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Server or Custom Build?

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December 29, 2011 10:05:29 AM

We have a small office of around 6 staff, and we have a server running SQL, Exhange and Team Foundation Server.

It's about 6 years old now so in need of replacing. Could we get away with desktop hardware or should we shell out again for Server hardware?

I realise desktop hardware is 'more likely' to break down but on the flip side we're more likely to be able to fix desktop hardware, if a server breaks down we usually have to get people in.

Oh and it must be running Windows Server OS for all our software to run.

More about : server custom build

December 29, 2011 12:35:18 PM
December 29, 2011 1:05:02 PM

Thanks for the reply. Yes you're right that a big cost will be the Server OS license but still the hardware should be cheaper.

I would actually be tempted to go for SSDs for performance, perhaps two Intel 80GB in RAID1 and then a 2TB drive for storage.

I think we'd get a much bigger 'bang for our bucks' going with desktop hardware without really losing much in terms of reliability.
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December 29, 2011 1:28:18 PM

You have a handful of users so, in all reality, you could use 5400RPM drives and the user experience wouldn't be any different. Going with an SSD RAID would be VERY nice, but it isn't all that cost effective. The VelociRaptor setup above is a good option for speed and costs... If you want to use an SSD, I would go with the Corsair below as it would be faster than the Intel, cheaper and larger. For a 2TB, the Samsung F4 2TB is 5400RPM but its speeds rival 7200RPM units. Good drive all around...

Corsair Force3 120GB ($130 after MIR) => http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Samsung F4 2TB ($180) => http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

...or maybe the best option is a RAID1 on a pair of Force 3 SSDs, then a pair of F4 2TB drives in RAID1 for storage. Plenty of good storage options out there and, as long as you use the drives talked about here, you should be fine with whatever you go with.
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December 29, 2011 1:32:58 PM

Sorry I should have clarified... we use the server as an SQL Server and as a Team Foundation Server, any delays in data fetch are a nightmare for us that's why I'm thinking SSD's would be a worthwhile investment.

I guess the trouble from there would be to find a good hardware company that could set the software up for us if we setup the hardware.
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December 29, 2011 1:52:04 PM

Neither the SSD or VeliciRaptor solutions would cause any latency with SQL.

How much storage do you actually need? Plan on install the OS, SQL and Team Foundation Server, and all other apps on the OS / Boot partition? ...making the 2TB drive simply for storage and backups? The reason I ask is for sizing. For an SSD to perform optimally, the general rule of thumb is to keep 50% free disk space. For the OS and all apps you may need to step up to a 180GB or 240GB.
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December 29, 2011 1:52:50 PM

The problem I see is that most desktop/mainstream motherboards do not support Windows Server OSs. What I did when building my test server was use a server motherboard that accepted mainstream components. A core build I'd probably consider today would be something like:

Motherboard: SuperMicro C7Q67 - $288
CPU: Intel Core I5 2500K - $220
RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 32GB (4 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1333 - $370
or
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3-1333 - $75

-Wolf sends
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December 29, 2011 1:57:37 PM

Wolfshadw said:
The problem I see is that most desktop/mainstream motherboards do not support Windows Server OSs.


That's news to me. In that case I may as well forget about it! I hadn't even considered that the Mobo might not support the OS...
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December 29, 2011 2:28:50 PM

I don't see what the problem is. There are some mainstream motherboard that do support Server OSs, but they're difficult to find. Basically, check each board to see if it has driver support for your chosen OS.

The server motherboard I linked above, while more expensive, does use mainstream components and does support Windows Server. It's a MicroATX form factor, has PCI-E slots for RAID/Graphics, etc.

...and whoops! I forgot that I actually did find a mainstream motherboard for my test server build (see signature).

-Wolf sends
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December 29, 2011 2:31:47 PM

Wolfshadw said:
The problem I see is that most desktop/mainstream motherboards do not support Windows Server OSs.


I can tell you first hand that the ASUS board below is fine with Server 2008 R2. I would suspect the Sabertooth would be just fine also. Doing a quick Google search shows plenty of users running the Server OS on the Sabertooth X58 motherboard. Drivers seem to be readily available, but may have to go directly to Intel for an updated RAID controller...

ASUS P6T WS PRO LGA 1366 => http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


An LGA 1155 with an i5-2500k would be a fine server as well.
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