean read 1-- drive mirroring?

the standard would be something like a single drive for os, and a 3-4 drive raid 5 array.. that is backed up nightly.

You could also consider one of the new enterprise class SSD's if they are big enough to meet your needs.

also theoretically the only thing you would want on the raid array would be the SQL database,
but this might also be overkill in your application.

It would depend on what type/size of files you were transferring with the file server

Its hard to recommend something as I dont know the workload or business you are in..

something with marketing would obiviously be very different than say.. engineering.
a b α HP
December 14, 2009 7:45:34 AM

Thanks for the advice so far.
You are right I meant to say RAID 5 or RAID 1.
Yes, the file and mail usage is low -- office paper shuffling.
Backup via swapping external drives daily -- no problem with that.
Storage -- the photo and video archive has grown and is now held on a workstation. That works fine.
On the file server we need less than 250g now so less than 500g in the future. A NAS could be used for files in the future if required.
The mail server software is MDaemon which I'm happy with. Considering changing at some point to Exchange but I simply don't have time to do that now. MDaemon uses less resource than Exchange -- should that be a consideration?

The key factor is speeding up this SQL database which we use for contact relationship management.

I suppose we could even keep the old server running with the files and mail while we setup the new server with the database.

As for me, I'm the accidental techie around here and I call in IT techs when required. I've asked two office networking pros and have received different recommendations from each one.

December 14, 2009 9:31:37 AM

Well, trust me, when you do upgrade to a single quad the performance difference will be massive. I think you won't need anything more than a single socket CPU. Perhaps a Xeon quad-core with Hyperthreading?

I'd aim to find a motherboard that supports e-sata. E-sata is the fastest consumer interface for swapping external hard drives. It's as fast as SAS, just without the extra cost.

I'd say that 2 or 4 1TB drives in RAID 1 would be the way to go regarding the amount of data you use.

If you are happy with the current software, why change?
a b α HP
December 14, 2009 10:50:09 AM

Quad Core Xeon should do the job, with raid-1 for o/s, raid-5 for data and don't forget backup system, but talk to a Dell sales person, they should also be able to help with migration.