I was told that the server will be for:
- AutoCAD files that he will like to access from home to continue work on.
- Excel and Word files (for the regular business reasons)
- Accessing two printers (one that is capable of sheets as large as 11x17, and an actual plotter capable of plots up to 36x48 sized sheets) from himself and his employee.
None of the low priced servers that I am looking at online have a redundant power supply, or have that much memory either.
Why does your employer's requirements sound so eerily similar to an engineering company i worked with before? Scary. Anyway Linux would be to appropriate choice here if it wasn't for one thing.... AUTOCAD. AUTOCAD has a check in/check-out feature that can only be used (from what I remember) on Windows. However if he's not using that remote license server and is using stand alone licenses then you won't need it. If that's not the case then you'll be paying for Windows. Sorry to say that, but it's the best way to go for this situation when dealing with the AUTOCAD license server.
Option #1 (NO AUTOCAD LICENSE SERVER) DIY Linux Server:
[*]Lots of storage
[*]Flexibility with VM's
[*]Possible AUTOCAD license server problems.
[*]No real technical support
LOW COST + Lots of storage. You'll need space and lots of it when dealing with AC files and tiff images. I would go RAID 6 with hotswap spare done on a good RAID controller for your share space with RAID1 for your OS. I'd go with and Adaptec Card with 2 mini-SAS 8087's. It will allow you to stand up your RAID 6 with the hot spare + your RAID1 OS and you'll have expansion options later if you need them. You'll even be able to stand up Windows on this server if you need to in KVM and your licenses will be volume/ or not associated to the hardware (which is very important if you end up virtualizing) If your plotter is good...something like a KIP plotter you'll have linux drivers for it. However, you've got so few users forgo the print server for now. I'm not going to lie if you've never used Linux before there WILL be a learning curve. However, the money saved is substantial.
Option#2 (AUTOCAD LICENSE SERVER) OEM Server WIN Server 2008 (Most likely RAID5):
[*]OEM Technical Support
[*]It's Windows so you should be pretty familiar with it.
[*]Everyone supports it.
[*]Not as much storage for the money
This option will be more expensive. However, your learning curve will probably be minor and it will work with your license server now if you have one + you've got OEM technical support. The downside is that if money is a concern you'll be space limited. The pricing of storage space through an OEM like dell sky rockets when you start adding drives AND this is a biggie... ALL licenses are tied to the hardware and you'll need CALS for every user you have now and in the future.
This is going to depend on your comfort zone and knowledge.