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Solved Best setup for domain server

January 15, 2013 at 10:04:16
Specs: small business server 2003, 2.2 / 8gb

This one is easy, It also doesn't really have a correct or incorrect answer.
My boss came to me and told me to make up a wish list.
first thing on my wish list is new servers. our sbs2003 server is so big, i don't think i could get it to my office by myself, I wouldn't even try.
Here's what i was thinking...
really fast processor, lots of ram and lots of hard drive..
would like raid array for redundancy
i would also like all the servers running virutally.
In theory, i would replace 4 server machines with only 1..
and with the raid array, constantly keeping 2 hard drives mirrored, virtually no down time except for hardware failure.
i have played around with vmware some but don't know if all virtual servers would need seperate network cards or just the one.
i'm just needing suggestions as to what you would want if you could have it..
i really like the idea of virtual machines all inside 1 computer, I would still backup all information off site.. ANY SUGGESTIONS

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#1
January 15, 2013 at 11:33:02

"i really like the idea of virtual machines all inside 1 computer"

You wouldn't if a risk analysis had been done. Remember the old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket?

You should have a nic per VM
You want to max the memory and cpus
Raid array should have a hot spare minimum
OS should be on one mirror set and data on another

Answers are only as good as the information you provide.
How to properly post a question:
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#2
January 15, 2013 at 12:39:17
✔ Best Answer

I'd go for the multiple server solution too - possibly looking at blades. (I've been out of the business for a while now, so I don't know what the status of blades is nowadays.) You don't need superfast processors for servers, IMO. More important is redundancy - power supplies, NICs, disks. I'd go for RAID 5, or something similar, rather than mirroring.

Of course it does depend upon what applications you run on the servers and how heavily those applications are used. I see VMs as more useful when you want to run multiple web servers, each taking not many resources but needing to be insulated from each other.


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#3
January 15, 2013 at 13:47:03

You guys are really good, and fast.. My idea about virtual machines would allow as many or as few servers as i would want. Do a Bare metal Image of them so that in the event of a hardware failure, almost any computer would work. I could also purchase 2 of the exact same computers, or maybe 3.. put the third one away for future needs, maybe strip the drives and ram to use in the others, then if there is a motherboard problem.. just move everything into the spare one.. nothing changes. We have to have at least 1 domain controller and 1 file server. at the moment we have 4 servers.. 2 domain controllers.. one of them is really just a backup for the AD. they are replicating to each other but the second one really isn't being used for anything else.
we've got 2 file servers.. not sure why we have 2 of them when 1 of them would do just as good. our primary server is running almost everything, DNS Server, Exchange Server, SQL, Blackberry server, Apple server, TimeClock time server and i'm sure of more.
when i took this job, the backup domain server was down and after a few days of reading, i had it back up and running, joined the domain and that's really all i've done to it. I have added users to it's ad to see if they were replicating to the other one, they were. The only way i would feel comfortable with just 1 server would be if we had an extra box just in case. The thing i like about the virtual servers is backing up... simple as copying a folder, at least i think.

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#4
January 15, 2013 at 14:16:15

You have to have at least 2 domain controllers, unless you can afford to have the network down for the time it takes to rebuild/repair a server. And believe me, when you have users breathing down your neck asking why they can't work, that can seem like a lifetime. Spread the risk over multiple machines, preferably real machines.

And backing up a VM isn't simply a question of copying a (very large file). There are two reasons for backups. 1. In case of a disaster - you hardly ever actually need to use that backup, particularly if you have a nice redundant setup. 2. For the many times that users delete a file accidently - you need that one all the time. You don't want to restore a 50-100GB file every time someone accidently deletes a two-page document.


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#5
January 15, 2013 at 14:29:19

Ok, You guys have convinced me to go for physical machines.. I like the idea of having a raid 5, two hard drives mirrored.. maybe a total of 4 drives.. 2 smaller ones for the os and 2 large ones for everything else. all on raid so that if one goes down, the other one takes over. have it send me an email telling me when something goes wrong. we just bought 2 brand new 2tb nas drives so our backups should go very smoothly. I've been looking at servers, why are they so expensive.. can't i just get a really good i7 computer, load it up with ram and a raid controller, set my drives up and put windows server 2003 or hopefully 2008 on there, hell, if we're dreaming, server 2012...

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#6
January 15, 2013 at 14:49:28

Servers are expensive because (the good ones anyway) are built to a much higher standard than a normal PC. They are expected to sit there running 24/7 without missing a beat, often in a rather physically restricted environment. (Think racks of 30 or 40 servers - they need to be able to pump the air through them really efficiently to keep cool.)

Ideally they will provide proper hardware RAID with hot-pluggable disks. They may also support hot-swappable PCI cards so that you can, for example, swap out a NIC without having to power the server down. Also, the better ones will have two or three redundant PSUs, again hot-swappable. They might also support two or more physical processors and will have error-correcting memory. Disk and network controllers will be top-quality ones that support the greater throughput demands.

Apart from the extra build quality and features, there's less demand for quality servers than commodity PCs. You expect a server to give you at least 5 years of continuous service; it's a false economy to skimp and save a few dollars.


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#7
January 15, 2013 at 16:24:48

Lot still to learn from some of your statements.

"one of them is really just a backup for the AD. they are replicating to each other but the second one really isn't being used for anything else"

Both server should be global catalog holders and dns servers. The 2nd is not a backup server but is for AD failover as well as you can bring it up as the only DC if the first DC dies by seizing the fsmo roles and engaging the dhcp server. Every DC participates in user and share access authenication. That 2nd dc is busier than you think.

"I like the idea of having a raid 5, two hard drives mirrored.. maybe a total of 4 drives.. 2 smaller ones for the os and 2 large ones for everything else. all on raid so that if one goes down, the other one takes over"

Might want to get a handle on your raid levels. Raid5 uses a minimum of three drives. Two drives mirrored is Raid1. Best raid to use is Raid 10 which is a stripe of mirrored drives which is often confused by internet "experts" with Raid 0+1 which is a mirror of stripped drives.

This means you can have two drives fail in a raid10 [one in each mirror set] and still be functional whereas with a single drive failure in Raid 0+1 you are still functional. Both are one drive failure away from unrecoverable at that point.

Always always plan your raid arrays with hot spare failover drives. They make the difference of coming in on a Sat to replace a drive vs company downtime and posssible data loss.

Server hardware is built to last. I have a Tyan system I built 8 years ago that is still running a Netware 5 server. This is not a area to skimp on.

Answers are only as good as the information you provide.
How to properly post a question:
Sorry no tech support via PM's


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#8
January 15, 2013 at 17:50:05

You'd probably be surprised to find out how little i actually do know.. I was thrown into this job with absolutely NO prior server experience. Before my first day, i had never heard of ACTIVE DIRECTORY. I forgot in an earlier post that i did have the second server as a global catalog server. I'm not sure about the Fsmo roles.. primary server is a Small Business 2003 server, kinda thought other servers could never take the lead roll. like i said, i've got lots to learn but i am a fast learner.. had that secondary domain server up in just a few days. I really helps me when you guys correct some of my statements.. If i don't know i'm thinking wrong, i'll continue to think that way. i thought raid 5 was just 2 drives. didn't know about the hot swaping, had no clue that you could do that.. but i will remember it in the future. I'm not being sarcastic, you guys really do help me and that's why i keep coming back..I'll take all the help i can get.

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#9
January 16, 2013 at 00:01:44

I think you would well advised to consider taking a course on Windows Server/networking; you can't learn it all on a forum. At the very least you need a good book on the subject (I've always liked the "Mastering Windows Server" series). There is just too much to learn, and too much to go wrong, by doing it all yourself.

You should also consider hiring a consultant to look at your business and advise you on your needs. At least find a suplier who can advise you. It's very easy to make expensive mistakes if you are not sure of what you are doing.

You should also draw up a detailed disaster recovery plan, and practice it (any old computer is normally sufficient for this if you don't have a spare server). You don't want to discover any flaws in your plans the hard way. If you ever have to face such a situation you will be under extreme stress.


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#10
January 16, 2013 at 05:47:04

I have MCSA/MCSE Self-Paced Training Kit. i've got several video's from Trainsignal about active directory fundamentals, Dns server essentials and intro to windows server 2008. I am trying to find the time to go over this material but enjoy the forums as well. the last 2 guys before me had all kinds of certifications, their main guy messed up ad with a policy that they had to call microsoft to come in and fix, he was getting old and retired.. the second guy didn't care, spent more time on the video games than working. I had all of 4 hours to train with him and he was gone.my boss has said that if something comes up that i can't handle, we'll pay someone to come in and take care of it. I like the books even though they are kinda boring to read but they are trying to tell you everything and sometimes i don't have time to learn everything when i've got a particular problem ahead of me. It's easier to google it, other people have had the same problem, then fix it from there. I would love to get my mcsa certification and hope to within the next year. just so much to learn.

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#11
January 16, 2013 at 07:32:20

I didn't notice this thread sooner but I see wanderer and ijack have responded with some solid advice. I agree with everything they've said...........everything!

I just wanted to add, blades are ok, we have a couple and I like them. We also run several clusters of VM servers. The biggest is for our Citrix. You'll notice I used the term "cluster", if you're not familiar with it, research it. In a nutshell, the cluster of servers provide redundancy for each other.

The biggest thing when purchasing hardware as I'm sure both wanderer and ijack would agree is your budget. I suspect we all have wish lists but the reality is, you always have to work within the budget you're given so do extensive research on hardware, read reviews and do a lot of comparing before you decide to purchase anything. The better your research, the better the product, and service, will be after you purchase.

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

***William Henley***


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