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PC Builder gets asked to build a server. Am I capable?

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December 7, 2011 10:34:09 PM

My apologies if this topic belongs in another subforum.


A friend of a friend is starting a 3 person law firm and they want me to build them a server. I have no experience building a server, and a little unsure where to start, what level of hardware and software I need for the task.

MY BACKGROUND

I've built 3 PCs for me and my family in the past 18 months. I've installed Windows7 on each. I also know how to install wireless routers when given instructions. I have absolutely no experience with servers. I have no clue what RAID harddrives are, no clue what cloud means. No idea how much I need to spend on a server, whether I can just put the server on a normal PC, or if I need special hardware/software.

Am I technically capable of building what the client wants?


WHAT CLIENT WANTS
Quote:
We each will bring our own laptop computers to the firm, all three of which are running Vista with Microsoft 2007 as the main word processing backbone alongside the intent to use Outlook for calendaring and email.

We will need a file sharing, calendaring sharring capability in place that is remotely accessible. It seems that a traditional server computer / wireless network is the solution. However, I and my partners would like to learn more about cloud computing and how we could incorporate cloud computing to achieve our goals.

In a nut shell, we are a law firm of 3 lawyers and no staff at this time. Please put together a proposal for how you would like to set-up our computing. We plan to lease a powerful copy, fax, scanner. It will need to be incorporated into the network.

We'd like to have a fax modem to intake faxes and convert them to pdfs saved on the hard drive.

I don't believe they currently have a computer for their office, only the 3 self-owned laptops. He also said the files would be less than 1TB, but would need to be backed up regularly. The files would need to accessible in the office network as well as remotely via the internet.


WHERE TO BEGIN?

I found this guide, and I found a 40 minute video on youtube on how to setup an FTP server, and I found some videos on setting up IIS7 in Win7 Ultimate. I also found some info on NAS for file sharing and backups. No clue what is required for my client.

Is my technical experience enough for setting up this server?


Thanks for any advice.
a b B Homebuilt system
December 8, 2011 12:12:57 AM

Welcome to Tom's Hardware Forums!

If you have built 3 PCs, then you have the capability to build a server.

Spend some time researching and understanding servers and their idiosyncracies. After that, put a system together; detailed specs. Post it in the "New Build" section and invite suggestions.

Take it from there. Good luck.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 8, 2011 12:20:30 AM

Building the server is the easy part, but buying one from Dell or HP would make a lot of sense unless you can provide support whenever an issue occurs. Do you know how you'll meet their other expectations/requirements? That part certainly is more challenging than building a server.
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December 8, 2011 12:38:49 AM

Fermli said:
My apologies if this topic belongs in another subforum.


A friend of a friend is starting a 3 person law firm and they want me to build them a server. I have no experience building a server, and a little unsure where to start, what level of hardware and software I need for the task.


WHAT CLIENT WANTS
Quote:
We each will bring our own laptop computers to the firm, all three of which are running Vista with Microsoft 2007 as the main word processing backbone alongside the intent to use Outlook for calendaring and email.

We will need a file sharing, calendaring sharring capability in place that is remotely accessible. It seems that a traditional server computer / wireless network is the solution. However, I and my partners would like to learn more about cloud computing and how we could incorporate cloud computing to achieve our goals.

In a nut shell, we are a law firm of 3 lawyers and no staff at this time. Please put together a proposal for how you would like to set-up our computing. We plan to lease a powerful copy, fax, scanner. It will need to be incorporated into the network.

We'd like to have a fax modem to intake faxes and convert them to pdfs saved on the hard drive.

I don't believe they currently have a computer for their office, only the 3 self-owned laptops. He also said the files would be less than 1TB, but would need to be backed up regularly. The files would need to accessible in the office network as well as remotely via the internet.


WHERE TO BEGIN?

Thanks for any advice.


You can build the server. Managing it and supporting it is quite another.

You need to look at the amount of time you will need to spend to learn to maintain it. It's quite a learning curve.
If they want access anywhere, you need to set up a vpn as well.

I recommend punting on this one.
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December 8, 2011 12:39:39 AM

like others have said building it isnt hard. if you can build a pc you can build a server as the motherboards do come with instructions if you buy retail parts.
you can save money on oem but you would have to know the parts b4 hand as they dont come with manuals.
its the initial setup and install after the build is finished, that takes the time. you have to set group security policy's and set up accounts for every 1 who is gonna use it. then its just down to general maintenance.

as its a law firm you do not want to enable wireless as that can be a security issue. as its likely to be an office then connecting via wire is the best most secure route. i also found its best if you rout all the terminals through 1 main 1 as this minimizes the chance of external none company personnel getting access.
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 8, 2011 1:01:16 AM

In their RFP, they wrote "It seems that a traditional server computer / wireless network is the solution." My interpretation is that they want to connect to the server no matter where they are in the office. If properly configured, this isn't an issue. Having to connect an Ethernet wire to the laptop certainly is not ideal and it may be a hard sell. They may also want to use wireless devices that are not listed in their RFP. The purpose of an RFP usually is to determine who can best come up with the required solution. I can hardly believe that a law firm, even a small one, is trying to save a few hundred dollars on a server, unless building one is in the RFP. The cost of the server is minimal; it's the rest (don't forget to include the number of hours to build the server at your going rate if you do) like software installation, network configuration, client setup and on-going support that's expensive.
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December 8, 2011 1:20:18 AM

Send them to professional help.
Yes you can build a server but you really dont know what they need compared to what they want. And lawyers are the last people you want thinking you screwed them over...
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 8, 2011 11:20:34 AM

popatim said:
..... And lawyers are the last people you want thinking you screwed them over...

:) 
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December 8, 2011 11:32:41 AM

Microsoft BPS or office 365 would solve 90% of their problems. Investigate it. No hardware required.
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December 8, 2011 2:14:28 PM

You say you don't know what raid is? I say to send them to professionals, especially when it comes to servers. Don't think its not only that you lack experience, but you lack the resources and time to support them for the lifespan of the server. Tell them to go with dell, get a 5 year full coverage and next day support plan, and call it a day. Maybe you can make some money playing the adviser role.
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December 8, 2011 2:59:51 PM

Where servers are concerned always get a off-the-shelf model without you absolutely need a custom one and there is no other option.

You have to remember with custom PC the warranty on the parts varies massively anything from 30 days to 5 years.
There is no way (outside of buying extras) to ensure you'll be able to buy identical replacement parts years down the line.

With the networking you'll want someone or a company to do a proper wireless survey of the area if its more then one room.
The last thing you want is dead spots or to being buying more equipment due to patchy coverage.

Most all in one company printers (with fax built in) will have the option to email faxes in pdf format to a mailbox or distribution list.
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December 8, 2011 11:43:40 PM

+1 on sending them to the pros. I think you'd be getting in over your head on this one. There is a long jump between building a home PC and building infrastructure for a company.

And after looking at their request, it sounds like one of them is a geek at heart with no knowledge of what it actually takes to get things done. I think you'll find someone angry when their dreams clash with reality.
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December 11, 2011 2:36:11 PM

Building the server = easy...

Installing and configuring software= hard..

They dont seem to want anything complicated, a Nas would do. Im fairly sure a Qnap has those capabilites and is easy on maintenance. Look into it ;) 

Best of luck.
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December 30, 2011 1:35:02 AM

I tend to think Office 365 is a better solution for a majority of server needs with the exception of domain controller and a wireless AP. For 3 people, the monthly cost is cheaper than building multiple servers and paying MS all those license fees.

You can sync Office 365 documents with your local machine and someone else manages all your e-mail server, but look completely professional to the outside world. Office 365 also includes Sharepoint at the higher end subscriptions so you can store and share docs there and accessible from anywhere on the web.

"To the Cloud!" :) 

-S
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December 30, 2011 2:29:00 AM

theresbuses said:
Building the server = easy...

Installing and configuring software= hard..

They dont seem to want anything complicated, a Nas would do. Im fairly sure a Qnap has those capabilites and is easy on maintenance. Look into it ;) 

Best of luck.


yea i'm going to go with a NAS. After reading through the manual, it doesn't look too difficult to set up. wish me luck.
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December 30, 2011 2:53:08 AM

This topic has been moved from the section CPU & Components to section Systems by Mousemonkey
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December 30, 2011 6:13:43 AM

You should pass. They are 3 lawyers, it would be easy for them to sue you if you can't deliver on what they want.

It's not like you would make much money anyhow.

Building 3 computers don't qualify you to build a Server for Professional use. Stick to friends and family.

The will obviously need support or they would build it their selves.
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