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Hardware Thread, Could I use a NAS to replace an ageing server? in Technical; Hi, I have an ageing server (Windows 2003) that is starting to have a few hardware issues and will likely ...
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    Could I use a NAS to replace an ageing server?

    Hi,

    I have an ageing server (Windows 2003) that is starting to have a few hardware issues and will likely soon need replacing, however, could I get away with replacing it with a NAS? My big concern is PERFORMANCE. Here's the current setup:

    - Windows 2003 server with 1gb RAM and 1TB hdd (SCSI)
    - 6 PCs and 2 laptops connected to the network
    - 2 users on the network
    - Security and logging on is not an issue - Each user needs access to each other's files anyway and nothing is private
    - Never any more users than above although 5-6 PCs will be in use at any one time
    - No applications, etc at all served from the server - No Exchange/SQL databases, etc are used or ever likely to be
    - Server currently used just for file storage
    - Backups daily to 3x attached USB drives
    - DHCP provided by server
    - Cloud services not suitable, as it's in a rural location with VERY POOR internet access

    My big concern is going for NAS is what to go for, as its very important to me to get same or better performance when loading files from over the network - I don't want it to grind to a halt if both users happen to open big files at the same time. Both users always have Outlook open (with approx. 2GB mailboxes) - These would need to be stored on the NAS and obviously open the whole time. As mentioned, security is not an issue internally and no group polices are used.

    Very important that we can make regular and reliable backups - What do you suggest.

    Any thoughts???? Should we go for a NAS or look to replace the server?

    Thanks.

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    A NAS or a microserver should do fine. A nice QNAP or Synology four bay NAS with dual gig Ethernet will be way faster, can offer out storage via smb/cifs, run DHCP and even a host of other things like a wiki server via apps for it.

    A microserver would be the other option using Windows server but it does not sound like you need the featureset.

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    Sounds ideal, Synack.... Any thoughts on backups and how this should be acheived?

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    Norphy's Avatar
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    I know that you say that cloud services are not suitable but I still think it may be worth considering the low-end Office365 (or a Google or other service) subscription if only for your email. Putting PST files onto network drives is not a recommended or supported solution, especially ones that size. At least with a cloud email service like Office 365, your emails stay on the server but can still be accessed offline if you connect Outlook to it and have it cache your mailbox. Using a service like that makes it much less likely that you'll lose your email.

    As for backing up your NAS, what do you want to back up to? It may just be easiest to buy another NAS and have it replicate between the two.

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    As above, you can either back up to another NAS or continue using the external USB drives, both NAS units come with software and USB ports that allow you to replicate off the NAS onto an external driver or another NAS as already stated.

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    abillybob's Avatar
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    I wouldn't personally use a NAS a lot of them come with Intel Atom Processors which cannot keep up but that my opinion, I've never put it into practice but then again I wouldn't want to risk it. I would use a HP Microserver preferably the Gen8 it's a brilliant little machine this will keep the network going and at the same time give you a bit of room for expandability if that was to ever occur! We will be running our Smoothwall on one of these bad boys very soon!

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    Norphy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abillybob View Post
    I wouldn't personally use a NAS a lot of them come with Intel Atom Processors which cannot keep up but that my opinion, I've never put it into practice but then again I wouldn't want to risk it.
    An Atom CPU is more than adequate for light NAS duty, especially if there's only a half dozen users using the thing. This isn't going to be a SQL server or a domain controller or serving hundreds of users at once. In addition, the majority of NAS boxes out there use custom CPUs based on MIPS or ARM rather than Atom.

    Quote Originally Posted by abillybob View Post
    I would use a HP Microserver preferably the Gen8 it's a brilliant little machine this will keep the network going and at the same time give you a bit of room for expandability if that was to ever occur! We will be running our Smoothwall on one of these bad boys very soon!
    Ah, a server which uses a Pentium or Celeron CPU. Both of which are low end CPUs and not significantly more powerful than a modern Atom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abillybob View Post
    I wouldn't personally use a NAS a lot of them come with Intel Atom Processors which cannot keep up but that my opinion
    There are NASs with Celerons now.

    www.anandtech.com/show/8192/qnap-tsx51-nas-series-intel-quick-sync-gets-its-killer-app


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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Argh, way to make it suck down power for no good reason, if it is just doing file shareing an Atom will smash the task, they are not that bad, the first gen mobile ones were a bit flimbsy but the embedded variations have always been alright. The new ones are based on the core architecture. I would just use one of the Atom ones as they will be more than fast enough. I run a first gen hyperthreaded dual core atom here as my own little NAS and it will happily movie files over the network at 80MB/s off a single ancient and slow drive which is faster than many old servers I have worked with.
    Last edited by SYNACK; 25th June 2014 at 02:20 PM.

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    Norphy's Avatar
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    According to the article, the Celerons in those things are based on Bay Trail-D so they're effectively the same as Atoms anyway

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    Sorry I should have been more clear The reason I was mainly saying to buy the HP Microserver is because they're more upgradable so he'll het more bang for his buck, the CPU is upgradable and will support an i7 if needs be, normally when you buy NAS's with an atom processor they're fixed to the motherboard and if ever they are looking to expand financially it would make more sense to buy the HP Server.
    Don't get me wrong Atoms and Celerons are very much a-like it's just I thought for around the same price it would make sense to buy a unit that is upgrable!

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    Norphy's Avatar
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    But again, the CPU power in one of those things is more than good enough for what it's doing. All its ever going to do is serve files. There's no point in thinking "Oh, I may want to upgrade the CPU in this in the future" because you're never going to. It's not a server on your network, it's an appliance. The only upgrade you're ever going to want to do on a NAS is to upgrade the amount of storage that it holds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norphy View Post
    But again, the CPU power in one of those things is more than good enough for what it's doing. All its ever going to do is serve files. There's no point in thinking "Oh, I may want to upgrade the CPU in this in the future" because you're never going to. It's not a server on your network, it's an appliance. The only upgrade you're ever going to want to do on a NAS is to upgrade the amount of storage that it holds.
    Ah, haha my bad I skim read the OP's post. I had it in my head he was going to be using it as a DC for some reason! But at the same time for the same price wouldn't you rather the MicroServer that is possible to upgrade than a NAS that isn't? They both can do the same job as each other just the one is more upgradable and they're the same price?

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    That depends. A NAS is a NAS, it's going to be a NAS out of the box, it's going to be geared towards being a NAS and a NAS only. It will be set up as a NAS out of the box and will be significantly easier to administer as such. There will be no additional cost to get the thing set up and serving files.

    Whereas a MicroServer is a full blown computer. You're going to have to spend time installing and configuring an OS. It's an extra expense in terms of money if you're going to use Windows (Windows license plus CALs), it's an extra expense in terms of time if you're going to use something along the lines of FreeNAS (and of course, time is money). Plus of course there's the extra time and effort you'd have to invest maintaining a server, keeping it up to date etc.

    If at some point you think you may want the box to do something more than serve files and you feel confident enough keeping it maintained, a server may be the better option. If all its ever going to do is serve files and you want something that you can set and forget (as the OP appears to do), the NAS is by far the better option.

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    Oaktech's Avatar
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    I'm loving the EMC lenovo units at the moment - with RSync to duplicate between themselves with no interference from you!



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