Setting up a new business’ technical infrastructure includes a lot of hardware. I like to start off with figuring out the server needs.
Now that we know more about the customer’s needs, I feel confident that I can more appropriately recommend hardware and software for the client to purchase.
This article will be one of many focused on finding the right hardware for the client’s needs; specifically the server. Hopefully this will help you with your next server project.
1. Do We Need a Server?
One of the first things I like to decide on is whether or not the client should have a server.
A server can mean different things to different people. The way I look at a server (at least in this scenario) is that it’s a very dependable piece of hardware that is designed to run all day, every day for many years.
In almost every business (large or small), I typically recommend at least one server. Servers are designed with quality components that hold up better in the long-run than the average desktop computer.
Not only are the components of a server of higher quality, they are also designed to easily setup different types of redundancy. More on this later.
So the question remains:
Do we need a server?
If you haven’t figured out what my answer is yet, it is “yes”.
2. Server Hardware
Now that we decided we do want a server, what type of specs are we going to look at?
Physical Server Size
Since I already met with the customer and walked with them around their office, we have determined exactly where the server closet is going to be. This is a well-ventilated closet measuring about 5′ x 4′. It has a locked door, proper AC power to handle whatever we need to place in this closet, and ceiling tile access for all network cable runs (more on networking later in the series).
At this point, I am thinking about a standard full-sized tower server (not rack mounted) that will sit on a nice shelf that was already in the closet. The shelf is up off the floor (to keep dust levels down).
The reason I don’t want to rack mount this server is because for our networking rack, I want to look at a wall-mounted version for our patch panel, switches, router, etc… I don’t think the wall-mounted rack will not support the weight of the server.
At the very minimum, running 24/7 means it needs to have redundancy with the following:
To me, redundant storage means we need to setup some form of a RAID (or multiple RAIDs depending on the preferred configuration).
For this small business, single server configuration, I am thinking of keeping things simple with either a RAID 1 or RAID 5.
In more complex setups (or when the server is going to be holding a lot more roles), I would setup one RAID 1 with 2 drives for the operating system, then three or more drives in a RAID 5 configuration for storage and an additional hot spare. I typically use this setup for larger business’ but since this server is for our current fictitious small business, price for the server needs to remain as low as possible.
But for this scenario, I’m leaning towards a RAID 1 with a hot spare or RAID 5 with a hot spare. Haven’t fully decided yet.
To summarize our storage, this is what I decided we need to have:
- Minimum of four drive slots
- At least three drives in RAID 5 or two drives in RAID 1
- One drive as a spare (hot spare if possible)
Servers almost always have a setup where you can order them with two power supplies for redundancy.
I have noticed a lot of places I have worked at (whether it was for a company or as side jobs), a lot of the servers did not have redundant power supplies. They had the open slot for one, but were not ordered with the actual second power supply for whatever reason.
In my quote to the customer, I will most definitely include the second power supply. Sure it will increase the price of the server, but we should be able to clearly explain the benefits of having this second power supply and convince the customer it would be a good investment.
Also it’s important to note that where you plug in each power supply is important. Since this is such a small business, we are not going to have the luxury of plugging in the two power supplies into different AC outlets on different breakers. We are also not planning on ordering two different UPS devices so both will plug into the same UPS for now.
To summarize our power supply needs, here is what I decided:
- Two power supplies
We only need a single CPU for this particular server. Possibly the next server we put into production here at this location will have 2 CPUs.
Since this is going to be our Domain Controller with a couple simple server roles, it doesn’t have to be a very powerful setup.
At the minimum, I feel we can get away with 8 GB of RAM to start off with (with the option to increase if needed in the future).
I want a minimum of a couple USB 3.0 ports for our backup drives to plug into.
2.5 Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
We can’t forget about a UPS for our brand new server.
UPS devices not only protect the plugged-in devices from unsafe voltage levels, they also provide a limited runtime in the event of a power-failure.
I am going to look at the APC Back-UPS Pro line for this configuration.
After briefly researching a few models, I have decided to go with the APC Power-Saving Back-UPS Pro 1000.
The main thing I want to plug into this UPS is the two power supplies from the server, as well as an LCD monitor (which will be powered off unless work is being performed at the console of the server).
3. Software (Operating System)
We need to decide on what operating system will run this new server. Because this Credit Union has their own “Bank” software company they work with, that company will be providing this branch with all of the hardware / software equipment and support needed.
We are dealing with everything other than their bank software. This allows us to easily decide that we are wanting to run a version of Windows Server for our hardware.
Now, what version of Windows Server? I already had decided in my head that I am going to have the latest and greatest supported version. At the time of this writing, that is going to be Windows Server 2012 R2.
Lastly, we need to figure out which version of Server 2012. Below are the current version options:
To see the differences, check out the version comparison chart.
Personally, I have never messed with the Essentials or Foundation versions. My first thought on this setup was for Standard, but as I researched a bit, I think we are going to give Essentials a try.
3.1 Backup / Data Recovery
I want to see what Windows Server 2012 R2 has to offer when it comes to data recovery.
If this was going to be a much larger environment, I would look at a couple third party options such as Unitrends
I am not actually planning on purchasing a physical server for this series (If money wasn’t an issue, I would definitely buy everything for this tutorial).
This was just a sample of my process when in a similar situation. I would probably look at Dell first and maybe HP.
Question for You
Did I miss anything here? Don’t be shy… let me know so we can help as many people as possible with any future server setup tasks!