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Server for small office: What do I need to know?

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Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Old 01-08-10, 04:32 PM
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DRG
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Server for small office: What do I need to know?

My boss informed me today that our board of directors wants us to have a server. Apparently it is to be used for centralized file sharing/hosting, as a local email server (as opposed to using email from our ISP or via a web service like Yahoo or Hotmail), and for other tasks such as hosting some central data intake database. So far the plan is to NOT include web hosting in this, but that may change at some point. We are a small nonprofit with 7 employees total (6 in our office and one in another part of the state). To me a dedicated email server for an office this small seems like overkill and is just going to cause more problems than it solves, but alas...

Anyway, I'm supposed to research our options but frankly I don't even know where to begin. My computer knowledge is more in the creative/programming side. I really don't know much of anything about what we will end up needing to perform these sorts of tasks. Do I just get a machine with server software, set up some email server program on there and point a domain name at it? What kind of server software would I need to accomplish this? Or can the basic server setup (not counting the email stuff) be done with a regular Windows machine? How difficult would any of this be to maintain?
Old 01-08-10, 04:48 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

I'd be asking them some questions about uptime expectations, and make sure that you figure in costs for the ability to perform some kind of backups, as well as some disk redundancy. etc before I got to into the specs.

Is the central data intake DB, a SQL DB? Where does that reside now?

Basically I'd start getting the "business" requirements nailed down before I started server shopping.

Last edited by sniper308; 01-08-10 at 06:18 PM.
Old 01-08-10, 05:06 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Originally Posted by DRG View Post
7 employees total

You do NOT want to internalize this for 7 people.

Google 'Hosted Exchange' and outsource this to someone that knows what they are doing.


http://www.rackspace.com/email_hosting/exchange_hosting


M$ also has a service

http://www.microsoft.com/online/exch...-services.mspx


The big issues you need to worry about is not having a dedicated IT person at your finger tips when something goes wrong (and it will). There are too many 'single points of failure' if you buy a server, load exchange and just hook it up to your existing internet connection
Old 01-08-10, 05:42 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Originally Posted by 4KRG View Post
You do NOT want to internalize this for 7 people.
what he said


unless you have/had a IT person that wants to play with open source software to handle all your needs.. its hardly worth the cost to buy licenses and put together a system that noone will be able to manage and support properly.
file server.. sure, thats a piece of cake.. any old machine laying around is fine.. security is another issue, depending on whether you care if its done properly
but getting into your email, database, etc..

licensing and support are worth the cost of a hosted solution for such a small group.
Old 01-08-10, 06:12 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Originally Posted by 4KRG View Post
The big issues you need to worry about is not having a dedicated IT person at your finger tips when something goes wrong (and it will). There are too many 'single points of failure' if you buy a server, load exchange and just hook it up to your existing internet connection
See, this is exactly what bothers me. This 'idea' comes from people with no tech-savvy whatsoever who don't really understand what they want but are too stubborn to listen to reasons why it is a bad idea. I heard something about 'wanting to be in control of our email', but this just reminds me of the old Spider-Man line, "With great power comes great responsibility". Right now, our Yahoo web hosting plan allows us to make well over 100 or something email accounts under our web domain, but because they've had minor issues with getting their Yahoo in the past, someone had the brilliant idea that it will be better if we run it ourselves.
Old 01-08-10, 06:14 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Just tell them that you need to hire a server/network admin to handle this.

This is not supposed to be part of your job, right?
Old 01-08-10, 06:16 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Yeah, that's pretty much why I told you to gather requirements... as soon as you determine what they want and start pricing it out reality will come into play, they will realize quickly that its going to cost a ton to do this and the cost will never be appropriate for 7 people.

As soon as you start talking backups, Disaster Recovery, server redundancy, data redundancy, maintenance contract in case of failure, SPAM filtering, email retention, and the fact that you likely don't want to be running a DB, email, and everything on one server, and I would think any sane person would drop this idea.

Last edited by sniper308; 01-08-10 at 06:22 PM.
Old 01-08-10, 06:50 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

Originally Posted by Raul3 View Post
Just tell them that you need to hire a server/network admin to handle this.

This is not supposed to be part of your job, right?
I'm the web designer/programmer/administrator, the database creator/administrator, and I work on print projects, logos, etc. In their eyes I'm the 'tech guy' and they don't seem to understand it is two different specialties. I think they honestly believe I can just pick up a manual and run it alongside my existing responsibilities.

For the record, my boss has only been here a few months and before this she worked at a university. I always hear: "Well, we had this at my old job." I've tried to explain the differences in requirements between a system used by hundreds of staff over a hundred departments in addition to over a thousand students, and a system used by 7 people. To me it's like killing an ant with a shotgun.

Last edited by DRG; 01-08-10 at 07:01 PM.
Old 01-08-10, 08:57 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

You MIGHT be able to find someone local to you that is willing to 'operate' a server for you and rent you some data center space, so that you do control/own everything, but at the same time you have protection\redundancy surrounding the server and some support as the actual server will live at their business address and not yours. This is more expensive than hosted exchange, but less expensive than hiring an IT person


You would want a server class machine (assume Dell)
hot swap drives
redundant power supplies
RAID 5
etc
etc

If I were guessing a ballpark on a lower end one (but not so low as to be a joke) I would think around $2000 for maybe 2TB of RAID 5 storage

a small tape backup and software would be another $1500
add $750 for 4 hour hardware support from Dell
Windows Small Business Server is about $1000

Dell will install and configure it for $600 or you can probably find a local IT consultant to do this for you based on my example above of finding someone that will rent you rack space in a data center and manager your server for you.

Toss in an extra $500 in setup fees and config because it is never 'just right' out of the box

Backup tapes are not cheap either and you should replace those every year.


The question you have to ask is how much down time can you afford? 1 hour? 4 hour? 24 hour? Get them to answer this question REALISTICALLY before you proceed. I have found many a C level executive that said a 24 hour outage was fine, until it actually happened


Along these same lines, you might find an IT company willing to rent you a virtual machine in their data center as well. This is really the direction data centers are moving, but some people that don't understand what is going on don't like the idea of a virtual server. You can always have an arrangement where a backup tape is fed ex'd to your office every Monday so you have it in hand.

For 7 people using SBS, one server is fine.
Old 01-09-10, 01:22 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

I fully agree that a small business with only 7 people and no IT admin staff probably don't want to operate their own server UNLESS data security is very important to your business (e.g. financial, medical). Even so, I would probably suggest switching from 'yahoo' to a fully hosted solution at a datacenter. It's not cheap, but probably a good way to go because when something DOES break (and it will), the downtime will be much more noticeable than yahoo's - and you can get an SLA with the datacenter based on what your board thinks is acceptable.

You could also break down some costs of what it would take to buy a server, purchase licenses, and contract out to setuup/configure/troubleshoot.

Assume that you are building the server right, all Microsoft licenses, etc...they'll quickly come around

Michael
Old 01-09-10, 03:32 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

check out Google's business offerings and MS Office Live is coming soon

7 employees and a server is asking for trouble and way too expensive
Old 01-09-10, 04:32 PM
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Re: Server for small office: What do I need to know?

7 employees and a board of directors. That is a recipe for disaster.

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