Help With Initial System Setup

Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
London
Hi,

I am new to this forum and a complete noob when it comes to Windows Server. I do however have a lot of other systems experience and is technically orientated, so am hopeful to pick up on this fairly quickly.

I am part of a small'ish organisation that want to start making use of a server environment. However, we are a dispersed organisation with a small office and most of our employees either working from home, or at clients. The office does not have any IT infrastructure other than a couple of well spec'ed PC's connected to a wireless router and an internet connection which can be upgraded to a fairly good standard. We could also put in a dedicated internet connection for the server if need be.

We are registered as Microsoft Partners and therefore have licensing keys for:
Windows Home Server 2008 for Partners
Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise - Virtual
Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation for Partners
Windows Small Business Server Standard 2008 for Partners
Windows Small Business Server Standard 2008 for Partners -Virtual
Windows Web Server 2008 R2
Windows Web Server 2008 R2 - Virtual


There are 3 things I would preferably want to deliver with this server:
1) I would like to host our accounting package so that all users can remotely access the accounting software. The software is not web based but would need to be delivered through terminal services (I believe)
2) I would like to host a web server which will host our CRM system (I'm fine with setting up web servers on a local machine, but are a bit confused on what the easiest way would be to give access to remote users with our setup)
3) I would like to host Sharepoint Services / or a normal Fileserver for the company for document sharing

We have looked at a hosted Windows server solution, but this seems to be very expensive (around 350 per month) for the basic functionality we want and would not want to commit to a contract until we know how well this solution will work for our company.

My main questions, I guess, are:

Which Windows Server 2008 do I pick?
Would it be possible, with our configuration, to give our employees remote access to the system?
What security risks would we be facing when doing this?

Any help with this would be much appreciated. I am sure if I can get some guidelines I will be able to take this further a lot easier and quicker.

Many thanks,
Jacques
 

ICTCity

TSF Regular
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Location
Switzerland
Hi there,

Many things depends on HOW MUCH users will use your system.

You should use VPN connections to permit clients to connect via TS. You can use Microsoft TS or XenDesktop (XenApp) from citrix, it works fine but it's quite expensive.

You should use Enterprise version, because of its features like cluestring and so on. You will need two servers because it's not a great idea hosting a website on the same server of TS or company's resources.

If you use a separate server for web hosting... you shouldn't have many problem, anyway use a firewall and a DMZ.

if you need more help... simply ask.
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
London
Many thanks for your quick reply and willingness to help.

We have now decided to go ahead with this and I am in the process of figuring out which server I would need. As my server will only serve around around 15 people (most of them remotely) I was thinking I probably don't need too powerful a machine to start with but would really like some assurance that I am not buying something that will come up short for what I need to do.

I will be installing Windows Server 2008 Enterprise version to server remote users with our Windows based Accounting Software through terminal services. I would also like to set up a file server, so the hardware should be able to handle that.

I am looking at buying the entry level Dell PowerEdge server with the following specifications:

PowerEdge T110 Tower Chassis for Up to 4x 3.5" Cabled HDDs
Intel Xeon X3430, 4C, 2.40GHz, 8MB Cache, 95W TDP, Turbo, DDR3-1333MHz
4GB Memory, DDR3, 1333MHz (1x4GB Dual Ranked UDIMM)
1Yr Basic Warranty - NBD Included - No Upgrade Selected
No Operating System
T110 EMEA1 Ship Docs No Power Cord (English/French/German/Spanish/Russian/Hebrew)
C1 - No RAID with On-board SATA Controller, Requires 1-4 SATA HDDs
No Primary RAID Controller Card
250GB, SATA, 3.5-in, 7.2K RPM Hard Drive (Cabled)
UK 250V 2M Power Cord 10A
Server Management Card: iDRAC6 Embedded BMC
Intel PRO/1000PT GbE Single Port Server Adapter, Cu, PCIe-1
16X DVD+/-RW ROM Drive SATA with SATA Cable
No Factory Installed Mouse
Display Not Included
PE T110 Electronic System Documentation and OpenManage DVD
1Yr Basic Warranty - Next Business Day - Minimum Warranty
You have chosen not to take the Dell PowerEdge installation service

Is there any other hardware that I would need to get to get the installation up and running and does the above look like an adequate specification of what I would like to do. Out of experience I don't feel like I can trust the Windows listed minimum requirements.

Also, if there are any other tips and things that I should look out for when starting the installation, any contribution would be much appreciated... This is very much a learning experience for me.

Many thanks,
Jacques
 

ICTCity

TSF Regular
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Location
Switzerland
Hi Jacques,

Nobody can tell you if 4 gb of ram are enough... it depends on WHAT users have to do. If 15 users are connected together and they use only word and sometime browse the web... you should be ok with 4 gb... but if 15 users are using also excel or outlook, everything changes.

First of all you must know that with a 32 bits edition (x86) you can only use 3.5 gb of ram (this is a hardware limitation), so try to investigate if you can install a 64 bits edition which is better, you just need to check program's compatibilities and drivers (for printers - if needed).

When you install a 64 bits server, ram is not a big problem, if you run out of ram, you can just add some more and everything will be fine. If 4 gb aren't enough and you have a 32 bits edition... the problem could be harder to be resolved.

From the configuration you just posted, it seems that you just have a SINGLE Hard drive and NO RAID CONTROLLER, which is like a suicide! You need AT LEAST two disks in RAID 1, but usually in a server scenario, people use 5 or more HD to implement a RAID 0+1 or RAID 5.


If you want / can, tell me:
- what users have to do
- how many users are connected at the same time
- how many DISK SPACE do you need

Remember: adding RAM is quite easy, changing a CPU can be a problem (drivers...), changing hard drive configuration may be painful!

Let me know!

bye
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
London
Thanks a lot once again.

Essentially, the traffic from our users will be very low. I don't think there will ever be more than 5 active users connected consecutively (not to begin with anyways). They will, at first only need to access the Sage Windows Based accounting software and Excel (only when exporting information from Sage). I believe 4 Gig should be enough, but I would like to configure the server in such a way that it would be easily upgradable. I would like to implement a file server at some point though, but that will probably only happen a little later on.

Thanks for the RAID controller and hard drive tips. My thinking was to keep the cost as low as possible, but if not having the controller and initial RAID setup will make it much harder to upgrade later, then this will probably be worth having to start up with. I do not need a lot of HD space. 250Gig will probably be enough and 500 Gig will definitely be enough. At the moment keeping the server costs down is important, but I don't want to set up something that cannot be upgraded, so finding the right balance is what I'm looking for. Taking that into account I would really appreciate some more help on which HD configuration would be the best combination of price, ease of implementation and meeting my needs.

Thanks,
Jacques
 

ICTCity

TSF Regular
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Location
Switzerland
Hi Jacques,

When you talk about SAGE, you're talking about the swiss's accounting product? If yes, I use it too in my environment, so I know what are you talking about.

Sage uses SQL server, are you planning to install it too on the same server?

Cost is everytime the biggest problem, but trust me, I know many people who try to save money first, but then they need to invest more and more to "repair" on what has been done before.

What I wanna know is: your new server, what will be able to do? You CAN say: after I could add a print server, but you CANNOT say: after I could add an exchange, SQL, or I don't know what...

SAGE's database will be located on that server?

Regarding HD configuration, because of you're not planning to buy a shared storage, it's mandatory you calculate very well the space needed. Your situation is not so easy because if you want to install also the SQL server, the disks's I/O (input / output) may be the bottle neck if misconfigured.

So, if you plan to install the SQL instance, I suggest you to use this hard drive configuration:

4 x 146 gb (at least 10k RPM) in RAID 5, which means you will have 400 GB of usable space. If in the future you will need more space you can add others disks but NOT WITH THE SERVER YOU SELECTED, because it has only 4 bays.

Please, answer to my questions and then we can go further :)

ps: are you from Switzerland? If yes, where are you from?
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
London
Hi there, first off, I am not from Switzerland (unfortunately :) ). I'm resident in London (originally from South Africa), but I think we are talking about the same SAGE although I don't think it is the same version.

We are using the SAGE Line 50 Client Manager. This version of Sage does not use a SQL Server, but, as far as I can tell, its own 'File system' database. It is a good thing you mention the SQL server though, because I do quite a bit of VBA programming which makes use of SQL server combined with Excel and would like to use this host some of those applications on here as well (although traffic to them will be minimal). Therefore, I would definitely like to install an instance of SQL Server if I could.

The following will need to be installed on the server (this includes everything that I foresee I might possibly like to install going forward.)

Sage Line 50 Client Manager (No Database needed as the 'file system' database is installed along with the application)
Excel
File Server
Microsoft Sharepoint (This is a future possibility, but we have this hosted with Microsoft as well, so we could do without it)
MS SQL Server

There will be no need for Exchange as we have this hosted with Microsoft Online Services.
 

ICTCity

TSF Regular
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Location
Switzerland
Hi Jacques,

We aren't talking about the same program ;) but this doesn't matter too much :)

That's the point, you must pay attention on what you need on your server. What you want to do is called "SCALABILITY". I saw some companies where 2 server (in cluster) were doing everything. This solution works, if you have enough disks (space and performance), CPU and RAM you can do that. The drawback is security, for example (it's not your case) when you want to install a webserver, you have to put it on a DMZ OUTSIDE your LAN, so if you have SQL and IIS on the same server... how you can manage this?

If you plan to install SQL I suggest you to use a separate environment, not only for security purpose (users are logged in via TS and they are on a SQL server too...), but also because if you need to restart SQL server yours users can still work with outlook, excel, sage and so on. If you SQL's istance is on the same server, all users have to log off.

If you don't need to use COM ports (for example FAX or others serial devices) you could implement XenServer which is free with the limitation of 5 virtual machines.

Let's talk about the hardware:

Your server could be something like this (no redundant power supply!!!):

PowerEdge R310


PowerEdge R310:
PowerEdge R310 Chassis, Up to 4 Cabled Hard Drives and Quad Pack LED diagnostics R310C 1 [224-8311] 1


Ship Group:
Shipping for PowerEdge R310 SHIPGRP 1 [330-8208] 2


Processor:
Intel Xeon X3430, 2.4 GHz, 8M Cache, Turbo X3430 1 [317-2310][330-8207] 6


Memory:
8GB Memory (4x2GB), 1333MHz Single Ranked UDIMM 8G3SRU 1 [317-2022][317-5942] 3


Operating System:
No Operating System NOOS 1 [420-6320] 11


Hard Drive Configuration:
RAID 1 - Add-in PERC S100 (SAS/SATA Controller), 2 Hard Drives AS2HDR1 1 [330-8160] 27


Internal Controller:
No Controller NCTRLR 1 [341-3933] 9


Hard Drives (Multi-Select):
250GB 7.2K RPM SATA 3.5" Cabled Hard Drive 250S35C 2 [341-9208] 1209


Power Supply:
Power Supply, Non-Redundant, 350W NRPS 1 [330-8210] 36


Power Cords:
Power Cord, NEMA 5-15P to C13, wall plug, 10 feet WP10F 1 [330-5113] 38


Embedded Management:
Baseboard Management Controller BMC 1 [313-7919] 14


Network Adapter:
Broadcom 5709 Dual Port 1GbE NIC w/TOE iSCSI, PCIe-4 B5709I 1 [430-3260] 13


Rails:
No Rack Rails or Cable Management Arm NORAIL 1 [330-3522] 28


Bezel:
Bezel BEZEL 1 [313-7839] 17


Internal Optical Drive:
No Internal Optical Drive NOCDDVD 1 [330-8184] 16


System Documentation:
Electronic System Documentation, OpenManage DVD Kit with DMC EDOCSD 1 [330-5280][330-8869] 21


Primary Hard Drive:
HD Multi-Select HDMULTI 1 [341-4158] 8


Hardware Support Services:
3Yr Basic Hardware Warranty Repair: 5x10 HW-Only, 5x10 NBD Onsite U3OS 1 [909-4337][909-4488][923-8249][923-8942][927-3180][994-4019] 29


Installation Services:
No Installation NOINSTL 1 [900-9997] 32



As you can see I just added 2 disks (RAID 1), because I think you should buy a shared storage (NAS or SAN):

Here you can find a list of them:

http://hcl.xensource.com/BrowsableStorageList.aspx

Let me know if this can help you.
 
Joined
Mar 23, 2011
Location
London
Thanks ICTCity,

This really has given me a much better idea of what is needed and how to approach this project!

I'm wondering (and a little bit off topic, but I guess there is no harm in asking) what your opinion would be of initially hosting something like this on a cloud server / VPS / Dedicated hosted server. Would it even be possible to use something like rackspace's cloud environment?

Sorry if this has gone completely off topic and I will move this into another forum / thread if needed, but I would value your opinion when having to lay down all the options to my directors!

Again, many thanks for all your help and quick responses.
 

ICTCity

TSF Regular
Joined
Feb 9, 2011
Location
Switzerland
Hi jacques,

Cloud computing is a big advantage because of you don't need to care about HA and DR.

Clouding is the future and maybe the present. I never tried that service, when I implemented a DR & HA on the company where I work, the drawbacks of a clouding environment were too much for me. But I'm talking about 7 months ago.

my personal opinion is: my servers are under my responsability and my control.

If you plan to go CLOUDING, be sure to provide at least two WAN connections with different ISP (if you router supports that) you will be able to use both together, this increase performance at AVAILABILITY! It's not a great idea having all servers in a safe place, clustered and backed up but unusable because your network connection is down!


Let me know if you need more help!
 
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