Using a barebones pc as a server?

Jul 26, 2006
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#1
How do you think a barebones PC would work as a small server for a simple website, a custom built database (php/mysql) and an attached USB NAS for backups?

Something like this (6th gen i7 CPU):
http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5692#ov

And throw in 16GB of ram and some random M.2 SSD with windozs 7?

This company has 5-6 employees, and are a little low on physical space. Seems this solution would not only provide all the power they need, but also save a lot of space.

Anything obvious I am missing? I think my biggest concern is using a laptop CPU sku for a server.
 

TeknoBug

Platinum Member
Oct 2, 2013
2,078
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#3
You'll probably want ECC memory for a database server.
 

nerp

Diamond Member
Dec 31, 2005
9,805
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#4
Sure, but buy enterprise class drives.
 

thecoolnessrune

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2005
9,310
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#5
Instead of investing in a "server" that's not really a server, and not running a ServerOS, why not go to the Cloud? An Azure App Service running on a Shared instance is $10 a month, and a MySQL compatible Azure Database is $5 a month, so for $15 a month you can run your PHP / MySQL App in a fully patched, highly available, managed environment. You'll have little concern for patch management, security vulnerabilities, bandwidth management, Security issues involved with running a website out of your business, and troubleshooting hardware issues.

If you're going to put money in a service for a business, putting your money in a service like the above is a much better idea than putting it in a loosely managed server.
 
Jul 26, 2006
143
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#6
Well the primary purpose of this 'server' is to backup the files daily. So using the cloud would not work due to bandwidth issues.

There current setup is a computer (that an employee is using) is running BCM and backup software.

The idea is to buy a small NUC, and attach the raid 1 USB device to continue doing backups (BCM will be gone)... And maybe run the new database there or on a shared hosting.

An Azure App Service running on a Shared instance is $10 a month, and a MySQL compatible Azure Database is $5 a month, so for $15 a month you can run your PHP / MySQL App in a fully patched, highly available, managed environment.
Well I was thinking of a shared namecheap plan. The namecheap shared hosting plan is only $14 a year. It has daily backups and should be more than powerful enough. Any reason why you picked Azure as a suggestion, my experience with namecheap has been rather solid so far?

Note: This is not my business, nor did I setup this network.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,586
196
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#7
How do you think a barebones PC would work as a small server for a simple website, a custom built database (php/mysql) and an attached USB NAS for backups?

Something like this (6th gen i7 CPU):
http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5692#ov

And throw in 16GB of ram and some random M.2 SSD with windozs 7?

This company has 5-6 employees, and are a little low on physical space. Seems this solution would not only provide all the power they need, but also save a lot of space.

Anything obvious I am missing? I think my biggest concern is using a laptop CPU sku for a server.
Variety of options here. BRIX come in quad-core flavors too (desktop CPU's), as well as double-decker drive cases (M.2 or mSATA SSD + 2.5" HDD). The small SSD's go up to 1TB & the 2.5" drives go up to 2TB (SSD or HDD). You can connect an 8TB USB 3.0 drive for $249. Use a cloud backup host like Backblaze or Crashplan. Or setup something like a Synology NAS with RAID via Ethernet using iSCSI.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,586
196
126
#8
Note: This is not my business, nor did I setup this network.
Don't worry about it, I do weird setups like this all the time. If you set it up right, you can make the system fairly bulletproof, despite not having a $9,000 Dell server with ECC memory, iDRAC cards, and redundant power supplies. Some suggestions:

1. Buy two hardware kits (BRIX, RAM, SSD). This way, if the boot drive dies, you can simply clone over a backup to the spare drive & be back up and running in no time. Or if the whole computer dies, you have an instant spare. Cheap insurance & same-day recovery for uptime!

2. Buy a license of Macrium Reflect ($75 if you're using Windows 7). This lets you do an entire drive clone & can be set to backup on a schedule (full, differential, or incremental). If your boot drive fries or your file share gets Crytolocker or whatever, you can simply restore the latest backup (ex. do a full backup initially, then setup incrementals to automatically back up at noon & midnight so you have two daily snapshots, so you never lose more than a few hours worth of work). Just have someone mount a backup once a week to make sure everything is still good.

3. Buy a big fat UPS (hook it up via USB & set it to shut down after say so many minutes without power). Another level of protection for your hardware. An APC BR1500G Back-UPS Pro 1500VA gives you an 865w battery for $170. Running just a BRIX, that will probably give you a couple hours of battery time.

4. There's no vPro or iDRAC or other hardware RAT stuff on these, but you can buy an IP-KVM if you need BIOS-level remote access, like a Lantronix Spider ($280, plus an extra ten bucks for an HDMI to VGA adapter for the BRIX), plus an IP-PDU (remotely turn a power outlet on/off) for remote power cycling. They sell cheap Wifi IP-PDU's now for single outlets, like the Raynic Power Pro ($30). So you can do some pretty neat remote management stuff on a reasonable budget. If they want to spring for secure remote access, a lifetime license of Teamviewer is $809 (unless they have a VPN service setup in say their router, in which case you could just connect in via the IP-KVM), or you could go with a free version, such as Chrome Remote Desktop using a Gmail account protected with 2FA for security purposes.

5. If they need a ton of space for a file server, you can get a zippy USB 3.0 external drive that has a RAID setup. For example, the WD 12TB My Book Duo unit gives you a 6TB RAID 1 (mirroring) box for $450, which is a ton of space for a typical small business. Then add a backup drive to clone over the boot & data drives; a simple single-drive 8TB USB 3.0 drive would work fine ($230). Then back everything up to the cloud (Backblaze offers business backup for $50 per computer per year, unlimited, and can handle USB drives, plus there's stuff like Crashplan & other services available).

So a sample order list: (~$3k total)

(1) Windows 7 license ($150)
(2) BRIX ($550 x 2 = $1100)
(2) 16GB RAM kits ($60 x 2 = $120)
(2) 256gb NVMe boot drives ($180 x 2 = $360)
(1) 12TB (6TB RAID-1) USB 3.0 external RAID drive ($450)
(1) 8TB USB 3.0 external backup drive ($230)
(1) 865w UPS battery backup ($170)
(1) IP-KVM ($290 with an HDMI to VGA adapter cable)
(1) Wifi-PDU ($30)
(1) Macrium Reflect license ($75)

This gives you:

1. A Windows 7 mini computer with a speedy boot drive & tons of RAM
2. 6TB of data storage, plus an 8TB backup drive (to backup the boot & data drives)
3. A spare boot drive (in case that craps out), plus an entire spare computer (in case that craps out)
4. Remote access via IP-KVM & remote power-cycling via IP-PDU
5. Automatic daily backup clones of the entire drive, plus battery backup in case of a power outage

You're pretty much covered in every situation with that type of setup, assuming the hardware can handle the workload you want to run on it. Sure it'd be nice to have a fancy professional server, but most small businesses don't have the budget to get the good stuff, so sometimes you just have to make do with what you can get.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
4,307
6
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#9
You're pretty much covered in every situation with that type of setup, assuming the hardware can handle the workload you want to run on it. Sure it'd be nice to have a fancy professional server, but most small businesses don't have the budget to get the good stuff, so sometimes you just have to make do with what you can get.
LOL you talk about budget then quote $3k worth of consumer level hardware? $3k will get you a pair of entry level Poweredge servers running server 2k12. If I'm spending $3k on a system for a business it had better have a warranty and support.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,586
196
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#10
LOL you talk about budget then quote $3k worth of consumer level hardware? $3k will get you a pair of entry level Poweredge servers running server 2k12. If I'm spending $3k on a system for a business it had better have a warranty and support.
1. Agree with you on pricing. A basic Dell tower server with a Celeron & a 2012 license is about $1200.

2. However, OP discussed BRIX & Windows 7. Guessing it's not a domain setup, and given the small number of users, might not make sense to get a full-blown server setup.

3. $3k for a complete solution should be doable for a small business, assuming they're not a one-off hotdog stand. If they have 6 employees @ $20/hr each, their payroll alone is $20k/month. A $3,000 investment that includes a spare server, battery backup, 6 terabytes of RAID-protected data storage, and an 8TB local backup disk with automatic backup is reasonable, especially since in an emergency (hardware failure, virus, etc.), OP could switch out the parts & get them back up & running in under 30 minutes once onsite, versus having to pay for Dell's Pro Support with a 4-hour turnaround window.

Sure, in an ideal world, everybody would have an industry-standard configuration & do things via best practice, but not everybody has the budget or IT support training to do that. But spending a bit of money to get as fully protected as possible in a consumer-grade, non-domain configuration would be a lot better than just having one computer with a backup drive attached & no real recovery plan, which would cost a grand by itself anyway (PC hardware, Windows license, backup drive), so sometimes you have to work with what you've got.
 

frowertr

Golden Member
Apr 17, 2010
1,368
5
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#11
No way I would do this for a client. I'd turn them down if they asked me to whitebox a server.

You can buy a nice HP or Dell for under $2k that has support. So when something breaks (it always does) you have someone to call.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
4,307
6
126
#12
3. $3k for a complete solution should be doable for a small business, assuming they're not a one-off hotdog stand. If they have 6 employees @ $20/hr each, their payroll alone is $20k/month. A $3,000 investment that includes a spare server, battery backup, 6 terabytes of RAID-protected data storage, and an 8TB local backup disk with automatic backup is reasonable, especially since in an emergency (hardware failure, virus, etc.), OP could switch out the parts & get them back up & running in under 30 minutes once onsite, versus having to pay for Dell's Pro Support with a 4-hour turnaround window.

Sure, in an ideal world, everybody would have an industry-standard configuration & do things via best practice, but not everybody has the budget or IT support training to do that. But spending a bit of money to get as fully protected as possible in a consumer-grade, non-domain configuration would be a lot better than just having one computer with a backup drive attached & no real recovery plan, which would cost a grand by itself anyway (PC hardware, Windows license, backup drive), so sometimes you have to work with what you've got.
The listed usage for this server is a small website and database. I see nothing that hints at needing 6TB of storage. Or even 1TB of storage for that matter. Add a tape drive to the Poweredge and you're still at way under $3k and I'd have far more trust in that hardware than a pair of Brix. If you're willing to whitebox a system for a client (I'm not), at least do it right and go Supermicro. There's not a chance in hell I'd trust a Brix with a production system in any environment.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
4,307
6
126
#13
No way I would do this for a client. I'd turn them down if they asked me to whitebox a server.

You can buy a nice HP or Dell for under $2k that has support. So when something breaks (it always does) you have someone to call.
x1,000
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,586
196
126
#14
The listed usage for this server is a small website and database. I see nothing that hints at needing 6TB of storage. Or even 1TB of storage for that matter. Add a tape drive to the Poweredge and you're still at way under $3k and I'd have far more trust in that hardware than a pair of Brix. If you're willing to whitebox a system for a client (I'm not), at least do it right and go Supermicro. There's not a chance in hell I'd trust a Brix with a production system in any environment.
I can understand that you wouldn't personally do it, and that it's not anywhere near standard practice, but that's not the OP's situation:

1. He's looking for a basic Windows 7 desktop machine:

And throw in 16GB of ram and some random M.2 SSD with windozs 7
2. It needs more storage: (unspecified amount; I threw the 6TB USB RAID box out there as an easy, turn-key, cost-effective option)

a little low on physical space

...

The idea is to buy a small NUC, and attach the raid 1 USB device to continue doing backups (BCM will be gone
3. The primary purpose is to backup files locally, and possibly run a database on it:

Well the primary purpose of this 'server' is to backup the files daily. So using the cloud would not work due to bandwidth issues.

...

And maybe run the new database there or on a shared hosting.
You've posted 3 separate times about how you wouldn't do this, which we can appreciate, but we have to keep in mind that the OP is not asking for a professional server with a server operating system:

How do you think a barebones PC would work as a small server for a simple website, a custom built database (php/mysql) and an attached USB NAS for backups?
Per his posts, his idea is a NUC, with a RAID box attached, using a desktop operating system. In the traditional scope of putting a business server into production, yes, a standard Dell or similar server with a warranty would be a far better choice, but the OP specifically stated that it's not his business & he didn't setup the network - he simply has a job to do. Assuming they are budget-restricted (hence looking at a NUC & not a real server) & also assuming they are a non-domain setup (given the aforementioned Windows 7 OS), it's still possible to add enhanced reliability by having spare parts & a good backup system, given those constraints. Is it the best idea? No, but OP has to work within the given limitations, and decide if it's something he wants to personally support long-term.
 

thecoolnessrune

Diamond Member
Jun 8, 2005
9,310
33
126
#15
Well the primary purpose of this 'server' is to backup the files daily. So using the cloud would not work due to bandwidth issues.

There current setup is a computer (that an employee is using) is running BCM and backup software.

The idea is to buy a small NUC, and attach the raid 1 USB device to continue doing backups (BCM will be gone)... And maybe run the new database there or on a shared hosting.



Well I was thinking of a shared namecheap plan. The namecheap shared hosting plan is only $14 a year. It has daily backups and should be more than powerful enough. Any reason why you picked Azure as a suggestion, my experience with namecheap has been rather solid so far?

Note: This is not my business, nor did I setup this network.
You bring up some valid points :) I wasn't aware of your requirements for the server back when I made my post. I bolded the last line of your post because I think its very important to keep in mind. You did not set this business up, and you did not set up the Network. I'd be very hesitant if it were me to introduce options into this setup that I would find myself supporting. You probably don't want to either! :D

For my suggestion of Azure, I think the big difference I want to stress is that you are comparing a VM Hosting service, (Infrastructure as a service, or IaaS), to a Platform Hosting Service (PaaS).

When I reading your Post, what I inferred from it is that you're working with a group of people that have developers, and are doing active development, but they do not necessarily have an IT Staff. If this company does not have an IT Staff Member, then in my opinion the primary focus of an infrastructure implementation should be focused on hiding as much of that infrastructure as possible. IaaS and PaaS makes that a viable option.

With the Azure platform I referenced, you're not buying a VM, you're buying a platform. The Database, and the App instance runs on highly available hardware. You only access the app and the database. There is no concern with installing, patching, or anything. You just interact with the app. This is ideal for customers that do not have dedicated IT Staff.

In regards to Storage, for backups, I for one highly believe in segregation of responsibilities. If you want to run your Database, run your database. In fact, for a company with low staffing running a website, I think running the website in Azure Apps (as I mentioned above) is a great idea. You get high availability, replication, and security right from the start, instead of worrying about backups as an afterthought.

For backups that need to be local, it sounds like a simple Synology DS216 would be ideal. It's relatively low cost, quick, and has a management interface that a Developer should be comfortable with. In addition, Synology's DSM operating system supports a very intuitive interface for moving backups to the cloud. So if time goes on and the company decides they want to make sure their backups are protected off-site, they can seamlessly make backups of their backups to Azure, AWS Storage, and others.

Like i said previously, I understand businesses have constraints, but I would definitely put most of my money into providing solutions that are low maintenance, and low chances of continued support, vs. a solution cobbled together and then only supported by a single person who doesn't work for the company. :)
 
Jul 26, 2006
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#16
Thanks for the reply's.

The tricky part here is they are a small non-profit organization. I am not even there main IT (a buddy of mine is), I just help it out from time to time. And this server came up when we meet with them for me to do some programming work for them.

Everything right now is setup and working for them, but the 'server' right now is also being used by an employee. Not only is it bad practice, but the pc is also slow so we discussed some cheap alternatives.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,586
196
126
#17
I would definitely put most of my money into providing solutions that are low maintenance, and low chances of continued support, vs. a solution cobbled together and then only supported by a single person who doesn't work for the company. :)
^ words of wisdom :thumbsup:
 

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