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Suggestions on Server Build/Specs for 100 RDP users

Last response: in Business Computing
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September 28, 2012 1:22:38 PM

I work at a lawfirm right now (yes...I'm a lawyer who loves technology). I am also the resident techno geek. However, I'm not the best with Networking (although I understand some of the fundamentals).

We are/have been having growing pains with our computer use in the law firm and I was hoping to get some suggestions on what could be done to improve performance.

1st: We currently have about 60 employees who use the server. About 40 are RDP and the other 20, since they are onsite, directly log on. Here is the server that we all use!!!

Specs of current server (as far as I can tell):

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 Enterprise

Intel Quad Core Q8300 @ 2.50ghz
4gb ram
Promise 1X2 Mirror/Raid1 SCSI Disk Drive
A few 2tb Hard Drives, 3 are duplicates (yet you can see them all so I don't think they are Raid0 per se)
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller

I honestly think this computer is a desktop build and not server grade components. I think that needs to be changed.

2nd: We are working out of multiple locations.

NC:
Charlotte (10 people)
Raleigh (15)
Fayetteville (5)
Jacksonville (10)

VA:
Chesapeake (this is where the server is located...about 20 directly log on here)

We also sometimes have the random iPad/iPhone or Android RDP on...

3rd: Whenever the system in Chesapeake crashes...the entire lawfirm might as well shutdown.

Is it possible to use servers at each location and have a "Master server" or something along those lines at the Chesapeake location. Something like each location has a server that they use and the date from each of those servers is "synced" with the Chesapeake server continuously (it can't lag because we use software internally on the server right now to communicate).

Do we need to just bump up the specs of the server???

I'm trying to make the firm more efficient and have less down time when something crashes.
September 28, 2012 1:50:04 PM

bimmerfreak0 said:
I work at a lawfirm right now (yes...I'm a lawyer who loves technology). I am also the resident techno geek. However, I'm not the best with Networking (although I understand some of the fundamentals).

We are/have been having growing pains with our computer use in the law firm and I was hoping to get some suggestions on what could be done to improve performance.

1st: We currently have about 60 employees who use the server. About 40 are RDP and the other 20, since they are onsite, directly log on. Here is the server that we all use!!!

Specs of current server (as far as I can tell):

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 Enterprise

Intel Quad Core Q8300 @ 2.50ghz
4gb ram
Promise 1X2 Mirror/Raid1 SCSI Disk Drive
A few 2tb Hard Drives, 3 are duplicates (yet you can see them all so I don't think they are Raid0 per se)
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller

I honestly think this computer is a desktop build and not server grade components. I think that needs to be changed.

2nd: We are working out of multiple locations.

NC:
Charlotte (10 people)
Raleigh (15)
Fayetteville (5)
Jacksonville (10)

VA:
Chesapeake (this is where the server is located...about 20 directly log on here)

We also sometimes have the random iPad/iPhone or Android RDP on...

3rd: Whenever the system in Chesapeake crashes...the entire lawfirm might as well shutdown.

Is it possible to use servers at each location and have a "Master server" or something along those lines at the Chesapeake location. Something like each location has a server that they use and the date from each of those servers is "synced" with the Chesapeake server continuously (it can't lag because we use software internally on the server right now to communicate).

Do we need to just bump up the specs of the server???

I'm trying to make the firm more efficient and have less down time when something crashes.


Hi...

It seems looking at this information that you have plenty of outs however, I would be more inclined to get IBM or some other consultant to come and address your issues/concerns.

With the number of offices and the number of users at these locations and the different connection types for remote access it seems that you will also require redundancy to address the server failures and this of course will include WAN connections and possible redundant links to all these sites in case one site goes offline.

As for the server *GUTS* I would recommend a complete server haul going with Server based hardware i.e Intel Xeon's or instead of an actual server tower you can go with the rack mount solutions via HP or Intel or Dell etc. However this will be an expensive solution. I'm sure others here would indicate otherwise but again IMHO since its a law firm I would not put together a half-baked system as it seems that access to the data is critical.
September 28, 2012 2:01:54 PM

Everyone knows the system is half-baked right now. That's partially why they are asking my opinion.

When you say expensive...are we talking $10,000 or $100,000?

I mean, I understand the server costing around $3,000 to $4,000 (I get that server/enterprise parts are much more expensive...and for a reason). I'm just wondering if all the money is going to be blown in the server or the back end hardware secondary to the actual computer.

I've got the other problem of just requisitioning some of this stuff too. This is all secondary to actually be a lawyer in VA Benefits too!
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September 28, 2012 2:08:30 PM

I guess I have been spoiled as I work for a multi-billion dollar financial company and though I do not personally requisition server hardware nor do I support them I do assist with the network connectivity between them and to the other remote locations.

From what I have seen and heard, some of these rack mount systems can begin at just under 10K and easily work themselves up and past the 100K mark or even the 1M marker.

Maybe someone else here in the forums can assist or provide valuable insight to the OP's request.
September 28, 2012 2:31:19 PM

Compared to the normal kind of work that I address, this situation is a little bit big, but I will try and see if I can be of some help as well.

The first thing that I see about your current issues is that your server is far too limited to support the demand you are placing on it. In fact, I'm quite surprised that it can even run period with all the connections it is trying to handle! You have to get a very decent server to run all those remote sessions, and if everyone from all of these offices are remote accessing business-critical resources on your central server, then you should be looking into a cluster solution. This would mean that you would be buying at least two primary servers, I would recommend dual Intel Xeon with 32 GB or greater RAM, and a separate SAN server device made for storage. With clustering, if your first server goes down for any reason the second server automatically takes over all the load so there is little to no downtime at all.

The other option as you stated is just putting in a more basic server at each location. This kind of server would only need to be a single quad-core Xeon with 4 GB or more of RAM. Everything would communicate back to the main office server through site-to-site VPN tunnels so everyone stays connected, and you wouldn't have to rely on remote desktop sessions which tend to be very inefficient and slow across the internet.

Now, I don't know specifically how your software runs or what your workloads and computer usage is like, so it's hard for me to say which route would be the best for you to go. The cost I think would be pretty similar either route (you're probably looking to budget $30k - $40k to accomplish all of this) but I think that you'd get a little better performance by going with the second option and having local servers at each location. The added benefit here is if one office server goes down it only affects that office and not everyone else. However, if you have only one central server and it goes down, everyone is down in every office.
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