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Server Build

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August 2, 2011 6:18:29 AM

I am planning to build a server for a home/small business (research) environment. I have done a fair amount of research, at least enough to confuse myself, I have done only a little computer building, nothing from scratch.
Currently we have two PCs, one gaming unit and one stable work unit, two laptops, an IMac and WD TV Live.

Approximate Purchase Date: August-September

Budget Range: $2000-$3000

System Usage from Most to Least Important: It is a three way tie for first place.

1) I need rock solid redundant storage for family photos (2tb), research photos (at present 4tb and growing, I expect it will grow to over 10tb), and general file back-ups (1tb approx. now).
2) A file server for media files, music and movies (BD). We use our individual PCs (IMac in Kitchen) for music, WD TV Live for movies.
3) Remote access to upload and download research files while away from home.

I would like to see 5 years out of this unit; I expect to be wrapping up my PhD then. I would also like to be able to set up torrents on the server and get them off the individual computers. It would be nice if there was an easy way for relatives to access family photos and download to their computers. If reasonable I would like to be able to do small scale website host experimentation (no real traffic, so I can see how it renders under different OS, browsers and screen res.), actual hosting on a third party server. Lastly, maybe one day I would play with setting up TV recording.
If it is easy to make this play mkv, avi etc etc and I could sell my WD TV Live then that is fine.

Parts Not Required: nil, but I do have an i7 2600k and two 120GB SSDs

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg

Country of Origin: Canada

Parts Preferences: Intel

Overclocking: Don’t see why

Monitor Resolution: TV is 1080p

Form Factor: Tower, but rack is fine too.

Additional Comments: I am favouring Windows Server 2008 R2, but I am open to suggestions, remember I am a noob, so easy to learn is best. I am also leaning to Xeons as they seem to be the best choice for a server, but should I go higher end single or lower end dual? I am also unsure how to get the right amount of storage, that is, how do I add lots of hdds, I know RAID controllers, but what do you do when the PCIs are full? On that note can I have more than one raid array. For example, can I have my movies on a HDD (no raid needed here), my family photos on RAID 5 and my research on a different RAID 5 all in the same server? Suggestions needed on whole system though.

More about : server build

August 2, 2011 12:21:50 PM

I can only answer some of your questions, but my first thought is that for a home / small business style server, your budget is very high. Have you looked into Windows Home Server? The software is relatively cheap, and WHS 2011 is based on Server 2008 IIRC. There's also the older version of WHS, which has the Drive Extender (WHS 2011 removed this feature) that automatically pools your drives of different sizes and makes and gives you an overall usable disk space. You set up the folder shares you want and determine access rights for each user. I personally use the original WHS for media streaming (rip DVDs / Blurays to it and play over my network to a media PC), file storage and backups. There's also folder duplication, which copies information on the server onto another drive, so it's inherently protecting its data. WHS also allows remote access...Google it on the Microsoft site, as it sounds like you're not familiar with it?

In terms of hardware, you don't need much for a server. An i7-2600K would be overkill to a new dimension! A dual-core, power-efficient processor like the i3-2100 would be absolutely fine. 4GB of RAM is fine, too - you could get by on less, if you wanted to. The main expense, judging from what you want, is the motherboard and case. You'll need a motherboard that can connect a large number of drives - for maximum future-proofing, get one with as many SATA ports on it as you can for a given price, and you can always include SATA add-in cards at a later date. For a case, get one that has as many 3.5" bays as you can get and then look at 5.25" -> 3.5" adapters that will use the spare optical drive space. You can even velcro / sticky-tape HDDs down if you're careful!

Other than that, with the number of HDDs you'll have, make sure you have good cooling in the case and that the cupboard (or whatever) you're storing the server isn't too warm. :)  In the UK, you could put together a decent server based on WHS for about £500, which is about $800 CAD.
August 2, 2011 5:19:07 PM

Lol, budget should read $2000-3000. 1K of this will likely be just in drives, with almost 10tb already existing.

I have looked at WHS, the only reason I started leaning to WS was that in any comparison everyone tended to recommend WS over the WHS. But, this was when I thought I could grab an institutional license for around $100; I have since learned this will not be possible, so it appears as if WHS is a far better option budget wise and as you say probably just fine for my needs.

I figured any i3 arrangement would not afford enough storage expandability, hence the upgrade to Xeon and proper server hardware.

Cheers, thanks for the advice.
August 3, 2011 7:57:41 AM

You're welcome, good luck with the build...let us know how you get on. :) 
!