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Questions about servers

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February 29, 2012 7:51:30 PM

Greetings to members of tom's hardware forum.

My name's Pacer and i have questions about building a custom server. My company is rather small and holds about 16 PCs. My employer has requested an upgrade on the server. It is a 9 year old server so the speed and performance is rather slow, being really antique specs and all. The server isnt really used for much things. It just has a small software that is being installed on the server itself and run by all the PCs concurrently through LAN as the source and sometimes used for file sharing.

My requirements:
-16 ~ 18 PCs to access and/or store files to/from the server
-(RAID 1 if possible)


Questions:
- Because of the small demand from the server, can I replace it with a Desktop PC using windows 7 to run as a server? Or does it specifically have to be a server? (from all I've read online, I see that Windows 7 has 20 SMB connections limit which is within the amount of PCs that we have. ECC is not a must for me here, hence my thought of cloning a PC instead)

- If the above is possible, do I go for Enterprise or Ultimate?

- If the first quest is possible (again), is it possible to install Windows 2008 R2 on a Desktop PC? ( I've checked around and heard both yes (with some methods, so claimed) and no. If yes, do I go for Windows 7 or 2008 R2?


My apologies for being in the dark here as I have not have any dealings in building a server as of yet. No offense meant. Thank you (in advance) for those of you who spend time to read as well as those who post.

More about : questions servers

February 29, 2012 8:13:40 PM

odwillia said:
Depending on the specs you can install Windows 2008 R2 on a Desktop PC.

Check out this link for the minimum specs. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd379511(v=ws.10).aspx

Also you can use Windows 7 but I have never set it up on Windows 7.


Thank you for your prompt reply odwillia. So you agree that I can replace the server with a Desktop PC to fit the needs in my office?
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February 29, 2012 11:38:33 PM

You can. I have never done it so I can't say how well it will work. Windows 7 is capable of doing it though. What are the specs for the Windows 7 system. What are the specs for the server?
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March 1, 2012 3:03:16 PM

odwillia said:
You can. I have never done it so I can't say how well it will work. Windows 7 is capable of doing it though. What are the specs for the Windows 7 system. What are the specs for the server?


Ah. Cause i went to check out a hardware shop and they told me that it was not impossible to install 2008 on desktop based hardware. Said something about the motherboard not supported.

As for your thought about how well it will work, i agree. I have thought about that before as well and came to the conclusion that win7 might fit the needs just about right. Other than that, I have 0 knowledge on 2008 so im mostly going with what im familiar with.

Regarding the specs for the win7 system, I have yet to plan for it. For a short summary, im either getting a quad/hex core from either amd or intel i5/i7 (depends on what budget i will be allowed).

As for the old server, if memory serves me right, it might be a k6 or k7. That or i might have mistaken it with some other PC in the office.
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March 1, 2012 3:04:04 PM

I thank you again for your reply.

EDIT:
On a side note, may i ask if you have your own server? If so, may I ask for the specs as a reference?
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March 1, 2012 6:00:22 PM

Just an FYI, I have (had) a server running Windows Server 2008 based on a Gigabyte GA-EP43-UD3L and Intel Core2Quad Q8400. It ran without any issues. I think, in most cases, it was just a matter of staying with Server2008 default drivers or falling back to Gigabyte's Server 2003 drivers.

The hard part was finding consumer level boards that support a server OS. For me, that meant finding a suitable motherboard and checking to see if there were Server drivers available and then scouring the web to see if anyone else was using that board and Server2008.

-Wolf sends
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March 1, 2012 8:26:12 PM

Wolfshadw said:
Just an FYI, I have (had) a server running Windows Server 2008 based on a Gigabyte GA-EP43-UD3L and Intel Core2Quad Q8400. It ran without any issues. I think, in most cases, it was just a matter of staying with Server2008 default drivers or falling back to Gigabyte's Server 2003 drivers.

The hard part was finding consumer level boards that support a server OS. For me, that meant finding a suitable motherboard and checking to see if there were Server drivers available and then scouring the web to see if anyone else was using that board and Server2008.

-Wolf sends



Thank you for your reply Wolfshadw. Based on what you have said, might I assume that server 2008 can be installed on most boards; it's only the issues of finding supported drivers for the motherboard? Or does the motherboard itself have properties, perhaps say, not compatible to the OS?
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March 1, 2012 9:21:59 PM

I won't go so far as to say that most motherboards support Server2008. When I decided to build my server (several years ago), I was looking specifically at motherboards that had some manufacturer designed server OS Drivers. I focused on those when I did my later research; looking specifically for Server2008 Drivers (or something someone else tested and found it to work).

I will say that when I first decided to build a server, I was initially looking for server class motherboards that accepted consumer level processors/ram. I don't recall why I didn't go that route, since I had found a SuperMicro motherboard that fit the bill.

-Wolf sends
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March 2, 2012 5:12:48 AM

thank you for your comments again Wolfshadw. your knowledge has helped me on servers a lot. Based on what you have said, might i be safe to assume that if a desktop motherboard has server OS designed drivers, it should work?
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March 2, 2012 8:27:26 AM

No. In this world of computers, NEVER ASSUME! If you really want to build a server using consumer level products, you MUST do your research and find out if other people have gotten it to work and if so, how. Do the research before you spend your money needlessly.

-Wolf sends
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March 2, 2012 3:16:08 PM

My apologies for not making my point clear there =)
I meant that I have to make an assumption as a starting point. And if my assumption was right, I could further try to research on the MB out there that might be what I may be looking for. As of now, I have no starting point and have totally no idea on the keywords to google it so as to limit the search results which might/will be of use for me (or as reference).

I really have no idea what MB to get other than the example that you have given. And by the way, may I ask if you still run a server now? You said had earlier, so have you upgraded the specs to something better or did u stop using it?
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March 2, 2012 3:17:44 PM

TBH, I was hoping that users of the forum might have some choices that I could look up. Also, it's a lil bit hard for me to obtain server specific hardwares from where im located.
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March 2, 2012 3:51:29 PM

What I did when I was researching my build was to find a motherboard that:

1) Fit into my budget
2) Was compatible with the additional hardware (namely the CPU - the CPU had to support virtualization in my case).
3) Had native server drivers

I spent a lot of time on Newegg going over motherboards that matched the first two requirements and a lot more time on motherboard manufacturer sites to determine if the selected motherboard matched requirement #3. It was a LOT of back and forth. Once I found a motherboard that matched all three requirements, I then turned to Google and searched for something like "GA-EP43-UD3L Server2008 Driver"; the first part being the motherboard model number.

BTW - While I was researching my old motherboard for this thread, I found that many of Gigabyte's motherboards have driver downloads for Windows Server 2003, so I would probably start my search there.

This entire process took me several weeks and this was only for my own testing/training on Server2008 and Hyper-V.

I haven't had much need for my server in the last couple years, so I shut it down. I could bring it back up, but it really didn't serve all my needs. I had missed one major requirement in that for each virtual machine I wanted to run (Windows XP, Vista, SQL Server, and IIS), I needed a dedicated block of memory. Since I only had 8GB installed, I was limited to the server itself (2GB) and three virtual machines (2GB each).

All of this is really dependent on how much time you want to put into this. As I said, this was for my own instruction and had time to spend on the project. I'm not sure you have that luxury and there already is a possible solution on the table (just going with Windows 7).

Hope this helps.

-Wolf sends
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March 3, 2012 9:36:07 AM

odwillia said:
Can you use a couple of Windows home servers? (10 connections each I think so you would need 2.


Yea, i was actually thinking of this, but after checking out the software that was being run, don't think this could work. Apparently, the software creates a compressed dat fie in its install folder. The software allows concurrent connections to it and allows read/write to the active dat file. So if I were to run 2 hosts, the contents of the data would be spilt into 2 locations making it hard for the people who need to check on the data in the dat.

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March 3, 2012 9:45:25 AM

Wolfshadw said:
What I did when I was researching my build was to find a motherboard that:

1) Fit into my budget
2) Was compatible with the additional hardware (namely the CPU - the CPU had to support virtualization in my case).
3) Had native server drivers


All the info you have supplied me has helped. And I thank you guys who replied (you and odwillia) so far. Regarding the reason I was thinking of using a desktop MB was coz mostly of ur first reason. My budget it to try to fit the whole cpu (without monitor and accessories eg, kb & mouse) under around $850 or so.

As for number 2, I'm trying to fit all my time that I can allocate into searching for the hardware. Since I have not much knowledge in the OS and hardware, I'm taking a long time to find all the info I needed (thus I ended up posting here) since I have no idea how to start. I didn't have that much time to research up on all of these things to begin with. I was only told some 2 or 3 days before i posted here.
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