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Small Business Network Setup (Part 2)

Your Windows Server

Picking up from where we left of in Part 1, you’ve got your new office, wired it up with ethernet, installed a killer firewall and wireless network. Now it’s time to buy the server. We are going to assume you will be using this server to hold and secure files, run your own email server, manage your printers and share your accounting application between several users. If you have some serious database apps or the need to store massive amounts of data then you may need more than what we are suggesting here today. The important qualities of a server are the speed and number of processors, the amount of memory and the size and type of hard drive storage. Most servers have options for multiple processors. For some small businesses a single processor server is enough but if you’re going to be hosting your own email and have any plans for growth at all I suggest getting a dual socket server. Memory is another expense where it is best to get as much as you can reasonably afford in your server. For our scenario I recommend 8 gigs of RAM or more. The next issue is disk space, an issue which is more complicated that it seems at first glance. Yes you want a lot of disk space and big hard drives, but you also want your hard drives setup in a way that protects your data.

RAID and You

So let’s talk about RAID. Raid is an acronym that stands for REDUNDANT ARRAY of INDIVIDUAL DISKS. In a nutshell the server can take more than one hard drive and assemble them in a single logical drive so that it appears to your server that it’s a single drive but in actuality its multiple hard drives storing your data in multiple locations. It does this so that if any single hard drive physically fails, you do not lose data. RAID, along with a good backup policy, ensures that your valuable company information is safe in the event of catastrophe. There are several levels of RAID. You will see things like RAID 1 or RAID 0 or RAID 5 or even RAID 10. These are all different setups for the multiple hard drives and each has its own level of speed, and safety. For our purposes the most common and useful RAID is level 5. This level requires at least three hard disks where you can afford to lose one of those disks completely without losing any data or even any downtime on the server if it fails. For a company our size RAID 5 with three hard drives is a good setup. The speed of your hard drives are another consideration before we even start talking about how big your hard drives will need to be. There are different types of disks and different speeds as well. Currently there are 2 major types of server hard drives, SAS and SATA. To keep it simple, SAS drives are faster and more expensive while SATA drives are more like the hard drives in your personal computers. I would recommend SATA for our current application, you get more bang for your buck and you will not need the added performance that SAS drives offer. SATA drives typically can be purchased with varying speeds. For a layman, the speed of a hard drive can best be estimated by the RPM rating. A RPM of 5400 is the slowest you can usually find in a SATA drive with most being around 7200 RPM and for an extra price, 10000 or higher RPM can be acquired. As it suggests, the faster the hard drive can spin the faster it can read and write data. For a small business server, an Array of three 7200 RPM SATA hard drives is a good compromise of speed, cost, and safety. Now we finally get to how much disk space. Currently SATA hard drives can be purchased anywhere from 250 Gigabyte to 2 Terabyte. I like to find the best bang for my buck as far as cost goes. For our purposes I’d recommend 1 Terabyte drives. So with 3 Terabytes of hard drives, that gives me 3 Terabytes of disk right? Man that’s a lot. But wait, all that RAID business has a price, and its price is in total usable disk space. In order to protect your data a certain amount of overhead is required. For example 3, 1 terabyte hard drives in a RAID 5 array will give you only 2 terabytes of usable disk space. You take about a 1/3 hit when you use RAID 5 to protect your data. Now you have a server, Dual Processor, 8 gigs of RAM and 2 terabyte in a RAID 5. What’s next? Tomorrow we talk about the Evil Empire and what we need from it. Microsoft.

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