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New Server for Work (retail) - Budget

Last response: in Systems
March 14, 2012 7:18:39 AM

Hi Everyone! (First post :) 
Im a regular Whirlpool forum person (aussie IT forum).. but i need a bit of a broader opinion hence looking to ppl here!
My current work situation is that Im setting up 3 new POS (point of Sale) computers which will connect to a server (as required by our new software providers for POS software). The POS pcs are the below setup:

CPU Intel G620
MoBO Asus P8H61
RAM Gskill 4GB (1x4GB) 1333
HDD 500GB Seagate Barracuda
Case Thermaltake V4 Black
OS Windows 7 32x pro
periph Keyboard/mouse
periph DVD samsung

Which has been "oked" by the company.
The company however has listed the below as their server which we would buy for $6000... or rent. This is over our budget and I would like to use my own pc building skills to build us a capable setup.

This is what they would supply:
HP ML350 G6 Tower E5620(1/2) 12GB(3/9) 2.5" SAS(3/8) 460W PSU (2/2)
Form Factor: Tower – 5U
Processor: 1 x Intel Xeon E5620 / 2.4 GHz (Quad-Core)
Cache Memory: 12 MB L3 Cache
Cache Per Processor: 12 MB
RAM: 12 GB – DDR3 SDRAM – Advanced ECC – 133 MHz – PC3-10600
Storage Controller: RAID (Serial ATA-300 / SAS 2.0) – PCI Express 2.0 x 4 (Smart Array P410i with 512MB BBWC)
Server Storage Bays: Hot-swap 2.5"
Hard Drive: 3 (Drive 1 and Drive 2 Raid 1, Drive 3 Server Image & Data Backup)
Drive 1 2.5", 300 GB, SCSI 2 Hot Swap, 10000 rpm (Raid 1) – OS, SQL & Applications
Drive 2 2.5", 300 GB, SCSI 2 Hot Swap, 10000 rpm (Raid 1) – OS, SQL & Applications
Drive 3 2.5", 300 GB, SCSI 2 Hot Swap, 10000 rpm – Server Image & Data Backup
Power Supply: 2 x 460 Watt Hot Plug Power Supply (Power Redundancy)
Network: 2 x Gigabit EthernetOptical Drive: DVD-ROM – Serial ATA
Monitor: None (can share via KVM)

So what I'm really after is an idea from somone with what I can use to make a fast running (but not overly crazy) server. It will be running 2008 windows server and just the POS stuff, no autocad or... video editing or anyhting like that. I like the idea of having backups in the raid setup (I was thinking 2x 500GB HDD's) so not SSD or anyhting overboard like that.
Ive built gaming PCs and work PC's so I do know some stuff, but when it comes to a workable server, its out of my league!!
Thanks for any help ppl, i appreciate your input!

March 14, 2012 11:23:08 AM

Well the above is obviously one way to go.

From the above you can easily gather the basic specs that you want:

- Decent amount of CPU Juice - doesn't need to be a xeon, but low end xeons are a reasonable deal ~$300
- 12-16GB of ram - cheap these days, but for server use you will want to go with ECC ram. $100-150
- HW based raid controller - this will cost a pretty penny ( $300-500 ), but it will enable HW based raid 1 for your HDD's.
- Mirrored HDD's for Data integrity - definately want 2 drives, now if it's SCSI or SAS drives is debateable especially since at these prices you might be able to get equally sized SSD's which would be considerably faster still. Basically you can go with quality regular Sata HDD's but they are still about $200 minimum each for the enterprice models meant for this kind of stuff
- and a backup drive. ( possibly also a backup that is done on tape )
- Redundant PSU - this is important for high availability systems like this, also a UPS is recommended so that the machine can be shut down in case of powerloss
reasonably expensive, but still within reason, usually cost about as much as a high end gaming PSU starting from about ~300-400 and up.
- Redundant Network connectivity - i doubt this is needed in the system much, but basically makes sure that if one goes out the other one still works. This is available from most of the server motherboards so it shouldn't be much of an issue ~$200+ for the motherboard

Obviously the quoted setup also comes with onsite warranty and stuff in case something breaks, which often means several hundred $.

So doing things yourself you probably can scrape it together for about $3000-4000:ish, but you won't have the same kind of warranties peace of mind as you do with the quoted setup.

March 14, 2012 11:44:15 AM

Do not buy el-cheapo components for your central server. I highly advise using your own PC building skills for this particular machine as well, get one from Dell or HP and buy a service package. Over budget or not, you will definitely regret not buying one when the whole thing crashes and burns
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March 14, 2012 11:56:38 AM

as for budget my boss is happy to just use our computer (core duo...) for a server which is completely stupid.
I need a less expensive way of going. We are a small busniess with 3 attaching POS machines.
Why do i need ECC ram not just normal?

March 14, 2012 2:26:14 PM

Some of those are decent but I would consider going for something in the 3000 dollar range. Check Dell as well. When you are buying something that's going to serve several POS machines you absolutely cannot afford to have it fail. It is not even necessary that you buy brand new tech, merely that you buy stuff that is redundant. The following is an absolute minimum for such a critical machine:

2 processors: If one fails, you can simply rip it out and run the machine with only one socket filled until you can replace it (preferably under warranty)

2 PSUs: Like above, if one fails, the machine will not go down. Server PSUs are also much more robust than desktop PSUs. I recommend having them attached to a UPS for a little extra redundancy

ECC RAM: ECC RAM isn't strictly necessary but it's a product of having a server chipset and server CPU. It's not horribly expensive and I'd recommend it none the less

Redundant Network: It's more important that you have a redundant gateway than it is that you have a redundant NIC. They don't fail very often and every server I've encountered has two physical NICs at a minimum. Add in cards are also very cheap.

RAID controller with battery backup: 3Ware has some extremely nice RAID controllers and these have great support in the Linux kernel incase you want to switch platforms later on. Most firmware based raid controllers do not have battery backups (some from HP do!). A battery backed raid controller will flush the write buffer even if the system loses power. This is absolutely necessary when data integrity is important. Put two hard drives in Raid-1. They don't need to be enterprise grade (SATA will do if the computer supports it)

Lastly, this machine is hopefully going to be viable for at least 5 years, amortize the expense over that period and budget accordingly.