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Should I build server or buy or update

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October 20, 2012 2:16:47 AM

we just switched IT guys because the old one was ripping us off. I run a tax accounting place. we run ATX, taxwise, quickbooks. we have 7 employees (5 use daily at the same time....2 rarely get on). 2 of those 7 get on remotely from teamviewer and are doing fine (they get on during the weekend). (we do a lot of file transferring.) we have were some files get lost, program opens slow, opening files take about 5-30 seconds to open, Quick books takes 10 minutes (not joking). it is very hard at times because we are such a fast pace enviroment and it stinks when we are waiting on a computer to load or file to come in (and honestly some employees lose track of what they were wanting to do. and it stinks when we are checking a client out in quickbooks and we have to tell them to hold for 5+ minutes so we can just give them an invoice. it makes it sound like at times we have no idea what we are doing)

so we have been running into a lot of server problems and keep spending 90$ an hour to hear they pretty much are afraid to touch it and then they say we should spend 3 grand to fix a problem. before I came along, the company did this and now a year later the problem is still there and it seems every other week I am talking to the new IT guy.

anyhow the computer now is built server.
- 2003 server
- i2 quad core
- 4GB Memory
- 2 regular hard drives (200GB each)
- piece of crap fans
- carbonite, a external 500GB HD, 3 thumb drives (240GB each) that I swop daily so I can always take one home with me.

I am not trying to cut out the new IT guy. I just want to do some searching and factor in his price of time and see if I can build it. I know building a server is different then a regular desktop, but I see no reason why I could not do it. but then again maybe it would just be best to buy one.

here is things I have found I would like.
server board
server 2008
raid
8GB


I am open to anything, any prices (unless it is going to cost over 3,000).
my problem is I know what I want, but I do not know what brands are good to go with. and also I just do not know what is the main thing I want to start with and build around; processor, board, something else???

thanks for your help.

More about : build server buy update

October 20, 2012 2:37:21 AM

What is your network topology like? What will the server need to to mostly? File serve? Print serve? Fax serve? Etc?
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October 20, 2012 4:21:27 AM

abekl said:
What is your network topology like? What will the server need to to mostly? File serve? Print serve? Fax serve? Etc?
it is like a file server.

- an employee will get on make a tax return. then they finish and save it. then someone on another workstation will open it up to edit it. then when it is complete a front desk employee will open it on their workstation and print it out to give to the client. (this is done through tax wise, but will be done in ATX when the new server is built)

- another thing we do is financials and client invoices. this is done in quickbooks. this is where it is very slow. basically one workstation will open a file to do finical and work off of it, while another workstation will open a file to invoice the client, while another workstation is doing a finical. sometimes is it just one person on quickbooks, sometimes it is three on it at the same time. but they cannot be on the same file at the same time. (even if it is just one person it is very slow, it takes 5+ minutes to pull up a file)


I am unsure on topology it uses. I will gladly find out all this on monday and post pictures and what all we use.

thanks
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October 20, 2012 6:04:53 AM

It's more about identifying network bottlenecks. How is the server connected to the router/switches, how are the workstations connected to the server (gigabit/fibre?) Is the switch adequate to handle these loads. Are the seek times from the server fast enough. I'm gonna say no to this part since you are using age old 200gb harddrives, external harddrive (yikes) and usb sticks (what?). It's a pretty straightford fix with some GOOD sas drives in raid10.

Yes server 2003 is old, but if it works, don't touch it. Chances are you can't just migrate data from one server to the other, creating huge headaches, and you must consider implementation strategies in this case. Straight switch over, parallel operation, test environment? One could consider using an image of your current running OS in a VM but chances are the only bottlnecks are both a.) the network connectivity, between clients and server and b.) outdated and extremly slow mechanical harddrives. Both of these would be fairly simple and straightforward fixed. Also you said loading quicken takes up to 5 minutes (huh) is this installed client wise or pulled from the server? If it's client wise, SSD upgrades could be huge time savers. No need to go big on these SSDs since the majority of storage should be on the raided server.

There might of course be more at work here, but that's hard to say if you don't have direct access to the machine.
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October 20, 2012 6:18:59 AM

Supermuncher85 said:
It's more about identifying network bottlenecks. How is the server connected to the router/switches, how are the workstations connected to the server (gigabit/fibre?) Is the switch adequate to handle these loads. Are the seek times from the server fast enough. I'm gonna say no to this part since you are using age old 200gb harddrives, external harddrive (yikes) and usb sticks (what?). It's a pretty straightford fix with some GOOD sas drives in raid10.

Yes server 2003 is old, but if it works, don't touch it. Chances are you can't just migrate data from one server to the other, creating huge headaches, and you must consider implementation strategies in this case. Straight switch over, parallel operation, test environment? One could consider using an image of your current running OS in a VM but chances are the only bottlnecks are both a.) the network connectivity, between clients and server and b.) outdated and extremly slow mechanical harddrives. Both of these would be fairly simple and straightforward fixed. Also you said loading quicken takes up to 5 minutes (huh) is this installed client wise or pulled from the server? If it's client wise, SSD upgrades could be huge time savers. No need to go big on these SSDs since the majority of storage should be on the raided server.

There might of course be more at work here, but that's hard to say if you don't have direct access to the machine.


what if I just updated my server? would that be ok?


- SSD drives. (I have heard some people say to go after SAS drives with raid...what your take?)
- maybe I should just update stuff. anything else you would say to update?

it seems the only problem is just the lag time to open client files. (the old it guy had all the workstations wireless and I switched to just laying down lines. and that seemed to help out a lot, but not fully.)

the reason there is an external drive is for backup only. the reason I have thumb drives to take home is so I can take a backup home with me (just in case the building is set on fire, a cleaner steals the external, etc.) and then we have carbonite so it backs up constent.


also with some of what are y'all are saying is telling me I do not know as much as I thought. but I can try to take some pictures and right down every little thing I can and maybe you can point me in the right direction.
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October 20, 2012 7:11:57 AM

I think you need to figure out wht the delay is.

When you get that 5mins delay in whatever you are doing(opening a file), go to the computer and see if it's the HDD light flashing away, or if it's the CPUs at 100% or if it's the network graph spiking, or you are out of memory.

I suspect, assuming your software isn't full of virus or you have malware or something going on like that; it's the storage I/O and drives.

If you identify it as a storage issue.

I take it your whole system takes less than 200gb of space?
Perhaps even just defragging the HDDs will solve the problem.

If you want to be a bit more thorough, perhaps just cloning the data onto new standard harddrives will also do the trick that give more headroom.

To really get an improvement, cloning over to SSD drives (in RAID1 for backup not speed), with other backup software to backup your files to another HDD (or to a different machine or offsite if you are more paranoid).

2 x256gb SSDs= ~400.
if you want another HDD = $100 each or so.

Regardless, if you are going to open up the box, if you are running 64bit version of windows, maybe you are memory constrained, maybe you throw in more memory while you are at it. If you are running 32bit windows and hitting memory limits, you are kind of stuck.


If it is network issue perhaps your solution maybe getting a new switch and network card for this server (and doublechecking all your cables are good cat6 cables)

Perhaps also you can upgrade your versions of your software?
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October 20, 2012 5:25:32 PM

mashburn82 said:
what if I just updated my server? would that be ok?

Well sure the question is will it fix anything. Right now for all I know you could be using a 10mbs switch and the new server would run just as slow transferring the files, just because the switches are outdated. You need to find the bottleneck by doing some simple file transfers. I'd use a dummy file and transfer it from the server to the client. If it's gigabit you should be getting around 800megabits/s, with 100 you should be getting around 80megabits per second and so on. Slow HDDs can also limit this transfer and depending on how things are accessed on your side (many small files vs one big file) could also create latency from HDD seeks.

You need to check:

-which network cards are installed via the device manager, and check that they are operating at maximum throughput, sometimes by mistake they are set to default to the lowest setting
-what router/switch you are using (is it managed/unmanged) does it have an uplink port is it 10/100/1000. Are there mutliple daisy chains of routers and switches
where one in between is slowing things down
-riding the switch bandwagon is there some kind of Quality of service (QoS) enabled? This might also artificially limit things
-what network card you are using on the server, and are these settings correct

So to sum up the very first thing since you are talking about slow files transferring from the server is check the networks cards and switches. Replacing these is a relatively easy and cheap task and doesn't require buying a new $2000 server.
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October 20, 2012 6:26:00 PM

Hi :) 

You need a PRO to sort this out,,,, you are a Tax accountant.... you wouldn't let a gardener do your taxes so why do you think you know better than a guy with years of Business networking and server experience... ?

My company in the UK has been called into this sort of situation a few times....and it ALWAYS costs the company more than if they had paid a pro in the first place..... usually around double to treble...

All the best Brett :) 
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October 22, 2012 1:41:38 PM

so in the second picture here is the list of the componets I have.

Bottom Left
- Network telephones
Top Left
- Comcast BUsiness Class (SMC Networks) (Modem/router)
Top Middle
- Arris model # TM608G http://www.speedguide.net/routers/arris-touchstone-tm60...
Middle Middle
- DSL (little white box)
- Porta System 504 PX2 (lightning protector)

also there is
- Hyper edge connector block
- Cisco RV082 http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps9926/index.html
- Linksys 10/100 Switch SR224 http://www.overstock.com/Electronics/Linksys-SR224-24-p...
--(side note: the old IT guy, could not get the VPN to work. and the new IT guy says we should just take it out.)

I know the telephone and struff does not matter. but it might help you all in telling me what I should get.

if there is anyrthing else I can do please ask. I am at work and can get to the server to fully answer your questions.


the drives are not even close to what I thought we had internal.
- WD Blue WD5000AAKS 500GB Desktop Hard Drive - 3.5" SATA, 7200RPM, 16MB Cache
- Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 ST3120827AS 120GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 1.5Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive
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Anonymous
October 22, 2012 4:31:43 PM

What you have there looks to be a semi pimp'd PC with a Server OS on it. My advice - buy - HP Proliant Server - Cisco 200 or 300 series switches and get someone qualified to install it all.
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October 22, 2012 5:08:38 PM

The upgrades you require might be easy or hard depending on whether the cable going out to the workstations are gigabit rated or not.

Basically, you have a 10/100 setup, and you should be running a gigabit setup. If you don't have to run new cabling, that's pretty inexpensive and easy to accomplish. Also, as you know, your storage solution is woeful. At a minimum, you should be running the newer W.D. veloceraptors over SATA 3. Better still would be SAS 6GBs such as the Seagate Constellation ES2 drives. They are not expensive.
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October 22, 2012 6:26:18 PM

ok. now I will say I have no idea on the gigabit setup.
- not running on that correctly, wou7ld result in what?

I do not mind spending money on better drives. the more and more I look into this, the more I see I should just update it. I know I need a 240GB drive, just cause we run about 120 in total of every single thing on the server. so is SAS drives with raid better then SSD? any recommendations?

thank you for all your help.
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October 22, 2012 8:06:06 PM

TL:D R This is exactly what I meant with flusterclucking your network. You have a whole array of *** on there. Buying a new server will not improve this performance. You need to fix the infrastructure prior to doing anything.

Your network hardware is a muddled pile of....you should really find someone who is cisco certified and can get your hardware unified and up-to-date. A proper router/firewall like a cisco 800 series and a switch that is 10/100/1000. This guy should also be able to setup the vpn.

Again find someone who is certified to do it! Realistically you're looking at ~$800-$1000 for network upgrades when paying someone to unify all hardware. I mean are you using the comcast box as router or modem, or both? What is the cisco hardware doing in between? Is that running as router as well?

At the very least you should:
-get a switch with 10/100/1000(toss the old one) ($200)
-make sure every machine including the server has a full duplex capable 10/100/1000 NIC (~$30 per machine) and connect these to the new switch
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October 22, 2012 11:01:18 PM

well that is something that I could not even attempt. thanks for your help. guess I just need to find a IT guy who knows what he is doing.
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October 23, 2012 12:59:41 AM

I have someone who is going to look through my network later this week. just the thing that stinks is not a soul has the passwords. the old IT guys say they never knew it and that is why they could not get ontio it through VPN on the switch.

they had a guy a long time ago who was in school and said he would do this set up for free as long as they just bought the products. once they found out the guy flunked his school they tried to get passwords out of him, but he would say it would be a week or so before he came out. then they finally told him they were tired of him and let him.

so now I understand why this whole entire thing is mudeled mess.

anyone know any ideas how to find out passwords? just to the cisco, linksys, arris. I assume comcast should help me out with the SMC.
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October 23, 2012 4:16:57 PM

Well at least you know what the problem is. Cisco can help you out with the password problem. But the default would be 192.168.1.1 username: admin password: admin

Easiest just to plug the cisco in by itself and use a laptop with a cable to login and just see if that works.

The linksys being an unmmanged switch shouldn't even have a loging/password.

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October 30, 2012 8:18:13 PM

HP 4GB (1x4GB) Dual Rank PC3‐10600 (DDR3‐
1333) Unbuffered CAS‐9
Microsoft® Windows® Server Foundation R2
HP Smart Array B110i SATA RAID Controller (RAID
0/1/1+0)
HP Half‐Height SATA DVD‐RW Optical Drive
2 HP Embedded NC112i Gigabit Server Adapters
HP 350W NHP Power Supply
Integrated Lights‐Out (iLO3) Management

HP 4GB PC3‐10600E 1x4GB 2Rank Memory
HP 300GB 6G Hot Plug 3.5 SAS 15,000rpm Dual
Port Hard Drive

this is something HP sent me. it is about 1700. It looks like it would be a good buy. what do y'all thank.

again thank you for every ones help.
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