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General Chat Thread, Server Advice in General; Hey all, Firstly - the server in question isn't for work/school use, it's for home use only. I'm looking for ...
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    azrael78's Avatar
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    Smile Server Advice

    Hey all,

    Firstly - the server in question isn't for work/school use, it's for home use only.

    I'm looking for a reasonably priced server to replace my ageing P4 server (that is slowly giving up the ghost).

    I'm not overly fussed about brands but I do have a few specifics - DualCore/QuadCore capable, obviously the faster the better - SATA and SATA-RAID (must be able to support RAID-5).

    Aside from that, I don't really need much else in a server - so I guess my question is - is it worth looking at and investing in a 'proper' server (server hardware) or is it worth simply picking up a generic desktop PC with the basic specs and then souping it up?

    The end 'server' needs to run Server 2008, which in turn may host some VMs purely for testing, it's not production and it's daily load would vary - it's primary role would be a file server, nothing more.

    So what do you guys think? I'm taken with the HP ProLiant server offer but the onboard RAID only supports RAID 0 or 1.

    (Why RAID-5 in a home server? I want the redundancy factor and I don't mind paying a little extra to get it)

    Thoughts?

    Peace.

    Az

  2. #2

    Michael's Avatar
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    It all really depends what you want to spend. Core 2 Duo or Quad processors are good processors to use, memory (even ECC memory) isn't expensive, but a decent motherboard which supports RAID5 is where it gets a little more expensive.

    Also if you're looking to experiment with servers, 'build your own' it's fun

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    Crispin's Avatar
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    I have a home server, using server 2008 32bit with DNS, DHCP, WDS, file storage etc...

    This is the mobo: GIGABYTE - Product - Motherboard - Overview - GA-MA69VM-S2 (rev. 1.0)

    I run 2gb ram but upgrading to 4gb this weekend in preparation for upgrading to 64bit to try out the hypervisor/terminal services and SMS.

    Unfortunately according to the webby it only uses Raid 0,0+1 but it gives you an idea, and I'm sure theres a relatively similar alternative.

    I run it 24/7 with a decent-ish PSU and not had any problems at all yet. Temperatures are steady at around 30c and hdds at 45c ish.

    I don't run any raid setups as I use Acronis to backup my 1TB internal to an external hdd. Acronis's Agent is attached to the three clients I'm running, so it backs up all my local files on my main PC, but also backs up all my video rips on my media PC downstairs. Its awesome!

    Also, Windows Server Backup comes in quite useful but I may end up running a mirrored pair of HDDs at some point for the C drive.

    I personally would build from scratch, its a lot more satisfying than having a soulless HP sitting next to you. Also, if you wanna save some money I'd go with AMD for the server and stay with Intel for the main PCs you work with. Saves money, and I haven't really noticed any significant downsides to using AMD in my server...
    Last edited by Crispin; 17th March 2009 at 07:26 PM.

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    azrael78's Avatar
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    Well I'm not against building my own, but to be honest I'm not exactly the hardware building type.
    This may well come down to the fact that I have a visual disability.

    Nothing wrong with a 'soulless HP' or anything else, as long as it does the job, yeah I have a budget and it's not exactly huge.

    Looking at around £500 (just the server, no monitor/keyboard etc... - gotta love KVMs).

    I'm sure I'm gonna be told I'm living in cloud cuckoo land but heyho, it's worth having a look anyway.
    I've looked on ebay but I'm a little dubious about that, particularly with PCs/Servers.

    Maybe I'm being paranoid.

    Peace.

    Az

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    Crispin's Avatar
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    Thats a pretty good budget to work with.

    Perhaps something like this then: dabs.com - HP ML115 G5 Opteron 1352 Quad Cor (480570-035)

    Only one HDD included though but there's some good deals on Dabs worth looking at..

  6. Thanks to Crispin from:

    azrael78 (17th March 2009)

  7. #6

    Michael's Avatar
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    That's a good server Crispin has recommended, but by all means shop around. Ebay's fine so long as you pay by Paypal which covers you up to £3,250.00 GBP.

  8. Thanks to Michael from:

    azrael78 (17th March 2009)

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    azrael78's Avatar
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    That is a pretty nice server, particularly for the money, however I was hoping to get something with more internal drive bays.

    Maybe I'm too clouded (as I've worked with lots of Dell Poweredge servers with hot-swap RAID-5 and all that goodness) to really know what I want.

    In all honesty, is RAID-5 worth the money?
    I know about RAID levels and such, my current desktop PC (you could call it a server really, it's high enough spec) - has RAID-5 on it specifically because I do alot with the PC and I'd rather have the redundancy across many drives with the ability to continue working even if 2 drives (out of my 6) fail.

    I know that RAID-0 is mirror and RAID-1 is striping, neither of which really appeals as I don't want to buy huge drives (or many drives) for RAID-0 to be effective and I don't like the whole 'if one drive dies, you lose the lot' thinking with RAID-1.

    I do have a NAS box that I do backups with, everything here is backed up fully on an almost weekly basis. So it's not like I'm not covered in the event of total failure - it's just I'm of the school of thought that I'd rather have belt + braces when it comes to data storage and safekeeping.

    I'm not asking for anyone to 'pick me a server', I just find it helpful to throw ideas at other like-minded IT professionals to get a better idea of things as it's likely someone else will find a better solution or idea that I wouldn't have come up with myself

    Peace.

    Az

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    Michael's Avatar
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    I know that RAID-0 is mirror and RAID-1 is striping, neither of which really appeals as I don't want to buy huge drives (or many drives) for RAID-0 to be effective and I don't like the whole 'if one drive dies, you lose the lot' thinking with RAID-1.
    It's the other way around, but RAID1 is a very cost effective way of adding redundancy. As far as I know, you're the first person I know who has RAID5 on a desktop

    RAID is great for redundancy, but backing up is always recommended. RAID arrays can and do fail, but the probability of data failure is reduced.

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    i get my servers from ict-direct.co.uk, they sometimes do old hp workstations with scsi, theyre nice, great value too.

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    azrael78's Avatar
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    Well my old server PC has finally revealed it's fault - Port 4 of my Promise FastTrak SX4-M RAID card just decided to break itself (I unplug the SATA cable, the port comes out with it).

    Still it does not boot up 100% of the time but I firmly believe the RAID card and/or the disks are at fault, although leaning more toward RAID card (as I can unplug all the disks and it still sits like a lemon).

    This leaves me with not many options...

    1) Try to source another FastTrak SX4-M (Not very likely, even EBay didn't have one...)
    2) Try to get another PCI RAID card that does RAID-5 and restore from backup.
    3) Upgrade the MB, CPU, RAM so I have a PCI-e or PCI-X slot and then get a new RAID card.
    4) Get a new PC.

    Here's what I've got currently on the old 'server' PC...

    CPU: P4 2.4GHz HT
    MB: Asus P4PE
    RAM: 4GB DDR RAM
    HD: 4x Maxtor DiamondMax 22 (250GB SATA S150) (they don't make these anymore)

    The mainboard doesn't support PCI-X or PCI-e in any shape or form.
    The PSU I have is a nice one, it allows me to run a shed-load from it without issue.
    (When I get time I will look it up... it's not easily to hand)

    So, at a bare minimum I'm looking at replacing the MB, RAM, CPU and RAID card.
    I'm guessing that wouldn't be cheap and I'm also guessing that it would probably be a shedload easier (and cheaper) to simply get a new PC... but I'm loathed to throw stuff away.

    Any thoughts now?

    Peace.

    Az

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    Michael's Avatar
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    I think long-term you're going to be much better off getting a new motherboard. The Asus P4PE uses/supports 478pin Intel processors, and all new mainstream desktop processors use 775pin, so it's completely different. The pins are actually on the motherboard and not the CPU itself unlike 478pin and the first Pentium 4 generation - 423pin.

    DDR is getting pretty old now, but fortunately DDR2 has matured and can be purchased in larger capacities and most likely cheaper than the DDR equivalents.

    This leaves the hard drives which you can (with no problems) use in your next system.

    The only other thing you may need to replace/upgrade is the power supply, as all new motherboards use a 24pin ATX. You can buy 20 to 24pin adapters, but it's better to replace the PSU altogether.

  14. Thanks to Michael from:

    azrael78 (18th March 2009)

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azrael78 View Post
    So, at a bare minimum I'm looking at replacing the MB, RAM, CPU and RAID card.
    Could just get a £200 MB/RAM/CPU all-in-one special off eBay, keep your harddrives, case and PSU, then install Linux on the server and use that to do RAID 5.

    --
    David Hicks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael View Post
    The only other thing you may need to replace/upgrade is the power supply, as all new motherboards use a 24pin ATX. You can buy 20 to 24pin adapters, but it's better to replace the PSU altogether.
    Well just to be on the safe side, I've taken the hard drives out and am running seatools on them just to double-check whether they are fit for use or are starting to go bad.

    As for the power supply issue - how would I know what kind of connector my PSU has? I don't want to replace the existing PSU as it works and works well.

    I'm guessing it would be as simple as unplugging the ATX connector on the mainboard and simply counting the pins there?

    @dhicks: I didn't think about putting Linux on there to be quite honest with you. However I'd personally prefer hardware RAID as opposed to software, not that I'm anti-linux tho

    Edit: The PSU is an FSP FX700-GLN, it's a 700W PSU, ATX v2.0/ATX v2.01. It says on a review website that it has 20+4 ATX connector. Which to me suggests I may not need a converter. It's got enough bits and pieces on the thing (connectors-wise) that I should have no issues - unfortunately they don't seem to sell it anymore and I'm aiming to keep costs down - particularly if existing hardware works.
    Last edited by azrael78; 18th March 2009 at 08:59 AM.

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    Michael's Avatar
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    Edit: The PSU is an FSP FX700-GLN, it's a 700W PSU, ATX v2.0/ATX v2.01. It says on a review website that it has 20+4 ATX connector. Which to me suggests I may not need a converter.
    That's fine, absolutely no need to replace it at all

  18. Thanks to Michael from:

    azrael78 (18th March 2009)

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    azrael78's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael View Post
    That's fine, absolutely no need to replace it at all
    Didn't think so but appreciate the reassurance there Michael

    I'm trying to test the server HDs at the moment (I don't have a PC with onboard SATA except for my workstation and I'm not gonna take it apart as it works perfectly).

    I'm using a USB to SATA converter - A standard XP SP3 install (on a laptop) can happily see drive 4, gives me it's serial # etc... but it can't see the other 3 drives, yet they are all part of a RAID array.

    Is this standard behaviour? What worries me is that SeaTools can't even test the other drives as it can't 'see' them.

    Any recommendations on disk-testing software that would work fine with USB to SATA?

    Peace.

    Az

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