[thelist] should we get a server...?

Kristian Rink kristian at zimmer428.net
Fri Jan 28 02:37:09 CST 2005

Hi Justin;

On Fri, 28 Jan 2005 19:01:56 +1100
"Justin Zachan Mgmt" <justin at jazzmanagement.com.au> wrote:

> The central MAC is worked on regularly and used as the file server.
> The others network up to it via the router. As for storage...probably
> 200gb would be ideal.

I would go for a small server, then, to ensure a few things which seem
to be crucial to me:

- Choose a good hardware and software technology.

Speaking about software, when it comes to servers I usually recommend
some sort of Unix (GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, or Xserve might do as well). This
will give you a good amount of stability and, if using Linux or *BSD,
also prevent you from burning money for buying server licenses. 

Speaking about hardware, you should not go for "bleeding edge" stuff but
rather choose something which has been around for quite some time. If
you choose Linux or FreeBSD, for your working environment a Pentium
II/III class system will do pretty well (as an example, I am running a
PII-450, 128MB RAM and 80 GB of SCSI disk RAID as local IMAP/SMTP mail
host for a midsized enterprise to carry > 1000 mostly huge mails per
day). If you want to spend some more money for that machine, spend it on
RAM. ;) And get yourself some good network connectivity. Intel NICs
generally are a good choice, and (though a little more expensive),
specialized server NICs will be quite beneficial to your server overall

- Build a reliable hard drive subsystem. 

If you're able to burn a good amount of money for that, try to get SCSI
disks and a good RAID  controller and build yourself a RAID-5 array;
this will give you a good level of safety. For example, one of our
production servers is running an intel SRCU32 based RAID controller and
four 147 GB SCSI drives attached to it and configured as a level 5 array
(one hot spare) which ends up with around 400 GB storage capacity. This
works but is expensive.

You can save lots of money, though, by going with IDE drives running in
an external IDE/SCSI subsystem. You still will need to have a SCSI
controller in your server since those boxes are accessed like SCSI disks
but in fact they are, like, embedded systems running RAID on top of lots
of IDE drives. This is good because SCSI drives still are pretty
expensive and limited while talking about maximal storage capacity; IDE
is of advantage in this situation.

The easiest way is to get an internal IDE/RAID controller but looking at
my experiences, I would discourage doing so. There are a couple of
reliable IDE RAID devices out there (3ware controllers are pretty good),
but most of the IDE drives tend to suck while under permanent load. It
might be a good (read: inexpensive) starting point for building a
server, though. If doing so, anyhow, be sure to choose a good RAID leve
(for security, I'd recommend RAID-1 - mirroring, a waste of space but a
good bet to protect your data, or RAID-5 - also a good choice for
safety, but needs at least three drives).

- Think about backup.

Talking about 200g, probably that's a point where thinking about how to
actually protect those data from being lost in a drive crash or anything
the like might be a good idea. Tapes, though, and the drives you will
need for them are an expensive thing to buy; a good "budget" solution to
get started usually is, say, getting yourself an external hard disk
drive of the appropriate size and back up all your data to that drive.
Talking about backup usually is rather difficult since it ends up
spending quite amounts of money for something you hopefully never need;
doing a backup to a hard drive with having the "real" data stored on a
reliable hard disk subsystem is at least a starting point...


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