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Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:35 am

Hello gentlemen of infinite knowledge and expertise, I humbly request an audience if I may.. (bows head and does the silly hand gesture)

I would like to build a small server for my business to mostly act as a back up for all of my information, I have a VPN network, with a 16 port ehternet switch and wireless netgear N750 router. I plan to hardwire the computer to the hub and have all systems do an automatic back up to this PC,most of the files are text based. What would you recomend? I am completely in the dark on this one, I have built many pc's but have never ventured into a server.

Thank you for your time gentlemen.
Grand Admiral Gerbil
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:52 am

Sounds like you just need a NAS. You can build your own and use FreeNAS (I have no experience with this) or you can just buy a NAS device and prices for those start pretty low.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:07 am

Thanks this looks like a good option.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:21 am

If this is critical business data, there are a few additional things you should consider:

1. A way to periodically (at least weekly) take a copy of all of the data off-site, to guard against disasters (nearby lightning strike that takes out all of your systems, fire, theft, vandalism, etc.)

2. Power protection (UPS) for the server to ride out short outages and ensure clean shutdown in the event of an extended outage.

3. RAID-1 for the disks, to protect against downtime and data loss in the event of a disk drive failure.

4. ECC RAM (and a platform that properly supports ECC), to improve reliability and data integrity of the server by correcting any single-bit DRAM errors which may occur.

#1 is essential IMO; #2-4 are optional depending on your needs and budget.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:35 am

It may go against the grain at an enthusiast site and it may even be above your budget but I would strongly urge you to buy a server (or in this case, as flip-mode says, a NAS may be a better fit) from an OEM such as Dell or HP rather than build one yourself. That way, if it goes wrong you're going to have a warranty and support on the thing and a friendly voice on the other end of the phone if you have trouble. Yes, you may get a three year warranty on the individual parts if you build it yourself but believe me, two years down the line the ability to go back to the fool you bought it from instead of being messed about by a retailer and told to go to the manufacturer instead is invaluable, especially for a business machine. The other reason I'd do it is because pre-built servers are generally built better too, they will have cases designed specifically for the purpose rather than a generic ATX case.

I'd have no hesitation in saying "build it yourself" if it was for personal use but for business, a pre-build is essential imo.

TL;DR Buy a Dell.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 12:01 pm

Think about how much data you're going to be storing, and how much you want to mess with the NAS. NAS devices are the easiest to setup and keep running, but full blown servers are more flexible.

Netgear and Qnap make nice NAS devices with lots of bays.

We use for servers at my job, and FreeNAS would be good a operating systems.

File servers don't need a lot of horsepower, especially if you aren't going to be hitting it that hard, so don't fell bad about going uniproc since modern procs are going to have more then one core. AMD Opterons are a good solution for the money, since single thread performance doesn't matter as much.

NAS boxes do like RAM, especially if they are Linux/BSD based, so I'd try to budget for at least 16GB, based on light usage. You might be able to get away with 8GB if you're network is small enough and if you're not going to be using ZFS.

RAID cards and addin NICs are nice to have. I like Areca RAID cards, and Intel server NICs. If you can't afford a hardware RAID card, I would just use software RAID in the OS and not mess with the motherboard pseudo RAID. Nothing will make you red out quicker then a crappy RAID card.

For motherboards, I like Tyan. Some people like Asus; it's personal preference.

Mirrored SSDs for the OS and enterprise SATA drives would be ideal, but you could just do enterprise SATA drives.

Those are enough notes from me.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:46 pm

A good backup strategy allows you to:

1. Keep copies of your data offsite;
2. Keep multiple versions of your data;
3. Backup reliably (ie. it actually backs up what it's supposed to, when it's supposed to)

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. For example, you might back up everything to a single server and than back that server up to an external device that you take with you at night. Or; you might have multiple external devices that you rotate. A tape drive is another simple way of doing this.

The point is, if you're going to do it right it's going to involve more than just buying a server or a NAS. It might end up being cheaper (and easier) to use an online service like Mozy or Carbonite.
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:15 pm

All good advice above. Let me include a software piece worth looking into (automated backups)

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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:23 pm

Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 essentials will do automatic back ups and give you some room to grow. it might be overkill for right now but you'll save money in the long run when your company grows
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 2:44 pm

How are you backing up the client machines? Are you using software or scripts or rsync or ... ? Is there value in having image backups of the client computers as well as the data? It sounds like you're in need of a backup server/storage depot-ish solution. A NAS would be the simplest way to get a chunk of network accessible storage, but may not offer much flexibility or expand-ability in the future.

Here at the office we have a Dell server for holding primary data (with nightly backup, RAID drives, on a UPS and has ECC ram - i guess that checks all JBI's boxes nicely) that backs up using an external hard drive that I rotate offsite. However, that is the last place I would go to for a backup and only in the case that my other options are exhausted because my other options are (1) better and (2) quicker. A few years ago I bought an Acer Home server that uses an Atom processor (for low power usage, looks like this ... 6859321013) with 4 drive bays and WHS installed. Despite all the computers being on a domain, I had no problem installing the WHS connector on them and backing everything up from every client nightly. I was also able to backup the server with no drama and have used the restore functionality multiple times with success. I also use Crashplan on the server and the backup server (as a target) as well as subscribing to Crashplan central for data backup hourly.

So, to recap, data is backed up nightly to external drive (includes server drive image for restore), nightly with WHS for all data and drive images for all machines, and Crashplan hourly and nightly for all data backed up locally and to the cloud.

While the acer machine I use no longer appears to be available, this HP ... 6859107052 seems like a good alternative and WHS2011 ... 6832416443, while not possessing Drive extender, can easily backup up a bunch of machines to a no-longer-astronomically-expensive 1TB or larger drive. ... 6822152245

Any way you go, make sure your backup is robust and as easy to manage as possible, because if it's not, you won't want to do it (I used to hate doing the tape backups at my last job) and there's nothing worse than a backup scheme that doesn't actually protect your important data
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Re: Need help building a small business sever.

Tue Apr 03, 2012 4:26 pm

A NAS you should be able to get up and running on your own (and JBI is right, offsite backup is key), and it sounds like that may be all you need right now. If you want to go with a full Windows server of some flavor, you should probably start budgeting for it, since that'll be a pretty big expense and complicated to set up (you'll likely want some outside help with that to make sure it's all done right).

There are also lots of cloud backup solutions that are quite good now, and for a small place like yours might work well and be a good fit. It accomplishes the backup, as well as taking care of the offsite problem. I've had experience with and they're quite good.

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