[Serious] Small Business Sever recommendations?
I recently started a small IT Solutions company after working in 2nd/3rd level customer support for over 15 years. I have just received a job that involves setting up a good friend's new office for his company (he currently works out of his home with at least 5 other subordinates working out of their homes). Among the requirements of the move is a new server. Although, I have supported servers in some capacity over time, I have never purchased or administered one.
Unfortunately we have not discussed a budget, so I am going into this purchase somewhat blind. I would guess something in the range of $1500 to $3500 would be a start.
I would like something with 2 processors (but if that is not reasonable in the budget I suggest, then one would suffice), 2 power supplies, 16-32 GB RAM, 2-4 TB HDD space in RAID 5 (or more depending on $$$) and probably Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 operating system.
I have worked on HP/Compaq's in the past, and IBM/Lenovo's (which is a preference), but I am open to all suggestions. I have supported Dell's in the past as well, but my current supplier does not carry them.
If anybody can recommend a good small business server or even a good Canadian forum (other than this fine site) that discusses hardware/software in the Information Technology industry it would be much appreciated!
You're not going to get a reliably good server with a second processor and secondary hot swap power supply for the $1500 to $3500 range, at least not with all the software and other, more important, goodies. That and you only have 5 users, you don't need a dual processor server. The HS PSU is a nice option but typically you're looking at a dual processor server anyhow if you go that route...
MS SBS 2011 OEM is around $600. If they're not going to use Exchange for proper email storage, sharing calendars, meetings, contacts, etc., get Microsoft Windows Server Foundation for just a file / print server which is limited to 15 users and it's around $215.
What's your backup plan with all that? Terribly important budgetary option you left out of the above.
Thanks for the info urbanriot! It's always tough to distinguish your wants from your needs. My concern is scalability, so I'll probably just have to provide some good options at varying prices, and see what the client is willing to spend.
I was leaning towards setting up Exchange, mainly so that the clients' mail can be backed up locally on the server, rather than on each workstation... among the other shared features you mention. Windows Server Foundation is a pretty good deal at $215 though, I'll keep that in mind.
As for a backup plan, I was considering installing a NAS, and possibly investigating cloud storage for offsite backup.
said by bolt17cdn:
My concern is scalability, so I'll probably just have to provide some good options at varying prices, and see what the client is willing to spend.
That's a great idea. Inform the client and let them make the decision based on your education, rather than dictating what they should buy.
Your concerns regarding scalability, are they theoretical or practical? Do you see this site growing from 5 users to 75 users within the next 5 years? If it's unlikely they'll exceed 20 within the next decade, a Xeon E3 based system would be just fine.
The appropriate backup solution is mainly dictated by the size of their data. Have you had a chance to evaluate that yet?
No, I would think it would be highly unlikely that the company even grows past 10 users, so you're probably correct in saying that my scalability concerns are probably more theoretical than practical. I do like the HS PSU option as peace of mind though...
I'll look into boxes that offer the Xeon E3 as you suggest.
Unfortunately, I have not seen the size of their data. As mentioned, this is 6 users currently spread out over 6 home office locations. One, the owner, has a desktop, while the other 5 have laptops. So, in theory, a (very) generous estimate of current hard drive space could be 2 TB for the desktop, and maybe 2.5 TB for the 5 laptops (5 at 500 GB HDD a piece). Actual space being used is substantially lower I assume... so I'm guessing a NAS with 4 - 6 TB in space would be plenty. But again, all theoretical until I actually get a count.
Do you like the idea of a NAS? Maybe a 4 bay using RAID 5?
said by bolt17cdn:
I do like the HS PSU option as peace of mind though...
If the business doesn't need 24/7 uptime and can survive a hardware failure until the component is replaced within a few hours of time, and considering you have cached roaming profiles on the systems, you can always just have them buy a spare non-HS power supply.
Personally, I think you should wait and see the amount of data before you suggest a backup solution as you could be over-estimating the quantity of data with the generous estimations of data.
Over the past many years of visiting many sites that have experienced data loss, either by hardware failure, angry employees, lousy admins, etc., I don't have a one-size-fits-all suggestion for backup as every site has different requirements. Some sites like to have their data off site and their data is large, so an Ultrium tape is right for them while other sites aren't concerned about local issues like break-ins or fire, so NAS is right for them. So far the two most reliable solutions I've found are SAN / NAS units in an entirely different location of a site or tapes stored in a fire proof safe and/or taken off site.
For a small business, if their data doesn't need to be kept off site you'll probably be just fine with a two drive mirrored Qnap NAS bay with a couple of 2TB WD Red drives. I wouldn't get too crazy with the backup as then you're moving into another small server for a small server...
On average I usually see around 100GB of total consumed server space per 5 users including their exported Exchange mailbox and redirected user folders.
Wow! I am utterly grateful for the insight you have provided urbanriot! You sound like a man that has many years experience in the industry. I am lucky to have been the recipient of your very wise and overly helpful information. It is with your recommendations that I now feel comfortable enough to provide the best solution possible to my client. And to think, I was actually considering turning down this opportunity as I was feeling in over my head. Thanks again for providing me the confidence to move forward!
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|reply to bolt17cdn |
|reply to bolt17cdn | said by bolt17cdn:
You sound like a man that has many years experience in the industry.
Before moving into the role I have now, I spent a lot of time engaging small to medium sized businesses and their owners. I spent a good five years focusing on the best hardware, the best software, the best optimizations for that setup; the second decade was spent learning that I should have been focusing on the people using all that stuff.
If I was better with remembering quotes, I'd paste something about experiences and mistakes and how well you learn from recovering from them. While I've made enough of my own, the most educational mistakes I've encountered were the ones I inherited from other other service providers and administrators that were given the boot for making their epic mistakes.
The happiest people I've encountered are the ones that don't go over the sensible budgets they've made and things are running smoothly. They didn't spend a lot, their systems are running smoothly and they feel safe that their data is well protected. The customer experience should be your top priority in maintaining small business clients.
I think your number 1 priority should be considering how well you'll recover from a broken piece of equipment or data loss. Failed hard drive? You have a hot spare for your RAID5 array and you've entered appropriate email information in the controller software to contact you. Failed power supply? Well, you don't have a hot swap situation and the client can suffer a few hours of downtime while they wait for you, so you buy a spare power supply and leave it with the client. Deleted files? First order of business should be enabling volume shadow copies so you can quickly recover deleted files or mistakenly changed files. Then make sure you have a reliable backup method that you re-evaluate every once in a while - too many companies rely on a backup method that hasn't worked for ages since nobody checked it.
Preparedness ensures that you don't panic when something serious happens and displaying your preparedness to the client gives them that peace of mind.
Also, don't buy from a small time local company that hasn't been around a while. If you're going to be selling hardware, sign up with Synnex and become an Intel partner to sell their server solutions.
Feel free to PM me if you ever have any questions, I try to stay on top of technologies, new equipment, even new part numbers for equipment (one of my part time jobs involves me refreshing product line components for a company, knowing how they integrate).