[nSLUG] Hardware advice

Dop Ganger nslug at fop.ns.ca
Fri Jan 16 09:06:46 AST 2004

On Thu, 15 Jan 2004, Rick Wightman wrote:

> In a couple of months I will have about $2500 to construct a small
> office server for my church which could be given a lifespan of 5+ yrs.
> I'm looking at 1 boot + 2 mirrored drives + DVD burner (+/-R I don't
> know yet) as archivable backup. It will, of course, be running some
> flavour of Linux. What services? The current server, a Sparc10 in an
> identical configuration (8mm tape instead of DVD), supplies DHCP, BIND,
> NTP, SMB, Apache, mySQL, SSH and likely a few others I've forgotten.
> I'm looking for the groups suggestions/experiences around motherboard
> and CPU combinations and hard drive manufacturers/series for this
> application. Thoughts on price/performance/reliability for SCSI, ATA
> and series ATA are also appreciated, recalling that there was some
> discussion about some of this a while back, and you may consider it
> off-topic.

In terms of motherboard and CPU, I'd recommend a serverworks board with
dual P4 or Xeons; dual because if one burns out you can back off to single
cpu, and Intel because if the fan burns out the chip will step down in
speed. Dual Athlons still have problems, and I believe it's only the
high-end Athlons that support thermal protection.

In terms of drives, all drives right now suck. For a small office, you may
as well go with IDE, but make sure it's RAID; I'd recommend the WD EJB
drives with 2 drives in a RAID1 configuration with 1 extra drive as a hot

Add extra fans in (bay coolers, case fans, backplane fans) so that when
(not if) one of the fans chokes it's not going to kill everything.

If all this exceeds your budget (as it probably will), look at a couple of
cheap 2nd hand machines running in a cluster using heartbeat, DRBD for
file sharing, mysql with master/slave replication, and app level support
where possibly (eg, dhcp relay).

Basically, build yourself a system that you expect will fail, and will
degrade gracefully. You're not going to be able to cope with *every*
eventuality (two machines on a separate power grid with a fibre optic
network between them to get around lightning strike problems on a $2500
budget isn't going to happen) but you can certainly cope with the most
common issues (fan failure and drive failure are the most common ones I

Cheers... Dop.

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