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Servers for Dummies

Discussion in 'Computer Hardware' started by ChiknNutz, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    I want to either build or buy a server to maintain a central file location for our files. I really know next to nothing about servers and networking, but have read a little just to get familiar with some of the terms. On the low end of the spectrum, looks like a guy can get one of these simple and inexpensive NAS devices. On the other end is something like a Dell PowerEdge server. Based on some things I've found, looks like the RAID 5 is a pretty good way to set it up (with 3 or 4 HDs).

    All I really want it for currently is for central file storage, though I know a true server is capable of more, though I really don't know what else I'd use it for. We'd probably only have about 3 or 4 systems on the network (looks like the magic number is 5 or less for entry level). I don't know whether to use a MS Server based solution, or Linux or ???

    So, looking for some advice and recommendations. Not necessarily looking for low-buck, but is easy to use, secure and relatively quick. Would like to spend around $1500 or less on whatever it is.
     
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  2. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    too complicated.

    All you need is one main machine with full capable of doing work with two large hard drives onit. One is the main drive the other is the final backup running auto backup software to protect the rest of the network data. All machines on the network backs up to another. That way you have all data backed up in a couple of places.

    Then network the other machiners to this one main and map the drives so there will be printer and other devices sharing. No need to have a central server and the expense that goes with it. Now, if you are running 5 other workstations then maybe the cost starts to be justified. A server just sits there using up resources and causes extra work for nothing.
     
  3. gvgraphics

    gvgraphics Very Active Member

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    I agree with tech. You don't need a server all you need is a good machine with adequate storage of 2 good hard drives for your files. Put it on the network and only use it for storage.
    Much simpler and allot less expensive.
     
  4. cdiesel

    cdiesel Very Active Member

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    Third vote for using a regular pc as a server.. One thing i'd do is to use an external drive to back up your files to. Actually, I'd use two and switch them out each day so you've always got a backup that's no more than one day old. Take one home each night with you just in case.

    That said, hard drives are cheap, so I'd probably pick up a couple of them so you're not bogging down the "server" machine with network activity.
     
  5. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    Hey, feel free to call me - I've done networks for folks, and I'm thinking that what you really need is one of the NAS solutions.

    1) It doesn't need a computer to run. Of course, if you have an old computer you can just use, fine - but it needs to be able to deal with the large hard drives and big data files that we use today.

    2) You don't need special software to make it work. It will look like just a hard drive in your users' machines.

    3) Get one that does a RAID setup, so that if one drive goes south, the other(s) will take up the slack.

    4) Spend a coupla hundred bux on a USB hard drive, and use that for backups of the main dealie.

    5) You can buy a LOT of NAS for $1,500.
     
  6. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    I'm sure I could get by without a server, but I'm happy with the decision to bring that extra organization into my network now, so that as things grow, it will already be in place.

    My Dell PowerEdge Server is running Windows Server 2003. It has 2 physical drives in it. The main drive is partitioned, & the C drive only has the operating system, backup software & Internet Explorer loaded on it. The D drive is the partition that all my 5 other computers save data to & open files from all day. It is a mapped network drive, so it shows up as the Z drive from all my workstations when going to File>Open, or File>Save. All 5 of my other computers have only programs on them, no data is ever saved on them. The second physical drive in the server is the E drive, & the auto back-up program backs up the D drive to it every night.

    I have 2 Network attached storage devices. One is at the office with all the archived work I've saved in 10 years. The other is the same data stored off-site (at home) in case of any catastrophy at the office (fire/flood/robbery/etc) Tonight I am running my semi-annual archive where I will clean off about 50 gigs of work from the last 6 months, so my D drive is less cluttered with old jobs & the backup program will have less work to do each night. This 50 gigs has pushed me beyong the capicity of my 300 gig NAS devices, so I got two 500 gig ones to take their place now. I will use the other ones for the "Ghost" files for each of my 5 computers, one here & one at home.

    I drew up a schematic of my network to help me wrap my head around what I have going & to look at when implementing any changes. I don't know if you will be able to read it or not on here:

    [​IMG]

    Here's a photo of my production guys work area:

    [​IMG]

    The server is behind the monitor on the left, but is hooked to the keyboard, mouse, and monitor through a KVM switch, so we can keep an eye on the backup logs etc. The edge, envision & the graphtec plotter at far right are all run from the computer to the left of the server and the UPS. All this stuff just moved back downstairs last week due to a part timer who no longer works with us. The black computer on the right is a design station for my full time guy, & hooked through another KVM switch, the computer to the right of that is the dedicated Mimaki rip station. The other 2 computers on the network are my design station in my office, and a computer in the showroom which is convenient for pulling up designs or billing info during client consults, as well as a place for my bookkeeper to work once a week.


    It's hard to keep everything in this business organized, but I think it's of critical importance. I know what it feels like to lose 20 gigs of recent work & have to redo stuff for clients whose stuff I lost... so I'm not afraid to spend a little more to be a little too prepared... rather then not prepared enough.
     
  7. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    I hate skinny people.
     
  8. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Sounds like what I already have is a pretty good start towards a server or similar setup. My main sys has twin 160GB IDE drives (on an Ultra 133 card) and an external 250GB USB HD. I back up stuff daily, but my main desire is to have a central file location for primary working files, so that we can access the same stuff from one location AND w/o bogging down one another's machines.

    I do have another older computer that could likely fit the bill for a server or the beginning of one. I think it is an AMD 1900 or thereabouts, with 512MB RAM and I just put in a 250GB HD in it as the other one was shot.

    I was thinking that one of those NAS jibrones would likely work for us, but wasn't sure. I found a couple today that are 1TB with 4 HDs, but if you run it as RAID 5, then it's only 500GB....still plenty for now...and only like $600. I think it was either Iomega or Buffalo.

    Anyway, thanks for the replies!
     
  9. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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  10. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    Yeah. What I'd do would be to have that as everyone's "active" files, with it set up for RAID5, and then remove stuff as it ages. Back it off onto DVD, and then put 'em in a nice cool, dark place. You can also make another "tool" drive (containing clipart, whatever) and hang it off the net too...
     
  11. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    just for comparison, my half terabit drives were $169.00 and each one holds virtually every file I've created in 10-1/2 years, plus an excessive amount of duplication & triplication based on the way I've done backups & archives over the years... so I would wonder if the desire to have off-site storage of a second copy of your data might justify exploring the lower price of smaller drives.
     
  12. Gene@mpls

    Gene@mpls Very Active Member

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    Chris- a heads up- I have the Buffalo Link station (250Gig I think) and my
    tech guy who set it up for me was so impressed he bought the Buffalo Terra-
    whatever and hated it. I don't remember what the problems were but he
    ended up getting rid of it. So do your due diligence. Gene
     
  13. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    I read some reviews of it on NewEgg and most were not-so-good. Sounds like just a networked PC would do the job. I really like the idea of some sort of RAID configuration for data redundency. I've had several HDs crap-out over the years and that just plain sux-@$$ when that happens and you've not taken measures to recover. Since then, I think I'm pretty well covered in the event of hardware failure, but a natural disaster might be another thing.
     
  14. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Hey iSign, did you set up that network or did you hire it out? Do you personally maintain it or is that outsourced as well? A bit overkill for my current needs, but I like to overdo things too!
     
  15. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Question, can you use the "server" as a dedicated RIP station as well, or is that not a good idea?
     
  16. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    I have a computer tech guy who I have on an annual contract for about $150/month. It sounds like a lot, but he is a talented guy & spends a lot of time here, even helping me with things like setting up my upgrade of Omega software, & troubleshooting all the resulting issues, spending time on phone with tech support... as well as my occassional reformating of older machines to optimize them & put them back in action. We also discuss the growth of the company & the network to plan ahead for being where I need to be before I need to get there. I have learned a lot, but I don't know how to do all what he does. He also has a logmein account & I've allowed him to set up my computers for remote access by him, so some of my maintenance, or troubleshooting needs can be attended to by him, from his office. This opens up a possible security risk, but no more then my own remote access settings which I use from home several nights a week, & I trust that he has all the best security in place to minimize risks.

    As for using a "server" as a rip station... my first server was my design station, & it was mapped as a network drive & seen by my production machines for opening & saving files. At that time, I was a one man show.. so I wasn't writing or reading to that drive at the same time from 2 different workstations.

    I see no reason you couldn't do this, except that basic computers are so cheap these days... the risk of crashing one huge banner in mid print could cost you half the price of another CPU. If a server will be accessed constantly throughout the day during printing, it wouldn't be my rip station I gang my server up with.
     
  17. Sabre

    Sabre Member

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    I don't know if this information will be too late for the thread originator... Or of any value for that matter. Microsoft is releasing their "Windows Home Server" this fall which looks like a promising solution for what your trying to accomplish. They advertise taking any stripped down basic computer with any number of hard drives and promise some sort of data redundancy when using multiple drives. Will of course operate without monitor or input devices so you can plug in just a power cable and network line and your off and running.

    I've only read a couple of articles on it and nothing really recent, but it might be worth looking into.
     
  18. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    your always goona need a monitor and input devices. servers just dont have them plugged in all the time.

    As fo rredundancy. IF you have auto back upo software you can have a back up in two different places all the time. A main machine and a few other machines all backing up to each other.
     
  19. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    Yeah, I actually stumbled acrossed that yesterday...looks promising, but we'll see.
     
  20. cdiesel

    cdiesel Very Active Member

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    If your'e worrying about speed, get some fast drives and make sure everything's running the gigabit cards. You can configure the drives in a raid format and run a hot-spare that will automatically fill in if a drive fails. The drive setup alone in my design station ran $2500, but it's quick.
     

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