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Dedicated Peer Server Build Recommendations

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February 7, 2010 5:46:55 PM

I have a small office with 3 full-time and 1 part-time employees. I need to install a dedicated peer server, and am interested in considering building one rather than buying something. (I have built a couple of computers in the past, and enjoyed doing so.)

I am not familiar with true server operating software like Windows Server 2008, etc., nor do I really need a true server. (I also do not really have the time to devote to learning how to set up a true server, as I am my own systems administrator.) Therefore, I am simply looking to set up a Windows 7-based computer as a dedicated peer to peer server (which will not have my office personnel using it for any other purpose).

I have used a peer to peer network for a long time and have had no major problems at my small office. However, the primary software I use, LexisNexis Time Matters, now recommends that the computer acting as the server not be utilized for any other purpose. Its newest version, Time Matters 10, now installs Microsoft SQL Server for its database. Various consultants indicate that this will run very well on a dedicated peer server type of system as long as there are 5 users or less, and that a true server set up is therefore unnecessary.

Therefore, I am looking for recommendations for a very stable machine I can build for Windows 7 that will be used as a dedicated peer server. Budget is not really a major issue, although I would like to keep it below $1,000.00 if possible. Stability and safety of my data is important. Speed would be nice too, though reliability is more important.

I presume I do not need the latest, greatest processor for this type of machine, but uncertain what processor will achieve the performance I need for this type of task. I plan on using 4 GB of ram regardless. Have no idea about motherboard since am uncertain about processor. Have an older Antec tower case sitting around so can use it to save a buck or two. Anyhow, any build recommendations for such a machine? Thanks in advance for any advice you may be able to offer.
February 7, 2010 6:21:46 PM

Unless it's a really crappy piece of software, drop an i5 with 4GB of ram on it since it only has ~5 users.

Where you're going to want to spend most of your money is on the IO system. You're going to want RAID1 at least and some sort of back-up system. Make sure you lock down that computer because a computer that runs billing software and has a trojan on it could mean a crap ton of problems.

Remember, the last thing you want is "oops, HD died, there goes $50k of financial data"

The Data Administrator at my company just spent $120k on only 16TB of SAN storage because quality was more important than quantity.
February 8, 2010 1:19:43 PM

If I were in your shoes, I would go with the following low-cost server solution.
These guys will assemble it for you.

http://www.neqx.com/product.asp?pf_id=SYS943
SUPERMICRO SUPERSERVER 5036I-IF
INTEL XEON QC X3430 (2.4GHz/1333FSB/8MB) CPU
4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz ECC REG
2xST3500410AS : 2 PIECES 500GB SATAII 7200RPM 16MB CACHE
Built-in RAID controller
LITE-ON IHAS224-06 24X SATA BLACK DVDRW W/LIGHTSCRIBE
MS WINDOWS 7 PRO 64-BIT OEM DVD, w/MANUAL
RAID 1 Setup
$1,074.90
I don't think the price includes shipping, and, depending on where you are located, it may not include taxes.

I would purchase a spare HDD in next year's budget.

I would also attach a UPS to the box, and back it up.
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February 10, 2010 6:44:37 PM

Thanks so much for the advice. I had never heard of Next, and they do seem to have server products that are very much in line with what I need. Now my only debate is whether to go ahead and get one from them, or build one myself (which I somewhat enjoy).
February 10, 2010 6:52:22 PM

I enjoy building, too, but server parts are more difficult to scrounge up. Notice that a couple of those parts are of limited supply: the special motherboard and memory.

The reason why I finally recommended a builder other than yourself is the cover-your-ass factor. People tend to get fired if they build a computer that fails later, even if it's not their fault. If it's a workstation, no big deal. But if it's the main server, people notice.
!