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Pre Gen8 purchase questions


fastnfurious11
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Hi team, I have a few questions in relation to Gen 8 (and servers generally),  that I wanted some clarity on. I have tried to do some research, however, please feel free to suggest any alternatives. I

 

I am looking at getting the gen 8 (and run it with Windows server essentials 2012) for a small office environment i.e. 6-8 client machines. The main usage of the server is for centralised data storage and acting as the licensing server for a few windows programs that we use in our business (basically these are niche software for which we buy a multi user licence, however, it requires one computer to act as the "server" and be on the local network for all the client machines to function). These softwares also store their data on the "server" which is basically large database files. 

 

I also wish to have remote access through VPN, which will allow me to access the data and also gain access to the software. 

 

I am looking at getting a 120gb SSD for bay 1 (as the boot drive)  and a 3x1TB drives on a RAID 5 setup using storage spaces (2TB of usable space should be enough for my needs for now). Now I have a few questions: 

 

1) Firstly, is this solution overkill for my requirements?

2) Will it be fairly easy to manage (for a novice like me, as you can tell by my questions)?

3) From reading the forums I understand I have to setup the SSD as a Raid 0 drive and install the OS on there, is that correct?

4) The remaining drives can then be directly managed by windows using storage spaces? Or should I be looking at other software solutions.  am budget conscious and therefore hardware raid cards are out of the equation for now. 

5) If my storage needs expand in the future, how easy is it to move to bigger drives? And how can I achieve this?

6) Are their any special requirements for the client machines to connect to the server i.e. running windows 8.1 pro? or can I run windows 8.1 home?

7) For some inexplicable reason, I have to leave one client machine on Windows XP (legacy software issues). Will this cause any troubles?

 

Any help will be greatly appreciated. 

 

Thank you. 

 

 

 

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"3x1TB drives on a RAID 5 setup using storage spaces" ??

 

Storage spaces and RAID are two different animals.  Go with RAID.  I would also get a larger SSD drive for the OS, at least 160.

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Along with jmwill I would say skip storage spaces and go Raid 5.   Furthermore I would suggest 2 240 SSD in a mirrored array for boot given current pricing, and that this server appears would be acting as the domain controller and possible vpn. (Also the Gen8 built in controller does not support raid 5.  You then can fairly affordably install 2 WD Red or WD RE 2-3TB drive in a mirror to handle the storage.  I would also recommend putting in 8-16GB of ram

For management you can use the  WSE webconsole for a very user friendly experience for users, shares, passwords etc but the 3rd party software might have to handled via RDP.  Total cost of server, drives, and RAM would be about 1000 unless you opted for a higher proc but probably not needed/

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I'd take a different approach.

 

I'm assuming from the OP's question around whether it will work with 8.1 home that the 6-8 clients are already in situ and to upgrade those to a domain capable OS (either 8.1 Pro or Windows 10 Pro) will cost over 800 on top of the 2012 Essentials licence.

 

Depending on the requirements of the niche software (it sounds like it just needs a database storage location) it may be easier to get a Windows 10 Pro licence on the Gen8, configure the hardware as others have already suggested and set up file sharing folders to allow the other PC's to share the same data.

 

Then get a modem with VPN capabilities to handle the external access needs.

 

A server would be great, but the day to day overhead to manage it and troubleshoot issues is probably not worth the effort unless the OP really needs the additional benefits a Domain environment could bring (roaming desktop profiles, user security level access, group policies etc..) - questions 1 & 2 suggest the OP wants a simple life and ensure they time to focus on the business activities rather than the IT!!!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Thanks all for your replies. Mattb75, you have hit it bang on. I would rather setup something simple and easy to manage as I am the only one with half an understanding of IT in our business. At this stage I do not anticipate I will need a domain environment for atleast the next 4-5 years. The windows10 route sounds enticing. Does Windows 10 pro support full remote access ( I.e. is there any difference in the remote access capabilities of windows server 2012 and windows 10?)

 

I think I can take suggestions from all three replies. I would get a pair of ssds for the boot drive and another paid or 2tb drives for the storage needs. Setup both in different raid 1 arrays and it should be happy days.

 

Thanks once again guys, much appreciated.

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Hi

 

There's no real difference in Remote Desktop Access (ie logging into the server from a location other than in front of the server itself) between the two OS's.

 

Server offers RemoteApp functionality which effectively runs the application on the server but presents it to the user on their own desktop but this can be complex to configure and maintain.

 

If you have time it may be worthwhile downloading the trial versions of both OS's and testing them out. You can now get a 90 day trial of Windows 10 Enterprise (which in features is nearly identical to 10 Pro but you need a different licensing model to deploy it), and you can get a 180 day trial of Server 2012 R2 and then compare the two for ease of use and functionality.

 

Hopefully a little up front testing will make your life once you deploy your chosen solution much easier!

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-windows-server-2012-r2-essentials

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/evaluate-windows-10-enterprise

 

Good luck!!

 

 

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First, your questions:

1. Not overkill: the Gen8 Microserver is the perfect first server solution.It's inexpensive, small, quiet, uses little power and runs anything from Windows 7 client to the latest Windows Server OS's.

In the UK you can have one this month for £107 from serversplus.com.

2. Easy to manage: you can ignore enterprise features such as iLo and treat it like a PC in a peer to peer network ... and then convert to domain server based operations later as required.

3. You do not have to install an SSD, an HDD will be fine in general - I will suggest later why you might want to consider the SSD option for particular cases.

For single drives i.e. those not part of a RAID setup, the recommendation is to set it as RAID 0 in the Microserver's Disk Administrator. RAID 0 with one drive equals just an ordinary drive.

4. Once you have told the Microserver's Disk Administrator what RAID options you want for your disks ... then the resulting volumes will all be presented to Windows for further management.

However RAID and STORAGE SPACES don't mix. I agree with previous commenters that you should ignore Storage Spaces.

5. If you fill bay 1 with an SSD and bays 2 to 4 with a RAID 5 array then you will need a temporary area to copy all the data before installing larger disks. You are right to think about this issue now.

6. No problem with connecting 8.1 home to either a peer machine running another client version (say W10 Pro) - the HOMEGROUP facility was designed to do precisely that - or the more elaborate Windows server functionality via domains.

7. The XP device cannot join the rest of the network via HOMEGROUP and is best phased out as soon as practical or quarantined in a new PC as a virtual machine.

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While a Microserver is an ideal storage machine ... I'd like to know more about this database before offering any other suggestions.

 

If it were just a question of a licensing server then a low end MS without an SSD will be fine ...

... but what are all these database files?

If the interaction with the DB is high from all users then an SSD may make operations far more efficient.

 

And what is the size of these files?

If the DB is 100GB then that suggests a 256GB SDD, if it's 200GB then that suggests a 500GB SSD. And possibly a whole bunch of other dimensioning and configuration calculations.

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OK, OK, so not knowing the full specification never stopped me from coming up with other (crackpot) ideas before ...

 

... it sounds to me like there are 5 jobs to do here over the next 6 months or so:

 

1. Convert all the client devices from W8.1 to Windows 10 (the Microsoft offer of a free upgrade lasts a year).

2. Build a storage server.

3. Sort out the old XP machine.

4. Reparent the DB server.

5. Set up VPN access to the server for remote administration.

 

So assuming the DB application is lightweight ...

... I say again, assuming the DB application is lightweight.

 

a. Buy a low end Microserver e.g. http://www.serversplus.com/servers/tower_servers/hp_tower_servers/819185-421​

4GB RAM is fine for storage and one lightweight application.

b. Buy a copy of Windows 10 Pro (has to be Pro to get remote access in to the server).

c. Buy two 2TB HDD's (3TB would probably be the sweet spot if affordable), forget 1TB sizing.

d. Create a 2TB RAID 1 array to cater for a single disk failure.

e. Install W10 Pro and then create separate disk partitions for the OS, the DB and general storage.

f. Create a guest account without admin privileges and allow people to play around for familiarity with W10.

g. Configure/replace the modem for VPN functionality: now the administrator can test remote access to make sure the prospective server is reachable.

h. Create a HOMEGROUP for all devices on the network.

i. Create a series of shared folders on the server for user and shared data access via the Homegroup. Test and get everyone familiar with saving data to the server.

Buy an external 2TB USB hard drive for backups to be taken weekly and stored offsite or in a fireproof safe.

j. Upgrade PC's to W10 in Spring 2016. Big changes to W10 coming in November (Threshold 2 in MIcrosoft's terms), plus a few more months bug fixing.

 

Stage f. would also be a good time (before 'go live') to test out what needs to be done with the XP device and the DB ... but I can't say any more without knowing the specifics of those 2 topics.


If the DB is not lightweight ... then I go with the idea of a RAID 1 array of two SSD's for the DB and another RAID 1 array of 2 HDD's for general storage ... the SSD's sized according to the DB volume.

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More food for thought ...

 

1. If you and your company want a little more security, consider a small contract with a local IT professional. That might be a couple of initial visits ... and a 3 or 6 month tune up ... with a call out (or remote in)  option for a big problem.

 

2. Switching to a server grade OS may come sooner than you think. The connection limit on W10Pro is 20 devices (I think - must check), so if all your users are accessing files and the DB, you're close!

OTOH Microservers are so cheap that you could have data on one and the DB on another. That's also good for disaster planning. 

 

3. Forgot to mention the other reason for the USB external drive ... when the 2TB disks aren't big enough any more you have a copy of the data offline and can shut down the RAID array on the server, put in the new disks, and copy the data back from the USB drive.

 

4. Next machine grade up would be something like:

http://www.serversplus.com/servers/tower_servers/lenovo_tower_servers/70a50022uk-p-ess​

... a bargain but be careful you get all the disk caddies and cabling (which come as standard in HP Microservers).

 

When I was in your position ... the idea of local IT pro support, despite the additional cost, was approved by the company owner.

Edited by JackoUK
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