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New server for a small business

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February 18, 2011 2:41:23 PM

We've currently got a local vendor hosting our e-mail and an old NAS that really should not be used as the main (old snap server 2x 160GB HDDs in RAID0) along with a local backup service and DVDs in a safe.

So the plan is to get a rack-mount server, UPS, a newer 24-port gigabit switch, and use our existing sonicwall tz-180 as the firewall.
As for the details, here's what I'm fairly confident that we could make use of with a little room to grow.

Software:
Small Business Server 2011 (planning on using the exchange and sharepoint servers)
Kaspersky Enterprise Space Security
A better backup solution than the built-in one
Office 2010

Hardware:
Dual hex-core xeons
16GB DDR3
Hardware SAS 6GB/s RAID controller
At least 7 hot-swappable bays (so 8 most likely)
2x 500GB SAS 6GB/s Seagates in RAID1 for the OS and applications
4x 1TB SAS 6GB/s Seagates in RAID10
1x 1TB SAS 6GB/s Seagate as a hot-spare
DVD-RW

I'm leaning towards an IBM x3620 M3 with some tweaks, but Dell is still in the running as well. I'm tempted to build it myself (although I've got a fair amount of experience and am confident in my abilities), but putting the liability on someone else is appealing, not to mention that I've read SBS 2011 has a limited list of supported hardware, and the limited parts available for a server build is sort of surprising.

Mostly, I'd love to hear opinions and thoughts about the setup as well as which manufacturer to go with.
Thanks.

More about : server small business

February 18, 2011 2:47:45 PM

Hello tismon;

You must have a pretty large small business for that much hardware to be needed.

What are you looking at as a total budget in your project?
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February 18, 2011 3:09:53 PM

Lol, I work with a small engineering firm and redundancy is very important. Mostly, we'd like to host our own e-mail, sharepoint, fileserver, and move towards a more centralized setup with active directory. From what I've gathered, exchange itself will eat up quite a few resources. And this is the "if we want the most out of this server without overpaying" setup with a little growing room. I'm going to put together a bare minimum setup to present as well, but I have a hard time not just going straight for most functionality (1st) and best value (2nd).

I'd like to aim under $4000 for the hardware, and there's really not much that can be done for the software.

To save some money, I am looking at these hard drives, 500GB, 1TB as long as they seem as reliable. Could switch to SATA to save some, but the seek times and reliability of scsi are hard to argue from what I understand.

So what do you think? Overkill?
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February 18, 2011 3:35:29 PM

You could think about spreading the workload over a couple of servers and still stay in the same budget range for increased redundancy.

Even a single quad Xeon should handle a 20+ person Exchange and Sharepoint server workload from what I understand.

Have you asked Dell, HP and IBM for recommendations? I'd be curious to know how closely their recommendations match.
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February 18, 2011 5:30:44 PM

Heh, my original plan was 2 servers. 1 for AD and exchange and the other as the file server while both would be domain controllers, but someone from techsupport forum suggested moving it to one to save some of the budget.

I've chatted with an IBM sales rep online and they really weren't too helpful, but a server specialist should be trying to get a hold of me at some point so there's still hope. As for actually customizing one on their site, I believe that I've got most everything worked out, but there's some fee called System Common planar that's close to $700 that I can't figure out.

I guess in the mean time, I'll look into whether the second xeon is really needed or not.
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February 18, 2011 5:55:46 PM

It's not their job to be helpful. They wan to upsell you on the hardware, but especially on the services.

Going with two single quad (room for future upgrade) servers is probably budget neutral with a single maxed out dual hex core server.
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February 18, 2011 8:44:55 PM

I definitely agree. That was my initial approach, but I'm not so sure that my bosses will find it all that beneficial versus the cost since if nothing else, there's the $800 OS since we'd rather have the extra compatibility and security of 2008 r2 with the sbs on the main (use active directory to control access).

And doing some quick math, the two server setup would cost at least $800 more (according to dell), which will probably be lost in fees of one sort or another.
The single server would have 16gb and the two would have 8 and 12GB ram with slightly better processors.

I suppose this'll take more looking into.
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February 22, 2011 3:49:13 PM

After looking at a lot of angles. I think that we're actually going to stick with a single server for two main reasons: cost (slightly less), and simplicity. Though now I'm focusing on dual lower-end quad-core xeons as the hex-cores seem overkill and the number of threads is still more important that just plain speed (vs single), especially for the exchange server.

Though something that I've now found out is that the newer SAS hard drives may actually be near-line drives, which are just SATA drives that are compatible with SAS backplanes. So now, what looked like about $1100 for 7 hard drives could easily double or triple just to get true SAS. The real question is, is it worth it? And I guess also, is one of the arrays going to be more heavily used than the other and possibly make those true SAS?
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February 23, 2011 6:12:38 PM

Hi tismon,

I am with IBM and the one thing I would look at would be drive compatibility. From my experience I know you can put just about any compatible memory into a system, but HDD's have to be sourced from IBM and that tends to be one of the components that make system x a little more costly than both HP and Dell. The drives themselves are very well built and have lower rates of failure than HP and Dell drives. If you want I can verify and look into this and let you know if or which third party drives would work with the X3620. Otherwise that is a solid system to build a infrastructure off of.
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