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First Time Server Build - Please Rate

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March 12, 2012 3:34:31 PM

Hello all,

I recently built a new file server for a small business. This is a small hospitality management company that has about 10 employees total and basically use the server to share excel documents and other misc files. I have never built a server before and would like some feedback on the build and any tips on programs or anything else that would help improve performance.

I advised them to get a new server, because i felt that their old server was becoming very dated. Their old system was running Windows Server 2003 with a Pentium 4 running at 3ghz, 3gb of ram, 2 x 200 gb hard drives (not running in raid). After i decommissioned this server, i scrubbed it, loaded Windows 7 on it and set it up as another office machine.

The stats of the new system that i have just built with a $500 budget:
-AMD X4 840 with a slight overclock pushing it to 3.5ghz. I set this server up with a quality cpu cooler, case fans, and power supply because they want the server to be running 24/7.
- 8GB of ram
- Intel 10/100/1000 PCI-e NIC
Hard Drive set up (here is where i really didn't know what i was doing)
-1x 250 gb seagate 7200rpm hard drive. 50 gb have been partitioned for the system, the other is a drive containing the companies quick books files which the accountant always has open.
-1x 2 TB Western Digital 5500rpm hard drive. This drive contains all of their business and misc files.

OS: Windows Server 2008 Enterprise R2 - I originally had WHS 2011 installed, but scrapped it due to its disappointing performance and features.

I have a 250 Gb external drive backing up the server everyday

I was weighing options to use drive extender, but im not sure how to use it and if it would even be a good idea. I might look into that, any suggestion on this, please let me know.

Again, please let me know how you would rate this build and give any tips if you can. I am a family friend of the owners and i have been serving as a part time "IT" guy. I am mostly familiar with desktop and gaming rig builds, so this was a new venture for me.

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March 12, 2012 4:57:33 PM

First, never OC a server. Servers are about stability, not about performance and the small tweak you made really does nothing in terms of being a "server".

8GB of RAM is also, puny when it comes to servers (you really have a desktop machine acting as a server). With the small number of users you have, it shouldn't be an issue, but this amount of memory could present challenges should you add users or server applications.

For servers, keep them simple, and keep them stock. Nothing fancy is needed.

Good luck!
March 12, 2012 5:23:59 PM

I did pretty much the same thing with an AMD Phenom II 1100T Thuban build. My suggestions come from my experience (also as 'part time' IT for a very good friend)

If the place isn't air conditioned, make sure at the very least that it's a full tower case with ample air flow and a good CPU cooler to keep it cool even during the summer.

Like COLGeek said, OCing won't do much to your server.

However, for your needs, I think 4GB RAM can be enough (worse comes to worst, add some more later if you find it's insufficient). I don't remember how much I used in my build, but it runs the QuickBooks fine from the other PCs around the office.

I used the onboard ethernet, and it's running fine.
Make sure that your switches and router support 1Gbps ethernet (seeing as the rest of your machines are older). In my case, they didn't, and I found my problem.
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March 12, 2012 5:32:18 PM

If you're going for a file server I'd suggest changing a few things.

First of all, I agree on what COLGeek points out. Don't OC a server, it's not required and hinders stability. Especially for a file server, the additional clock speeds won't have any significant impact.

For a file server, 8GB of RAM is okay. Probably will not even be using it all up.

The hdd's is where I'd throw in an additional drive however in order to allow running the two drives in RAID 1. It's nice to back up every day and save some money here and now. However, if you take into the equation that in case the drive happens to fail before the end of the day and people stored their days work on it, investing in stability and reliabity might be something you'd wish you started out with.
March 12, 2012 6:10:10 PM

Great input, i will return the cpu to its stock speed of 3.2 ghz. The server has a quality CPU cooler and plenty of case fans to keep it at a reasonable temperature.

Quick question,

In regards to anti-virus, is there a specific program that you would recommend for Windows Server Enterprise 2008 R2? I was thinking about Windows Security Essentials. Let me know your thoughts! Thanks!
March 12, 2012 6:11:41 PM

+1 Windows Security Essentials and router hardware firewall!
March 12, 2012 6:22:01 PM

Thanks, ill get that rolling next time im at their office.

In regards to RAID and hard drives. This is where my inexperience kicked in, i really didn't do a lot of research into RAID and fault tolerance. I am a little worried about some of the RAID options, especially with RAID 1 causing the drives to run slower, because i feel that we cheaped out by going with the 2TB 5500rpm drive. I don't think my boss will fork over the cash to get another hard drive.

This notion has made me contemplate using the Drive Extender application. Has anyone used this before? I heard it offers some similar features to RAID but for oddly paired drives.
March 12, 2012 6:36:15 PM

From what I understand, RAID 1 doesn't really slow it down; it runs at approximately what the drives would run separately. However, I feel you: 5400RPM is pretty slow...
March 12, 2012 7:18:08 PM

I am not sure that MSE will run on a server platform. No harm in trying though.
March 12, 2012 7:36:32 PM

I got it to run on WHS 2011 and read that it will work on Windows Server 2008 R2, so hopefully it will run on the Enterprise edition. If not i will try and look into server anti-virus programs. I have heard Windows Forefront is a good server anti-virus solution.
March 12, 2012 7:47:59 PM

honestly the best spyware i know of is called ESET anti virus it's pricy but definatley worth it i have NEVER gotten a virus with it
March 12, 2012 7:49:27 PM

woops sorry nevermind ignore my earlier comment didnt see the server part my bad
March 13, 2012 3:36:26 AM

Stevoo123 said:
Thanks, ill get that rolling next time im at their office.

In regards to RAID and hard drives. This is where my inexperience kicked in, i really didn't do a lot of research into RAID and fault tolerance. I am a little worried about some of the RAID options, especially with RAID 1 causing the drives to run slower, because i feel that we cheaped out by going with the 2TB 5500rpm drive. I don't think my boss will fork over the cash to get another hard drive.

This notion has made me contemplate using the Drive Extender application. Has anyone used this before? I heard it offers some similar features to RAID but for oddly paired drives.


Using RAID 1 you'll have two drives both running at the speed of one, but efficiently remaining with only half of the storage space. So 2 x 2TB = 2TB.

As for forking over the cash, sure it's an investment now up front, but how much does a drive cost really? It's an additional 100 bucks. If you have people storing their work on this file server at your office however, and you're running a single drive which fails before the end of the day, then how much comes to a loss? This is something we can't really judge, but you and your boss will have to discuss over. But in case a drive failure would mean that in essence all work performed that day might end up having been futile, you should ask yourself: Do the costs of purchasing an additional hdd outweigh the costs of hiring 10 employees for a single day?
March 13, 2012 2:03:26 PM

Could i RAID 1 the 250 gb seagate 7200rpm and the 2TB 5500rpm? If so, would both drives run at 5500rpm? Also, could i do this without reinstalling the OS or messing with the files?

Has anyone use Drive Extender? Im wondering if this would be a better alternative
March 13, 2012 2:07:50 PM

No, you can only RAID1 identical drives. When initializing RAID1, you need to format the drives.

Haven't used drive extender, but seems useful! :) 
March 13, 2012 2:37:47 PM

Hmm seems the drive extender is not apart of the enterprise edition of windows server 2008, only the home server version. Damn, this would have been a good and cheap fix to this fault tolerance issue.

Are there any programs like Drive Extender that will pool drives/replication?
March 13, 2012 2:43:35 PM

Drive Extender is only available on WHS v1 (32-bit OS) and not on WHS 2011 (64-bit OS).

It is useful in the WHS environment and MS was much maligned by the WHS user community when it wasn't included in WHS 2011.
March 13, 2012 3:08:52 PM

I strongly discourage any use of beta products in a production environment on a primary system. If you have a second server to play with, then betas are fine for testing. But, NEVER subject your users to a beta product.

Make sense?

Just build a RAID and let the server run. Keep it cool and clean and it will run like the Energizer Bunny.......or a Timex watch (for the older members in the crowd).
!