[nSLUG] Hardware advice

Donald Teed dteed at artistic.ca
Fri Jan 16 12:06:36 AST 2004

If there are no plans to make this server do anything public,
I imagine it is likely to have very light use.  I'm imagining
you have 2 to 4 users at a Church office.

In a case like this, a real "Server" as the term is used
with IBM, et. el. will be overkill and might simply cost too much.
You can find a lower end server from IBM or Dell starting at
about $1000, but then memory costs roughly $700 for 1GB
while consumer level hardware is $300 to $400 for 1 Gig.

Also consider if there are any hardware failures you
probably won't find server level components available locally.
Hardware maintenance contract or buying the components
when they fail, from vendors like IBM is costly in
server-land marketplace.

To make an analogy with vehicles, you clearly want something more
than a four door car, but you don't need as much as a 18 wheeler
or straight body truck.  Something like a panel van or Toyota Tundra
truck would do the job.

You could get a low end server machine from one of
the big players like Dell and IBM, and come in just
under your budget, but realize that any failures will
likely see you going back to them for replacements which
can be costly and involve some downtime.

On the other hand, if you built a machine with retail
components you select yourself, it will likely come in
cheaper and it will include components that can be
replaced cheaply if they fail.  You might even be
able to afford to buy a spare motherboard and CPU now
and avoid a day or three of downtime.  If you go this way,
be selective in the clone equipment.  Don't buy
a system from a local clone maker unless yours
is way above the average store in component quality
selection and availability.  Ditto for what I've
seen from Staples and Future shop.  You probably know
that already.   Check out ncix.com if you have not
heard of them before.

A case with lots of cooling fans, a good brand power supply,
a good brand motherboard, an Intel chipset mobo (I like Asus),
and cooling fans for hard drives.  Setting up IDE hard drives
with RAID 1 or 5 and one or two hot spares would be a good idea.
Hard drives are unreliable and yet they harm us more than any
other type of component failure.  I believe heat is related
to some of the failures in the drive statistics, but
other than this, one should assume they are like Kleenex
and just replace the (relatively) cheap things as needed.
Look into anything you can do to blow air past the hard drives.
If the server is used in an area with people traffic, carpet,
etc., make sure you open it up and clean fans, components and
inside the power supply with canned air once in awhile.

The used server idea is also a good suggestion, except
for the question of where do you go for replacement parts?
Buy two of everything I guess.

--Donald Teed

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