First time SBS


I am in the process of setting up my first server for the company that I am currently employed at. I have a good knowledge of computers in general, and I am an electrical engineer. Unfortunately, I do not have an intimate knowledge of Windows Server OS or much professional IT experience. I have many peer-to-peer networks that I have set up at home and/or for family and friends and I was wondering how hard of a time I will have stepping up to a client-server network.

My plan was to use the following hardware to set up a VM of Windows 2008 Standard R2. The main goals of this server is to handle data storage/distribution and back ups. We have no plans to use the server as a website host, nor do we desire to host our own email at the current time. I would like to have these options available in the future though.

My current plan is to purchase the following hardware:
HP ProLiant ML110 G7 Server System Intel Xeon E3-1240 3.3GHz 4C/8T 8GB (2 x 4GB) No Hard Drive 656766-S01
Transcend SSD 720 2.5" 256GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) with Desktop Upgrade Kit x2
Western Digital WD Black WD2002FAEX 2TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive x2
HP 462862-B21 PCI-Express x8 Low Profile SAS Smart Array P410/256 2-ports Controller
APC Smart-UPS SC620 620V 390 Watts 4 Outlets UPS
Hard drive caddies x4

I plan on buying Windows 2008 Server Standard R2 with 10 additional CALs.

I feel like this would meet all of my needs but I am hesitant to pull the trigger until I can be sure that this is all I will need. Is setting up a Virtual Machine a very difficult process? Is this something with a general computer literacy and the internet can do? Are there any resources that you might recommend to someone who is just getting started in this field? As I mentioned before the main purpose of this server is to create a centralized data storage device that everyone (~12 employees) can access. The goal is to have all of the data backed up using a RAID 1 array plus an offsite cloud back up service. Am I making any obvious newbie mistakes? I appreciate any help and information.

Thank you,
15 answers Last reply
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  1. Your hardware looks good, although the 256 GB SSD is a bit overkill. I run Server 2012 Enterprise at home (eight PCs in the house) on a 60 GB SSD (currently using 20 GB out of 59.2 use-able). The "C" drive is only for storing the operating system and applications, so not much goes there. But if you can afford the 256 GB it won't hurt.

    I would go with Server 2012 if you can. One thing I like about it for my situation over Server 2008 R2, is that it makes available Intel's AES hardware encryption/decryption services to virtual machines in Hyper-V. Can't do that in Server 2008 R2, AES Instructions are only available to Hyper-V. See, when running Hyper-V, even the Host operating system is a virtual machine. Hyper-V runs directly on the hardware, everything else is virtual. I need AES available because I have a very large encrypted volume with stuff I don't want the government or Hollywood ever getting access to, and even with AES-Twofish encryption, I get 113 MB/second read/write on my 2 TB HDDs. Life is good!

    Microsoft has a number of tutorials and documents for installing and setting up Hyper-V and virtual machines, especially their TechNet website. I don't think you will have a problem if you read enough material beforehand.

    Here's a site where you can download some whitepapers and data sheets on Hyper-V for Server 2012:

    Just Google "Hyper-V Server XXXX" where "XXX" is the server version you will use.

    Here's an example from TechNet:

    Sorry, don't mean you should get into Certificate Services, I have a hard time mastering that topic myself (still haven't mastered it).

    Also, this Petri website is very good for basic Server and Hyper-V topics:
  2. Thanks for the response!

    I was really unsure if I needed the 256GB SSD so I will look into the 60GB because I wouldn't mind saving money. Do you use a RAID 1 array for your OS SSD's or is that a little overkill?

    I will also get the 2012 version of Windows thank you. Those tutorials look great and appear to be exactly what I was looking for. Much appreciated.
  3. I think SSD in RAID for the OS is overkill. You don't re-boot a server nearly as much as a workstation, so you won't see the speed increase during booting from an SSD like you would in a desktop PC ('cause you don't do it much). The server pretty much just sits there and runs 24 hours a day, not a lot of booting up or program loading, which is where the OS SSD helps you in a desktop/laptop.

    You might consider a 128 GB SSD if you want to feel more comfortable. I just stuck the 60 GB into the server because I had it left over from an old defunct laptop.

    One thing I absolutely LOVE about Server 2012 is the Windows Server backup. It is much, much better than the backup built into Server 2008 R2. It allows you to do an initial full backup, then subsequent backups are incremental. I schedule mine every morning at 4:00 A.M. I've also had to restore it a couple of times when I've messed up my OS disk or my data disk (typically while swapping out or upgrading hard drives), and it's never failed me. Complete bare-metal restore! Wow. You can even schedule it to do incremental backups multiple times a day, in case you can't afford to lose a whole day's worth of data (mine doesn't change much so I could stand to lose whatever's changed during a day if, say, my data drive crapped out on me in the evening, before the daily backup occurs).

    When you set up Windows Server Backup 2012, it allows you to specify or include the following:

    - System Reserved partition
    - System State
    - Bare Metal Recovery
    - Host Component
    - C Drive
    - D Drive
    - Virtual Machine #1
    - Virtual Machine #2

    I've had to use it once or twice for restoring the operating system, twice for restoring my large, 2 TB "D" drive (data), and a couple of times to restore deleted files/folders from "D". I also recovered a virtual machine I had unintentionally screwed up. It has never failed me. I can't recommend it highly enough.
  4. I think the Petri site is the most helpful, if you can find what you need there. The TechNet site is harder to locate what you're looking for, but it is more complete. The tutorials or steps at Petri are better, as they have pictures, which TechNet doesn't.
  5. The server hardware you are looking into is great for virtualizing a couple systems. I've used that exact server configuration and it works like a dream. As others have stated, I'd suggest looking into Server 2012, I really like the new features and performance I am seeing using it compared to the 2008 R2.

    First off, on your SSDs. It all depends upon how you want to run your virtual machines actually. For your host OS (the bare metal installation) you don't really need super fast SSDs as you normally aren't going to be on the machine itself doing demanding tasks such as working with multiple open applications or photoshop or something. It may help with boot time but on a server (especially the HP servers) there's a LONG wait for boot up to complete no matter what hard drive you go with.

    However, there are a couple ways you can store your virtual machine as well, which can make a difference on performance. Lets say to begin with you are going to just run one virtual machine on this hardware. You can install your host OS on the SSD RAID 1 array, and pass through the other 2 TB RAID 1 array directly to your virtual machine. You can install the OS and host all the data for your virtual machine all on that entire array. This offers great throughput (your host machine OS and your virtual machine OS are on completely different sets of hard drives) and great recovery options (you can pull one hard drive from your data array, plug it in to a server, and be booted to your full virtual machine on a physical system in many cases.)

    But now lets say you need to expand a bit and run two virtual machines on your server. A single license of Server 2012 Standard gives you licensing for up to two VMs. However, you have passed your entire hard drive directly through to your first VM, so there no longer is space for the new VM. What you may consider for flexibility is having two larger capacity SSDs, such as the 256 GB drives you are looking at, that you install your host OS on and also have a VHDX hard drive for the OS installation of your virtual machines and only the OS. This keeps the VHDX files very small (most of my 2012 VMs are 30 GB VHDX files) and then you can either pass through the data RAID array to one of your VMS for storage or create additional VHDX files on the data array to pass to each VM.

    Why I'm suggesting it this way, instead of just having ALL of your VHDX files on your data drive, is it might be a bit of a bottleneck to be running two VMs off of a single set of RAID 1 7k SATA hard drives. Most of the time for a small business it isn't going to be an issue, but it is the weak link. However, if your OS VHDX files are saved on your SSDs there is much more throughput there (up to 500 MB/s) compared to your mechanical drives (closer to 100 MB/s.)

    Setting up virtual machines in Hyper-V is not very difficult, and there is a nice wizard that walks you through the whole process anyways. There are also many great tutorials and videos online that demonstrate creating VMs and working with them regularly. In fact, if you want to try out creating and managing VMs in Hyper-V the cheapest option might be to start with a test computer and run Windows 8 Pro. You can install the Hyper-V role in Windows 8 Pro and create VMs, and later even move these VMs to your new Windows Server 2012 system if you wish. Later, your Windows 8 Pro computer can be used to remote manage your Server 2012 system and can be used as a backup server to run your VMs in the event that your primary server goes down for some reason.
  6. discgolguy,

    If you're new to VHDX, as I am, this little intro might help:
  7. Dont waste time or money with an SSD for the OS at all.
    You also still need a backup device. Usually tape where 1 copy can be kept local for quick access and another copy kept offsitte in case something happens at work.

    Virtualizing the server is a good thing. It makes it easy to get another 'copy' of the server up and running real quick even if the actual hardware isn't the same.
  8. Can anyone help me to determine which OS I need to buy. Looking at Newegg there are 3 options for Windows Server 2012

    The first is here.

    The second is here.

    The third is: here.

    Do I need both 1 and 2 or just one of them. I'm a little confused. I don't think I will be having more than 25 users/devices any time in the near future so I think I would be able to use the Essentials without a problem. If I go with standard do I need the Base License AND the "additional license."

    I will be buying all this hardware this afternoon and I just wanted to thank you all for the help. You guys are great.
  9. Here's Microsoft's explanation of the third (and cheapest) offering. You'll have to decide what level of IT skills you have and which is best for you:

    From their FAQ:

    Q: How does Windows Server 2012 Essentials compare with Windows Server Foundation?

    A: The two products are similar in that both address the needs of small businesses. Both are considered low-price
    offerings, and will ship primarily through OEM partners. The key differences come down to the level of IT skill
    required to deploy and manage them.

    Windows Server 2012 Essentials is designed primarily to be a first-server option for small business customers who
    are typically constrained by limited IT skills and value a pre-configured environment and lower operating costs. As
    such, small businesses may handle deployment and management on their own or outsource to a partner.

    Windows Server Foundation, on the other hand, is considered a “general purpose server” for up to 15 user
    accounts, providing a rich set of entry level capabilities for small businesses. It tends to require a greater level of IT
    skill to design, implement, and manage a custom solution. Windows Server Foundation customers are more likely
    to employ a solutions provider or other partner to help with those aspects.

    Q: If I have less than 15 users, how do I decide which version is right for me?

    A: Counting users is one way to do it, but the more relevant considerations will be your IT requirements and the
    level of IT skill within your organization. If you’re a small business with limited in -house skills, Windows Server
    2012 Essentials is an appropriate option. It’s simple, affordable, and easy to manage, and has been tailored to
    address common small business IT scenarios. Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the ideal solution if you plan to
    expand your business capabilities through the cloud as it is designed to facilitate your connection to online
    services. On the other hand, if you have some level of in-house IT skills and want the ability to tailor server roles to
    their unique environments, then Windows Server Foundation is potentially better suited to your business.
  10. Thanks
  11. Between the first two, the only difference seems to be that the first one has no media, it's just a server license key. The second one has a license key and install media.
  12. Going with Windows Server 2012 Standard (your second link) is the primary license for Server 2012 Standard OEM. The additional license (your first link) is for adding more virtual machines to your primary license if needed, but shouldn't be necessary in your case. So, if you are going to buy Server 2012 Standard, then you would only need the second link, not the first.

    Server 2012 Essentials is a more basic version of the Server 2012 package and is intended for smaller organizations. It also does not support the Hypver-V virtualization that can be done with Server 2012 Standard. So, if you do not plan to do any virtualizing, it might be the way to go and save some money. If you do plan on running some of your services as virtual machines for increased flexibility, then you would need to go with Windows Server 2012 Standard.
  13. Can anyone help me understand how to hook up the data hard drives to the P410/256 controller? It looks like the ProLiant has built in Sata connectors that don't easily allow me to route a cable to the controller. I'm just a little confused at the moment and any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
  14. The P410 uses a SAS connector. Your HP ProLiant ML110 G7 should come with a mini-SAS to mini-SAS connection cable which is already plugged in to the onboard controller and the SATA backplane. All you have to do is disconnect the end connected tot he motherboard, and reconnect it to one of the two ports on the SmartArray RAID controller. You may have to do a little re-routing, but I've never had an issue with the cable reaching.
  15. Eureka! Wonderful thanks so much.
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