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Need advice on small office server

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
I’m building a server for a small law firm with 3 workstations. Its just a basic file server for Word and Excel files, QuickBooks and some other software that the law firm uses. This specific application does not demand performance but reliability, redundancy, and low-noise is a must. I’ve built many servers before but would appreciate any input on my hardware choices and concerns.

Case: iStarUSA D-213-MATX 2U

Power Supply: SeaSonic PRIME Snow Silent 550W

Redundant power supplies are not an option because they have loud fans. From my experience, SeaSonic PSUs are super reliable. This one is quiet and does not run the fan under low-load. A 12 year warranty speaks volumes about quality.

Fans: 2X Noctua NF-A8 PWM

These are quiet and reliable PWM fans. I expect them to run at low speed.

Motherboard: SUPERMICRO MBD-X11SCM-F-O

This is a server grade motherboard with IPMI which is find extremely useful for remote assistance

RAM: Crucial 16GB DDR4 or DDR4 ECC Unbuffered

CPU: Intel Xeon E-2124 or Core i3-9100

CPU Cooler: Noctura NH-L12S

Hard Drives: 2x desktop drives reused from workstations in RAID 1

RAID: Hardware, Inter eRST or Windows



And now for my concerns:

CPU & RAM:

The Xeon supports ECC but there is not a lot of data going through this server. It error correction necessary for this setup or with a regular desktop i3 be adequate? Are there any other advantages to going the Xeon-ECC route?

RAID & Hard Drives:

I want install Samsung 970 Pro NVMe drives into the workstations and reuse the 500GB desktop hard drives for a RAID 1 setup (I may use a 3rd drive as a hot-spare). I never messed with software RAID because of reliability concerns. In the past I’ve use controllers from Areca, LSI and Adaptec. I want to be able to put the drives into another system should the motherboard fail. I heard that is not possible with software/firmware RAID. All of the hardware RAID controllers are $300+ except for the HighPoint RocketRAID 2720A which is a brand I am reluctant to mess with. The motherboards supports Inter Enterprise Rapid Storage and I can also do software raid with Windows Server 2019 AFAIK. Will there be a significant performance hit if I do not get a dedicated controller? I would also like audible alerts if a disk fails and I would like the RAID software to send out e-mails to me alerting me of a disk failure. Please advise: Hardware $300+, Hardware HighPoint, eRST, or Windows Server 2019 RAID and why?
 

SnooSnoo

Member
Jun 14, 2011
33
13
81
I'd go the Synology NAS route. I think you are overbuilding for a simple file server. Go over to their page and see what they have to offer. Personaly, I think ECC is enterprise grade. Some offsite backup would probably be enough on top of the NAS server.

Oh and re-using old harddrives? That's a bad idea.
 

mindfury

Junior Member
Aug 29, 2010
10
0
66
If you want a quiet server, you should choose tower server which has bigger fans.

Synology‘s budget NAS doesn't offer enterprise features like ipmi which OP needs.

Desktop harddisks are fine for simple file servers. But you should buy new ones, they are cheap.

Don't do software raid, its performance is horrible. Intel eRST is fine as long as you stick to raid0/raid1/raid10. You will need dedicated controller if you want to use raid5 or beyond.
 

IndyColtsFan

Lifer
Sep 22, 2007
33,477
545
126
I’d never scratch build a server for a business, no matter how small they are. It’s a very bad decision on many levels. Your criteria is also contradictory - you say reliability and redundancy are a must, but then you say you want to reuse some old drives and that redundant power supplies are too loud. Sorry, that’s not how any of this works.

If they actually need a real server onsite (and I’m skeptical they do), buy a low-end server from Dell, HP, or a reputable vendor. It is worth the cost for the support and availability of spare parts. You don’t have this when you build a box from scratch and though it certainly could last several years without a hitch, it could also die tomorrow and you are on the hook to fix it and would have to rely on slow warranty service for consumer parts.

Otherwise, the better options are to go the Synology NAS route or look at something like Office 365. With O365, they can get things like Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, and current versions of all the desktop software for a pretty low price per user per month. The bonus is that they can access all of this from home or on the road easily and you won’t have to maintain a VPN into the office unless there is an application that must sit on a PC. There’s a reason most companies (large and small) are moving to O365 and with all the various plans and options, Microsoft offers many attractive options. In fact, some of the plans are absurdly cheap for what you get.
 

KurskKnyaz

Senior member
Dec 1, 2003
871
1
81
I’d never scratch build a server for a business, no matter how small they are. It’s a very bad decision on many levels. Your criteria is also contradictory - you say reliability and redundancy are a must, but then you say you want to reuse some old drives and that redundant power supplies are too loud. Sorry, that’s not how any of this works.
Comfort in an office takes precedence over reliability. i cannot have loud 50mm fans in redundant power supplies.this is a tiny office. The hard drives are not old they will be new. We are purchasing new workstations that come with mechanical 500GB desktop drives. I will take those drives and put them in the server in RAID 1 and put Samsung 970 PRO NVMe drives into the workstations.

If they actually need a real server onsite (and I’m skeptical they do), buy a low-end server from Dell, HP, or a reputable vendor. It is worth the cost for the support and availability of spare parts. You don’t have this when you build a box from scratch and though it certainly could last several years without a hitch, it could also die tomorrow and you are on the hook to fix it and would have to rely on slow warranty service for consumer parts.
I disagree. If the ATX Seasonic power supply fails I can go to Best Buy and purchase any ATX power supply. All of the hardware I am using is as reliable as what you would get from Dell or HP except the mechanical hard drive but that doesn't really matter since they are in RAID 1. I rather have RAID 1 with desktop drives than a single enterprise SSD because a failure will not take the server down. These are not consumer parts, SuperMicro is just as reliable as anything from Dell or HP.

They run some law software so I don't think putting everything in the cloud will help. I've built many servers on SuperMicro hardware. The only failures i've ever experienced are hard drives and power supplies (but not Seasonic). A redundant power supply system is better than the best Seasonic PSU but the noise they make will be too much to handle. Thanks for your input.
 

IndyColtsFan

Lifer
Sep 22, 2007
33,477
545
126
Perhaps I missed it (I have to run to a meeting so I don't have time to read the OP in detail again), but I didn't see any mention of data backups and how that will be handled. How are you handling backups?
 

Arkaign

Lifer
Oct 27, 2006
20,565
1,042
126
Yeah, I work for tons of lawyers lol, they nearly invariably run Timeslips or Time Matters. That sits on the server and has plugins for Outlook (local or 365, no worries).

Often there is a tracking app for the DC as well that logs all print jobs for billing.

Still, I wouldn't necessarily suggest building a server from scratch. And a hybrid approach is wise. Use a NAS with cloud services for general data. Use the server as the DC and for Slips/Matters only. You can go small enough to run a raid enterprise SSD config, it makes maintenance and rebooting for updates massively easier.
 

beginner99

Diamond Member
Jun 2, 2009
4,621
1,003
136
This specific application does not demand performance but reliability, redundancy

Hard Drives: 2x desktop drives reused from workstations in RAID 1
You want reliability and use old hard drives? I'm not sure it's a good idea.

I'm with SnooSnoo. Get a NAS from one of the big brands. That's what they are made for, serving files. Will be much less hassle to setup and much cheaper.

And yeah as was mentioned, make a backup plan. NAS software usually ships with such options for cloud backup as well.
 
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