Advice on sizing a server for 25 users - dental office

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by RazorsEdge, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. RazorsEdge

    RazorsEdge Junior Member

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    I'm trying to decide on a server for my dental office, and was wondering if anyone would be willing to give me some input. I got a quote from Dell, and they are proposing a dual cpu Xeon E5620 2.4 ghz, with 16 gigs of memory, a 2x 250 gb RAID 1 OS drive, and a 3 x 500 gb RAID5 gb data drive.

    The office has 25 users, but the server is primarily used as a file and print server. We're currently running Server 2003 on a home built AMD Phenom X3 720 (2.8 ghz) with 4 gb of ram that I threw together when our original server kicked the bucket. CPU load rarely gets out of the single digits, but the memory and disk usage will peak regularly. It running on a single OS disk and a single data disk right now, need to get that corrected soon. Acronis images things 3 times a day, so I do have the data protected from total loss, the most we'd be out was the last couple of hours or so.

    We use a dental practice management software package called Dentrix that is basically a database that the workstations get info from and display it, all our records are electronic, all the x-rays are digital, paperless charting. So reliability is important, but nothing is really running on the server application wise, when I get this in place, it will also handle DHCP, DNS, and AD. The vendors for the dental packages don't support virtualization, so that won't be used.

    So is dual CPU overkill, vs using something like a single Xeon 3470 2.9 ghz quad core sufficient since the server isn't running any applications beyond the Dentrix database and a SQL database for the digital images? I don't want to have to upgrade again for at least a couple of years (probably 5 or so). Is a faster single processor better for database access vs multiple processors at a slower speed? Or should I even care?

    Thanks,
    Greg
     
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  3. Mark R

    Mark R Diamond Member

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    If CPU load isn't getting out of single figures, then it really doesn't matter what CPU you use. The X3470 will completely demolish the Phenom anyway, so it should be a very satisfactory upgrade, which will last you for some time. While databases like CPU (and heavy multi-user databases like more cores) and a X3470 should be total overkill, what databases really like is blazing fast disk and lots of RAM.

    The problem as I see it is disk and memory. 8 - 16 GB of RAM should help, especially if your database is big. Plus, if you are storing images, it may well help with caching, giving an overall better response time.

    You really need to get a better disk subsystem. Either a RAID array (RAID 10) of 10k rpm disks (RAID5 is cripplingly bad for databases - avoid this at all costs), ideally with a decent SAS RAID card with battery-backed/flash-backed write cache.

    An alternative option (and one that could work out cheaper, depending on your storage requirements) is to go SSD. Get a couple of 7200 rpm SATA drives in RAID 1 for OS, and 2-4 250 GB SSDs in RAID1/10 for data. Depending on how your data is structured, it may be possible to split the data between some SSDs and HDDs (database goes on the SSDs, database log file goes on the HDDs + images + bulk data).
     
    #2 Mark R, Jun 14, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011
  4. gsaldivar

    gsaldivar Diamond Member

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    I would start by talking to Dentrix and explaining your requirements, get their opinions on minimum requirements and "recommended" server config. These are also useful to start:

    http://www.dentrix.com/support/system-requirements.aspx

    If there is a problem down the road, you will want to be able to demonstrate that you consulted with the software vendor and followed their recommendations closely...

    I would recommend against trying to dual-purpose the DB server with DNS/DHCP/AD etc. If you can't virtualize, try to at least make the DB a separate box so you aren't setting yourself up with a single point of failure...
     
    #3 gsaldivar, Jun 14, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011
  5. mfenn

    mfenn Elite Member <br> Currently on <BR> Moderator Sabb
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    :thumbsup: to virtualization.

    OP, dual-CPU is overkill for your needs, but it honestly doesn't add that much to the cost of the system to do for two processors (5-10&#37;). Going 2P also lets you use all the memory slots on the board, thus doubling your memory bandwidth. That can make a big difference in DB performance.

    I agree with Mark R that you need more disk and memory. In light of that, and the fact that you're already working with Dell (PowerEdge systems are top-notch IMHO), I'd recommend:

    PowerEdge R515
    Qty 2 Opteron 4174 2.3Ghz
    32GB (8x4GB) LV dual-ranked RDIMMs
    Qty 5 1TB NL SAS in RAID5 behind a PERC H700
    Redundant power supplies

    That should run you about $7K before discounting and gives you a system that you can add HDDs and RAM to if necessary.

    Then throw ESXi single-server (free) edition or Server 2k8 w/HyperV on it and you're done.
     
    #4 mfenn, Jun 14, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2011
  6. theevilsharpie

    theevilsharpie Platinum Member

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    The server Dell quoted you looks fine, although I'd recommend using faster SAS disks for that many users. The second processor is overkill.

    RAID 5 is fine provided that you have a reasonably large battery-backed write cache (256MB or greater).

    Rather than splitting OS and database onto physically separate disks, I'd get all the same size disks and separate them using LUNs. This will allow you to optimize your disk space usage. Make sure you get 1-2 hot spares.

    You can usually get away with doing DNS, DHCP, and basic file/print services on a DB server, but I would avoid making it a domain controller, as that can potentially cause issues with authentication in the program. Also, be advised that the more unrelated programs you install on your Dentrix server, the hardware it will be to get effective support from them.
     
  7. theevilsharpie

    theevilsharpie Platinum Member

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    1. The chances that a 25-user office is going to run into performance bottlenecks due to a lack of memory bandwidth is zero. Dual processors are completely unnecessary.

    2. Your server is overkill to the point of ridiculousness. Also, AMD is not competitive in the 2P server space.

    3. The OP mentioned that the app vendor didn't support virtualization. If this is true, virtualizing the sever anyway is ill-advised, as it gives them grounds to deny the OP technical support if there is a problem, and complex software packages such as Dentrix are rarely without problems.
     
  8. mfenn

    mfenn Elite Member <br> Currently on <BR> Moderator Sabb
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    I picked something that was in the same price range as what the OP has already been quoted, but is a better-balanced config. Like I said, going 2P adds 5-10% to the cost. The bulk of the cost of that system is in the drives and memory, not the processors. If you absolutely cannot do virtualization (see below), then yes the memory can be scaled back.

    Now, as for the vendor "not supporting virtualization", I'm not sure how that's possible exactly from a technical point of view, especially for a glorified database. However, I'm well aware of the multitude of stupid software companies out there. :biggrin:
     
  9. RazorsEdge

    RazorsEdge Junior Member

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    Dentrix falls into this category. They only started supporting 64 bit Server 2008 in the last couple of months, I've been running our other setup to keep things going until they finally would officially support it. I didn't want to upgrade the server and keep it 32 bit. In response to Gsaldivar, that is one of the reasons why I don't put very much weight behind what their "recommended" server is: a Core2Duo with 2 gigs of ram. We're a little bit bigger than your average dental office with 25 users, most people are more like 5 to 10 max.

    Right now, I have a ZyXEL ZyWALL firewall that is providing the DHCP and DNS services for the office. So the opinion would be to continue letting that provide those services instead of moving them to the server?

    I've budgeted around $6000 for this server, and no, the cost of going 2 processors is not very significant going from the 3470 to two 5620's. I just want to optimize the performance that I can get in that price range. Sounds like shifting some of that cost to the disk subsystem would be the better way to go. Any favorites with the Dell controllers?

    Thanks,
    Greg
     
  10. Morg.

    Morg. Senior member

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    This is way overkill, from your requirements I derive that any crapbox with a few hdd's will do the job, so why not take that approach, go for any durable mobo, an i7 2600k (overkill), 16G of DDR3-1600 (overkill) and then a decent raid array, backed by one of those fancy z68-mlc speedups.

    When I see your workload, my main concern if I were you would be resilience, not power as even my desktop c2d is overpowered for that kind of stuff.

    So if you feel like it, design a little active-passive setup, with major attention to disk IO, that'll still come in way below 6k while being many times more useful than a Xeon.

    Again : DO NOT BUY A SERVER, you've got nothing to run on it. If you absolutely have to, get the cheapest CPU you can (Opteron most likely), a good RAID10 of whatever flavor hdd you like, a small ssd for the database and you're set.

    I would move everything to the server if I had to manage it, but then I virtualize a lot and you can't .... but can't you really ? I mean you're not using direct3d I don't see how that dental software could *not* be virtualized.

    Anyway,
    Disk IO > Resilience > stuff > Performance
     
  11. theevilsharpie

    theevilsharpie Platinum Member

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    Custom-building a server for a business, particularly a small business that will grind to a halt if the server goes down, is a bad idea. Specs aside, one of the benefits of a server built by a reputable manufacturer is that it comes with a variety of support options. For example, if I purchase an HP server, I can purchase a support plan with it that guarantees a certain response time, or even a certain time to repair, for up to five years. You cannot get that with a computer you throw together.

    I've walked into at least a dozen businesses that have attempted to custom-build their own server and desktop equipment. Without exception, none of these custom builds have met the customer's expectations of performance and reliability.

    I doubt there is anything technical preventing the OP from virtualizing the server. The problem is that the software vendor doesn't support it, which means the option is off the table.
     
  12. Morg.

    Morg. Senior member

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    Eh, if it's all enterprisey, of course there will not be much discussion. but then it did not look like this was the focus point of the OP --

    Definitely you cannot do this in a corporate environment, nor would I want to handle the warranty on such a system but hey . not my problem is it ?
     
  13. RazorsEdge

    RazorsEdge Junior Member

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    I don't want it to be my problem either! That's why I was looking at Dell or HP. I've been the support for this server before for the past 5 years, I've got better things to do with my time, like see my patients!

    I'm running logs today to see what kind of loads it is pulling throughout the day. Today was a pretty typical day for us, so we'll see what kind of data I get
     
  14. mfenn

    mfenn Elite Member <br> Currently on <BR> Moderator Sabb
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    I agree that their recommended server is probably laughable. Usually these types software packages don't scale very well, so you just have to throw hardware at the problem. :(

    It's not so much the DHCP and DNS that I'm worried about, I'm more worried about AD. Making a system into a domain controller significantly changes around the way the internals of the OS work, and things that expect to authenticate against it a certain way don't always work. That being said, if you've got AD plus Dentrix working on your current server, I see no reason why it wouldn't continue to work when you migrate to a new server (though you never know).

    Yeah, I'd say so. The Dell PERCs are all rebranded LSI cards. Both the H200 and H700 are all quite good for their price IMHO. The H200 is a lower-end card that doesn't support RAID 5, which you'll probably want to do. So that leaves the H700. If you're on a UPS, you probably don't need the model with non-volatile cache, but you should get one with NV cache if you're not on a UPS.

    EDIT: Also, Dell prices are negotiable. If you pick out a config that you like and tell them that it must be under $6K, they will work with you.
     
    #13 mfenn, Jun 15, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2011
  15. mfenn

    mfenn Elite Member <br> Currently on <BR> Moderator Sabb
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    :thumbsup: A voice of reason!
     
  16. DominionSeraph

    DominionSeraph Diamond Member

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    But $600 is 300GB in SSD, which the OP seems to need far more than six (!!) more cores.
    12 cores for 25 people when a triple-core Phenom isn't loaded?

    He can get a Poweredge T310 with a Lynnfield X3440 quad-core with 32GB RAM, H700, redundant PSU, and 3 year NBD for $3.3k. That leaves a lot of room for SSD's.

    Really, if he's running off 4GB now and things aren't grinding to a halt, he'd probably more than fine speccing a 4GBx1 UDIMM from Dell and then throwing in 3 more from Newegg. A 12GB kit costs $120 when Dell prices it at $500. That brings the server down to $2,320 before drives.
    That leaves room in the $6000 budget for seven 240GB Vertex 3's!
    Now, I'm just a consumer level guy, but that looks to me to be better than your five spindle-drive setup that costs $1000 more. He said he's running off a single data disk now, so somehow I get the feeling that his DB doesn't quite need the 4TB in space...


    (Actually, does anyone know the speed of the nonvolatile cache in the H700? If it's flash-based, might not RAIDed Vertex 3's be faster than the cache?!? Going with 512MB of volatile saves $300 over 1GB of nonvolatile.)
     
    #15 DominionSeraph, Jun 15, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  17. MichaelD

    MichaelD Lifer

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    I read the whole thread. SSDs = not ready for Enterprise-level requirements. SAS is where it's at. 2.5" drives are the way to go these days.

    I agree with all the voices of reason. I'm a hardware/server room guy; it's what I do. I've spec'd out hundreds of servers for everything from lowly DHCP boxes to 4 CPU/16 cores/128GB memory virtualization servers for 2K+ users to beat on.

    Going with a major manuf like Dell or HP is the way to go. As mentioned, your service plan/warranty is what you're paying for. Stuff breaks; always on a Monday morning at 7:00AM or Friday evening at 7:00PM. When it does, you want FEDEX or courrier to deliver that replacement part like 20 minutes ago. Typical "Silver" and "Gold" service contracts (part of doing business and tax deductible) guarantee part replacement in under 8 hours or next business day in worst case scenario.

    That said, even though the dual Xeon is most definitely overkill, go for it. The box will still be useful down the road when you have double the workload and bigger files going through it.

    What you need to focus on is redundancy and backup, backup, backup. You have Acronis doing it's thing 3x/day. Excellent! You should be backing that data up to a physically separate device. Another computer (even a desktop PC built for this purpose), external USB HD or a tape drive (unlikely in your application...expensive as hell). The main idea is to have your backup data physically separate from the source. That way if the source goes up in flames you have your mission-critial data. However you accomplish that is fine. CHECK YOUR BACKUPS! If you're backing up your database, try to open it up on a regular basis. This is important! Just b/c you see "Backup completed successfully" in the app window doesn't mean the data is usable.

    True story: In 2007, when HDs were still small I backed up a huge for the time, 3.5TB of mixed data (Outlook .pst's/Office files/large image files) to a RAID5 array consisting of 15 drives. TWO hot spares in there, so 13 drives, basically. The server smoked when both powersupplies inexplicably died. All the HDs were corrupted. Tried several data recovery tools, fiddling with the controller BIOS...nothing. It's all gone. No problem! I have a backup! Yep. A backup of corrupted data. :eek: I didn't check that backup regularly. LUCKILY, I had another backup to tape from about a month prior. Two years of data were saved but the previous month or so was LOST. Bosses were not happy and I looked and felt like crap. I learned something that day: CHECK YOUR BACKUPS!

    Always use RAID1 (two drives, mirrored) for your OS. This is a standard best practice IME/IMO. Your database can be anything from RAID1 to RAID5/6 to RAID10. Honestly in your case, RAID5 is fine. Just use at least 4 drives so you have acceptable performance. RAID10 is bigger/better/faster/more but twice the price and overkill for what you need.

    The main reason to have a SERVER vs. a PC that can do the job, for a business w/mission-critial data is redundancy. Dual power supplies. Dual CPUs. Memory separated into banks. (16GB of memory separated into 4 sets of 4 sticks). If a stick goes bad, that bank is locked out until the offending stick is replaced but the server keeps running, albiet w/less memory. The OP knows this already though. I had no idea that a dentist could be a techie. :D <--I have nice, shiny teeth...put the drill away.

    Do NOT forget power conditioning/UPS. You want an ONLINE INTERACTIVE UPS. For a room of servers that pulls 50Kw it's really expensive, but for your application APC makes a rackmount unit w/a separate rackmount battery for about $1.5K. Worth every penny. GET IT. You'll be very happy that brownouts don't bring you down and blackouts don't crash your box. It will shutdown gracefully adding another layer of data protection on top of your RAID controller with the cache battery backup and the RAID5/6/10 array you've got for your database.

    Though you will buy a service contract, I'd buy a couple of spare HDs just to keep on hand. It's deductible and faster than the warranty.

    You're spending the money to do it right; good on you! So many people cheap out and when the box fails they blame the technology instead of the "expert" that specc'd out the hardware.

    Good luck!
     
    #16 MichaelD, Jun 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  18. DominionSeraph

    DominionSeraph Diamond Member

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    ^^ 2P again? WHY?
    He's idling a triple-core Phenom. What on Earth would a dental office need 8/12 cores for in a file/print server?

    "Still useful at double the workload"? Double "single-digit" CPU utilization is >20&#37; CPU utilization. Factor in that a Lynnfield quad has 33% more cores than what he's currently using and it's >15%. Why would he need another processor to "still make it useful?"

    Should he get a few GTX 580's too just in case dentistry suddenly needs to run Crysis?

    It's 25 people who work on teeth. All they need is their files. Perhaps the server should be specced to lean in that direction?
     
  19. imagoon

    imagoon Diamond Member

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    Businesses like warrenties and support. IF they can't afford the cost of the RAM, ask them if they can be down for a few days while you argue with dell that your aftermarket ram didnt roach the server.

    I am really surprised at this thread. If the existing server isnt having issues and the vendor doesn't support virtualization then build the server to those specs.

    Basically SQL likes: RAM typically lots of it but if your working on 4GB then you shouldn't go crazy. SQL will us all available RAM as cache so the server should always appear to be at 100&#37;. SQL likes 3 logical disks also. OS, Log and data. He mentioned disk perf issues, doing a moderate OS disk, larger data disk and very fast log disk might take care of that.

    Doing say Dell R610 with a quad 2.4ghz proc, 6 or 12 gig of RAM, and 2 x 7200 73GB OS 2 x 146GB 15k log and 2x disks for data (what size is the database) 10k would likely make a decent 25 user server.

    Odds are you dont need SSD's 32 or 64GB or ram or anything like that. Tie that in with a service warranty and expect 3-4 years of no issues.

    Also if you are paying retail website for Dell servers... you didn't even try to call them and set up a business account.

    PS I also read sharpie's build and can see that working well also.
     
    #18 imagoon, Jun 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  20. Morg.

    Morg. Senior member

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    This is really ... not up to date.

    SSD's are ready for enterprise-level requirements provided your ssd configuration is ready, i.e. if you have a raid10 of Intel 510 SSD's you'll be at least as safe as with current 15krpm drives- which are considered enteprise-grade.

    We're in 2011, it's time to kill all 15k rpm drives and replace them with RAID x(1)z SSD's. wake up people its not like the reliability of ssd's is <reliability of 15krpm>&#178; .
     
  21. mvbighead

    mvbighead Diamond Member

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    One thing to keep in mind, OP, if your software requires any sort of SQL other than Express, you may want to stick with a single proc. It doesn't look like SQL is required, but just something to keep in mind if that comes up as SQL can be licensed per processor or on a per server + user basis. If you end up licensing per processor, it will be much less expensive to have one, instead of two.

    As to the SSD comments, if you buy an enterprise type of server, and load it with your own disks, don't expect Dell to care if the controller has issues with the SSDs. You buy an enterprise server, you configure it with the vendor and an ensure that should anything have a problem, you have one and only one person to deal with. That is not to say that the server will have problems, but for a business to not have access to client data because the server is chewing up SSDs and blowing arrays is not something you want to be dealing with when you have paying clients waiting. Stick with proven, reliable hardware. And the guy is NOT feeding data to 100s of 1000s of users. It's 30 people or so tops... I don't have a single server with an SSD in an office of 700. I'd like to, but using consumer grade products in enterprise servers is a bad idea, as is buying Dell's $1000+ dollar 50GB enterprise grade SSD.

    OP, I'd look for a good server with the following specs:

    Single processor, multi core (4-6 would be great and should be fine 5 years down the road).
    16GB of RAM, cause RAM is cheap and useful for any server application.
    A good number of spindles, 6 at least. I'd personally do 6 of the same size so that, should you choose to rebuild the server as one big array, or a bunch of separate ones, you aren't wasting any space. Do a 2 disk RAID1 as suggested for the OS and a 4 disk RAID10 or RAID5 for the data and Dentrix application. Size the disks according to your needs. Definitely go with 10k SAS or better instead of the 7.2k RPM SATA offerings. If this is the server you're going to be looking stuff up on, you want it to respond relatively quickly.
    Redundant power supplies are a must. I haven't had one fail in a while, but that is the one part you absolutely CANNOT lose. You lose that, you're without your client data for however long it takes to get your replacement.
    Dual NICs are built into every server, but are handy should a NIC fail or if you want to setup teaming for redundant network paths.
    As for the rest, size according to your budget. IMO, 6k should get you something fairly decent for your needs.
     
  22. mvbighead

    mvbighead Diamond Member

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    http://configure.us.dell.com/dellsto...poweredge-r510

    For what it's worth, I configured an R510 with 8 x 146gb 10k RPM SAS drives, a single hex core Intel CPU (E5645 at 2.40GHz), 16GB of RAM, redundant PSUs, and a Perc H700i that runs about 5.5k according to the website. If you call in, as others stated, you could likely get that a bit cheaper.

    Adding the second processor is about $769. And, it would be something you could do down the road should you decide you need more processing power.

    IMO, something like this should run circles around your current setup, and provide you with redundancy in the areas that you need it. It'd give you a 146GB OS drive, and a 450 GB RAID10 array or a 730GB RAID 5 array. Overkill, maybe... but if you're have a set budget of what you're willing to spend, this should fit the bill quite nicely.
     
  23. MichaelD

    MichaelD Lifer

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    I like the box you spec'd. It will serve him well. I also agree with the comment about SQL's per-processor licensing. A single 4 or 6-core CPU will be more than he'll ever need and still counts as only 1 CPU.

     
  24. mfenn

    mfenn Elite Member <br> Currently on <BR> Moderator Sabb
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    Not disagreeing overall, but I want to address a couple of points.

    A server should always used registered ECC memory in my opinion, if only for the reason that it tells you exactly which stick is bad! Second, unless you have a very specialized need (the OP doesn't) don't add aftermarket parts to a server. You'll be sorry come support time.

    It is battery-backed DRAM that dumps to flash in the event of a failure IIRC. The main reason to get the nonvolatile storage is for data integrity, not performance. You don't want those in-flight operations to be lost if the power should fail!
     
  25. RazorsEdge

    RazorsEdge Junior Member

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    I really appreciate everyone's input, here's some data from my logging this week. I logged every 5 sec through a typical 2 hour time in our office with everyone working as they typically would. Here are the graphs:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/gacole8314/Jun172011?authkey=Gv1sRgCOm83JTM_YzUWA&feat=directlink

    Not sure what the best parameter is to monitor for memory usage, any suggestions?

    Remember, this is on an AMD X3 720 with 4 gigs of RAM and a single WD Caviar black SATA drive. I'm going to go to Server 2008 64 bit, vs Server 2003 32 bit, so there's some more overhead, but I think the peak spike was during an antivirus update (Vipre, don't get me started on that one).

    Greg
     
    #24 RazorsEdge, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  26. 0roo0roo

    0roo0roo No Lifer

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    Yea sounds odd, 25 people making simple records requests should not bog down a simple server, you are talking about thousands of patients max, not millions.