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Old 10-31-2010, 03:39 PM   #1
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Default Server Build Advice

New guy here, not only to this forum but in many respects. I've now had it up to here with rebuilding my home PC's and recovering files off of degraded drives. I think I have reached that point where I could use a domain controller at home and a backup server. I have an idea where I want to start but don't know a lot about current hardware options and available technology. Last build for me was back in 2004 I believe. Without writing a book here, I'll try and fill you in on what I have in my current environment and what I think I need and then lastly what I already have. Please chime in if you think you can push me in the right direction. I hate putting a plan together just to find out a while later that there is something I want to do but have hit a show stopper. Keep in mind that I consider myself a newbie that doesn't want to break the bank. If what I want to do puts me well over $1000 then I need to face it, accept it and move onto something that is attainable. If you can help answer that question, please read on.

Primary needs are as follows in the order I think they rank:
1) Backup server
Need HDD space to backup 4 PC's plus what will be 2 servers to start (DC and Backup). Soon to have two more PC's for the kids. Most likely Windows 7. Will have to back those up routinely for sure. I'm also going to be doing a lot of testing on a few PC's so it would be nice to store several images of PC's in various states/configurations. I know this can be done with VMware but I prefer the real thing if possible.

2) File server
Need HDD space for all of my photos, docs, movies, MP3's, eBooks, etc. Currently I have only filled up two 500GB hard drives. Needing room to grow at the moment.

3) FTP server
I have 10Mb download and 10Mb upload ISP service to the house now so I would like to offer friends and family a place on the internet that they can use as temp storage or a place to swap stuff. I have 6 people in mind that would probably use it from time to time and they are spread out all over the country. Low priority though.

4) DVR
In the far and distant future, I am toying with the idea of setting up 2-5 security cameras around the house to record outside video activity. It would be nice to compliment the alarm system. So I would need a couple expansion slots for this. Just a dumb idea at this point though. I'm guessing it would be best for this role to reside on it's own dedicated server. Anyone else been there done that?

A little about my environment:
I have 2 desktops and 2 laptops right now all running Windows XP. I'm thinking it would be best to run Windows Server 2003 since I'm very familiar with it but I'm not ruling out Linux. Don't know if it's even an option in my case. Don't know anything about Linux but am willing to learn if it makes sense. Time is something I have a little of to spare but money is something I hate throwing away as you probably have already concluded.

I would really like the backup server to be snappy as far as backups are concerned and accessing files. I plan on using a full frame backup software like Acronis to create a complete image of every PC at home on a weekly basis. I have had to deal with three viruses over the past four years or so and I'm sick of trying to clean up after them and then ending up re-installing the OS and everything else. I'm very careful but others in the house hold are not and I'm only running the free version of AVG on everything. It sucks but it's got to be better than nothing. I'm going to have to rebuild my primary PC due to the last virus and I want to plan on it being my last time. I want to be able to restore the PC's to yesterday, last week or last month with only a few hours of downtime. All of my PC's are considered to be old. My last build consisted of an Intel P4 3GHz processor on a ASUS P4P800 mobo with 2GB of RAM. So backups may take a couple of hours because of the source hardware and may have to be staggered on different days, not to be writing to the backup server at the same time. Don't know about that.

A little about what I "think" I want:
I would like to tuck the server into my office closet so a tower would be preferable but I could deal with a 4U or 5U case. I really want to be able to "hot swap" a bad drive. My experience has been that it's a matter of when and not if a drive goes bad. Then again I never had a SCSI drive go bad on me. As an aside, is SCSI still the main staple of today's corporate servers? I digress. I planned on using SATA but that's not in stone. I need a stand alone single primary drive on this server with RAID 0+1 or RAID 5 capability. I'm thinking 4 x 1TB drives in RAID 0+1 would get me started or 3 x 1TB in RAID 5. Don't know the true advantages of either as far as performance is concerned. Again, hot swap is really appealing to me. I can open the closet door and take two seconds to look at the server for a red light and hot swap a new drive in it's place when needed. Therefore I think I'm looking for a mobo that can handle a case that has a backplane in it. Does that mean SAS?

I already have "some" spare parts laying around but I think they are only good enough to use for a DC server. I have a PE1400SC with one PIII 866MHz processor and 2GB RAM. All it needs is a new mobo which I should be able to pickup for 50-100 bucks on eBay. I also have a PE700 P4 2.8GHz processor and 2GB of RAM that only needs hard drives. One of these towers will become a domain controller if this backup server turns out to be Windows based.

Here is the only thing I have found so far:
Case and PSU
Supermocro SuperChassis 745TQ-800 http://www.supermicro.com/products/c...C745TQ-800.cfm

Mother Board
Spent hours looking but can't seem to find one that spells out that it works with backplanes, let alone which ones. Don't know enough on that subject. Need a lot of help here. Would like to stay with ASUS, Intel or Gigabyte. Don't think I need dual CPU's, probably will start out with one and leave the second socket empty for now but I like the idea of adding one later.

Don't think I need a XEON class processor but advice here would be great. Don't know about a Core i5 or spending a little extra on a Core i7.

Hard Drives
Need a lot of help here too. Looking for 2-4 TB of main storage. This storage will NOT be backed up hence need HDD's that are optimal for RAID arrays. If that means SCSI, so be it. My main concern is a hot swap replacement arrangement. I don't want to have to pull the server out and take apart the case to replace a bad HDD. I know it's not that much work but we have several Power Edge servers at work and replacing a bad HDD is so easy with a hot swap backplane, it's not even funny.

I know that is not much but we'll have to start there. I would like to hear what everyone thinks about the direction I should be going in first and then we can start to talk about specific hardware details.

So much for not writing a book! Sorry about that. I have already looked over the "New Build Guide" but think my needs fall into more of a server role. Plus I didn't find any other threads that talked about all the things I want to do. Am I correct or am I still out in left field? Any advice would be appreciated, especially if you have done something similar yourself. Thanks.

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Old 10-31-2010, 06:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Server Build Advice

Don't think I need a XEON class processor but advice here would be great. Don't know about a Core i5 or spending a little extra on a Core i7.
Waayyy overkill. Have another look at what you want it to do - then look logically at the resources those tasks need. Dual Xeon server based boards are necessary for some servers yes, but mainly when those servers are being hammered 24/7 by thousands of users! Give the intel atom boards a look. The new ones are completely fanless, have very low power consumption and are more than capable of performing various backup tasks. You can use software RAID on them and build yourself a tidy little server, leaving a slot free for a capture card should you decide to go down that route.

...and the whole thing will easily fit into a tiny chassis.

Word of caution, if you're storing critical stuff on this RAID isn't a replacement for backups. What happens if you get a power surge that takes out the supply and 3/4 of your hard drives? Or the whole box gets kicked by someone by accident and damaged? These things can happen - you may decide it's a risk you can live with, but bear it in mind. I've got a /usr/me/important directory on mine that automatically gets backed up to an external hard drive overnight that's 1TB in size (the folder has a quota just smaller than this so the contents of the directory can always be backed up.) Hopefully I'll never need to use it, but it's always there just in case.

In terms of hot swappable stuff - again how much will you be hammering this box? I'd be surprised if you're really thrashing the thing on a corporate level, and for relatively light use you should expect the drives to last for a fair few years. Obviously have precautions in place in case they don't - but opening up the case to swap a drive shouldn't be too much of an issue if you just have to do it once every 3-4 years!

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Old 10-31-2010, 10:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: Server Build Advice

Yeah, I had a feeling a XEON was overkill. So I will have to tone it down a little. Or maybe a lot. I would like to buy something new though. Mainly because I want it to last a long while before I have to replace it. I like to do things right once as apposed to have to modify things three times to be adequate. My last desktop build from 6 years ago still has respectable performance today. It runs all of my aps today with no problems. I did just add 1GB of RAM this year but we are talking a whole $40. Wooohooo. It might have another 4 years before it's retired. I also have this urge to buy something that's modern and fast. Don't know where I get that from but anyway, that puts me into....... I don't know where. Don't we have to first decide if we are going down the Linux or Windows Home or 2003 Server route first? Heck, wouldn't a P4 3GHz class machine be overkill if you are running Linux as the OS? From what I know about Linux (which is next to nothing) I won't have the time or the patience to tinker with it. Then again if the benefits out way the effort, then I'm all in. I think I know the answer to this but I'll ask just to be certain. For what I want to do with this server and my home network, is Windows or Linux a more appropriate solution keeping in mind my little to no knowledge of Linux at this point? There is a vast difference in hardware requirements between the two isn't there? Isn't this the first question I should be asking or am I going about this the wrong way? Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:09 AM   #4
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Default Re: Server Build Advice

You could get new equipment and it will last you quite a few years. But an older single or dual core should be able to more than manage what you need it to do. My home file server is running an AMD Athlon single core. It's just right for what I need it for (file/printer sharing between my 3 computers). You will have a couple more users and tasks than me, so a more powerful system wouldn't hurt. If you are familiar with Windows Server, I say stick with it.
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