New Server Help

PDU72

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Hello all,

Were trying to transition into a bigger business by upgrading our server. Currently we have a regular desktop run our server, its an i5, 1tb HDD 7200rpm with win 10. Every week our file backup is only 2gb in size so size capacity isnt our problem but speed... In the office we only have 5 people at most connected to the server at any given time and the problem is that sometimes accessing file(s) takes time. Our programmer suggested that its the problem of the server and that we need to upgrade to a more dedicated business server.

So now weve decided for a Dell T140 with Xeon processor and H330 controller. Our programmer mentioned wanting a RAID 5 setup so he suggested 3 SAS 2.5 15k rpm HDD's.

Problem is, the computer shop doesnt seem to be on the same page with us as they replied saying these SAS HDD's arent compatible with the T140 only with T440 but the price difference from T140 to T440 is quite high. However some articles online say that the these SAS drives can actually be connected to the H330 controller instead of the motherboard. Im no IT expert, so i would like your professional advice on the best route to go.

Were a small business so we dont want to go for something OVERBOARD IN PRICE, when all we need is just the SPEED BOOST when accessing and writing files (as i mentioned above, our end of the week backup is only 2-3gb, all we need is improvements in speed)

Summary: Programmer wants RAID 5 setup, but were not sure what type of HDD or SSD to get wether SATA or SAS because the comp shops dont seem to also know what they are doing. We are quite budget conscious but if something needs to be spent we will spend for it, i just dont want to be spending on something that we dont even need. All our files only amount to 2gb and will maybe increase to 4-5gb within the next few years or so, still rather small i believe so space isnt an option but speed. As we use our server as a file server for the accounting and inventory of the business.

1. Which drive setup should we use?
- 3 SAS HDD's
- 3 SATA SSD's
- or what?

2. Only a max of 5 people use the server at one given time, so i was looking at windows essentials 2016... however dell website says it only supports windows server 2012 so im not sure if this is just lacking info, because some forums say it works with versions newer than 2012. Can anyone confirm?
 

zx10guy

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What's your budget?

To make it clear, are you saying the total amount of actual data you have stored on the hard drive is 2GB? When you say your total backup is 2GB, what backup software are you using? And to also be clear you're saying your total projected disk utilization is going to be 4 to 5GB?

Have you done any performance checks to see where the bottleneck is? Resource Monitor will give you information on if your hard drive isn't keeping up with the I/O requests. Is the slowness purely users trying to copy or write data to the hard drive of your current box?

I really find it hard to believe any computer (even a relatively old one) can't keep up with the demand being presented here. Also, what are you using for a network? Are all the devices hard wired or communicating over wireless?

With the question at hand, I fully agree the T140 is more than enough for your use case. That other computer shop is smoking something with their T440 suggestion. The only reason I can think of when they mention the hard drives is the T140 only has 3.5" drive bays. You mention 2.5" drives. The T440 can be configured natively with either option. But you can get adapter rails to make 2.5" drives work in a 3.5" bay. But personally for your use case, I wouldn't really bother with 15k SAS drives. I'm pretty sure you could get away with 7200 RPM SATA drives and maybe even 5400 RPM SATA drives. If you want to go SSD, I personally would just do 2 SSDs in a RAID 1 for mirroring/redundancy.
 

PDU72

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Thank you for your reply, It seems I was abit hasty when typing this yesterday, I will try to add as much detail as possible.

Current unit:
*i5-4460 3.2ghz 4cpu
*12gb ram
*1tb 7200rpm hdd split to 2 partitions
*Win 10

New planned unit:
*Dell t140 tower package
*Xeon E-2124 3.3ghz
*16gb ram
*Perc H330
*2 or 3 storage drives
- This is the question in hand
- I've been wanting to steer away from sata HDDs cuz of things I hear about speed. But I'm also reading different opinions on using sata SSDs for raid (are the dangers real?) ... And then SAS SSDs are too expensive and hard to come by... So I'm just looking for the least evil, kindly help me decide.
- Dunno why my programmer dude wants raid 5, but I can try asking him about raid 1. I guess raid 5 just feels safer or that's the one he's just more comfortable with.
*Windows essentials 2016 (hopefully)
- I don't think we'll be reaching 25 users within the next few years so, essentials seemed like the best option.
- I searched the perc H330 pdf and it mentions only win server 2012, so I'm not sure if 2016 can work?

Type of server: file server for accounting, invoicing and little inventory.
Name of software: Eaglebytes accounting


1. Budget? Around 2000 Usd. Can go alittle above if need be. But staying on the economical side would be nice as long as scalability is possible.

2. Basically how it is setup now is that one 1tb 7200rpm HDD was split into 2 partitions 500gb each, one for OS and operating files, and the other for sql data. Total sql files on the 2nd partition only amount to 4gb out of 500gb. So I don't really fully understand why it's taking so long to read and write. Total sql files amount to 4gb but when we do backup at the end of the week (copy files to an external harddrive for backup) it only amounts to 2gb. Hope that's clear.

3. Performance checks using task manager? Yes but I don't quite know where it is bottlenecked as nothing seems to go beyond 70%... The office people complain that when they retrieve files for viewing and or have to correct customer orders etc. It takes time. And during the writing process at the end of the day, when it's recording all the invoices and other data it also takes time. Not sure if this is processor or network or drive speed???

4. All wired.

5. I think the computer shop sales lady just doesn't fully understand things. Anyway,

*option 1 = 3 Hitachi SAS HDD 300gb 15k rpm (I found these brand new online for cheap so this is an option)

*option 2 = 3 other brand SATA SSD 250gb or 500gb (these are actually around the same price as the Hitachi SAS HDDs)

I write 3 because I'm currently assuming raid 5, but maybe plan to get 2 larger sizes if we do go with raid 1.

6. So I am sticking with the T140, and yes Adaptor rails are no problem. I just need your guys' opinion on SAS HDD vs SATA SSD. More and more im feeling SATA SSDs will suffice.

hope that's enough info, tell me what you think.
 
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zx10guy

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PDU72 said:
Thank you for your reply, It seems I was abit hasty when typing this yesterday, I will try to add as much detail as possible.

Current unit:
*i5-4460 3.2ghz 4cpu
*12gb ram
*1tb 7200rpm hdd split to 2 partitions
*Win 10

New planned unit:
*Dell t140 tower package
*Xeon E-2124 3.3ghz
*16gb ram
*Perc H330
*2 or 3 storage drives
- This is the question in hand
- I've been wanting to steer away from sata HDDs cuz of things I hear about speed. But I'm also reading different opinions on using sata SSDs for raid (are the dangers real?) ... And then SAS SSDs are too expensive and hard to come by... So I'm just looking for the least evil, kindly help me decide.
While SATA drives are slower than SAS, it's all about picking the right hardware for the use case. You certainly don't want to pay for a McLaren 720 to commute to work when a Toyota Corolla can do the job equally as well. The dangers you hear about SATA SSDs are tied to who is in the conversation which then ties into the type of SATA SSD hardware. The SATA SSDs most people think about are the ones you would use in a typical home PC. Drive reliability is measured in two ways: total bytes written and drive writes per day. Total bytes written is what consumer grade SATA SSDs are measured. Drive writes per day is what enterprise/business grade SATA SSDs are measured. Both these numbers provide a predictor as to how reliable the drive is. A drive which is measured by drive writes per day is going to be more durable than one that is measured as total bytes written. Enterprise level drives also employ some additional features such as drive write leveling where the electronics in the drive attempts to ensure all the flash cells have even wear. This does not happen with consumer grade SSDs. Everything in general with enterprise grade SATA SSDs are just better. I have both in my personal environment. The Intel S3610 SATA SSDs are built like tanks. The drive feels and seems to be machined out a solid piece of aluminum. The other thing enterprise SATA SSDs will have over consumer grade is higher quality flash memory which not only translates into durability but better performance.
PUD72 said:
- Dunno why my programmer dude wants raid 5, but I can try asking him about raid 1. I guess raid 5 just feels safer or that's the one he's just more comfortable with.
*Windows essentials 2016 (hopefully)
RAID 5 is disk striping with parity. You have to have a minimum of 3 drives to build a RAID 5. You will see RAID 5 used in many servers due to it's balance of performance, data availability, and best usage of physical disk space across all the drives. When you do multi hard drive type RAID schemes, you increase the likelihood of a total volume failure as the more drives you introduce the greater the risk of multiple drive failures. This is true when you purchase all the drives that go into your storage system all at once. Another consideration is if you plan on using hard drives bigger than 2TB in your RAID volume. If you do, the recommendation is to go to RAID 6 due to how long the rebuild will take to restore the RAID volume to a healthy state from a single failed drive. This will also mean it would be a good idea to have a hot spare so the RAID controller can immediately rebuild the RAID volume with the hot spare. I suggested RAID 1 because it's just a straight mirror. Anytime data is written to one drive, the same data is written to the mirrored drive. You won't get any performance increase but to me the data redundancy is better than RAID 5.
PUD72 said:
- I don't think we'll be reaching 25 users within the next few years so, essentials seemed like the best option.
- I searched the perc H330 pdf and it mentions only win server 2012, so I'm not sure if 2016 can work?
There should be no problems getting the H330 to work under 2016.
PUD72 said:
Type of server: file server for accounting, invoicing and little inventory.
Name of software: Eaglebytes accounting
I've never heard of this product and searching online yielded nothing. What I would suggest is to contact the developer and ask them what their recommended hardware is and to ask them what they think of the performance issues you have.
PUD72 said:
1. Budget? Around 2000 Usd. Can go alittle above if need be. But staying on the economical side would be nice as long as scalability is possible.

2. Basically how it is setup now is that one 1tb 7200rpm HDD was split into 2 partitions 500gb each, one for OS and operating files, and the other for sql data. Total sql files on the 2nd partition only amount to 4gb out of 500gb. So I don't really fully understand why it's taking so long to read and write. Total sql files amount to 4gb but when we do backup at the end of the week (copy files to an external harddrive for backup) it only amounts to 2gb. Hope that's clear.
This is why I don't think it's the hard drive. For the small number of users and the impression of the workload, there shouldn't be any massive transactional I/Os. But per above, I would contact the developer for guidance.
PUD72 said:
3. Performance checks using task manager? Yes but I don't quite know where it is bottlenecked as nothing seems to go beyond 70%... The office people complain that when they retrieve files for viewing and or have to correct customer orders etc. It takes time. And during the writing process at the end of the day, when it's recording all the invoices and other data it also takes time. Not sure if this is processor or network or drive speed???
I would use Resource Monitor as it provides very detailed metrics over the basic metrics Task Manager presents.
PUD72 said:
4. All wired.

5. I think the computer shop sales lady just doesn't fully understand things. Anyway,

*option 1 = 3 Hitachi SAS HDD 300gb 15k rpm (I found these brand new online for cheap so this is an option)

*option 2 = 3 other brand SATA SSD 250gb or 500gb (these are actually around the same price as the Hitachi SAS HDDs)

I write 3 because I'm currently assuming raid 5, but maybe plan to get 2 larger sizes if we do go with raid 1.
My standard and many others do with servers is to have two different volumes. One volume is for your system/OS. These drives can be small and be put into a RAID 1. Your data volume would be any RAID type you deem appropriate: RAID 1 through 6. The reason why this setup is preferred is because if you put your OS on the same RAID volume as your data, you can run the risk of not being able to even boot the server if there is a major failure of the RAID volume. You always want to operate in a manner that you can assure your ability to boot the server.
PUD72 said:
6. So I am sticking with the T140, and yes Adaptor rails are no problem. I just need your guys' opinion on SAS HDD vs SATA SSD. More and more im feeling SATA SSDs will suffice.
I feel for your use case SATA SSDs are more than sufficient. I'd pay a little more to get enterprise grade SATA SSDs to gain the better performance and reliability. But they will still be significantly cheaper than SAS SSDs.
PUD72 said:
hope that's enough info, tell me what you think.
 
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PDU72

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Alright, enterprise SATA SSDs it is then. Which specs should I be taking note of? When is it considered "enterprise level" enough?

Something i stumbled upon were the types of distinctions they make, Read Intensive, Mixed Use, and Write Intensive. I guess for my needs, Read Intensive will do right?

Based on the Perc H330 pdf, it doesnt list down RAID 6, so i guess thats out of the question.
 

zx10guy

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Here's a link to Intel's SSD portfolio:

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/memory-storage/solid-state-drives.html

You'll see two categories: data center and client. Data center is what you want and then you make the appropriate selection. Micron also has data center quality SATA SSDs. Other manufacturers which have enterprise/data center offerings will have a break out that is similar.

I wouldn't do read intensive. These are for applications where you do minimal writes to the SSD and do a ton of reads. I'd look at mixed use. Write intensive tend to be the higher performing more expensive ones. All of these are in relation to how well the flash memory stands up to the most punishing thing you can do to flash memory which is write data to it. There are also different types of flash memory: SLC, MLC, and TLC. SLCs are the highest performing and most durable. They're also the most expensive. Where as TLC is more on the budget end. I would opt for either MLC or TLC.

Yes, the H330 does not support RAID 6. RAID 6 requires more processing as there are two parity stripes that are part of why RAID 6 provides more data redundancy than RAID 5. But RAID 6 requires a minimum of 4 drives and is not as efficient with utilization of available physical storage.
 

zx10guy

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Something else which occurred to me, you want to spend the money for the iDRAC9 Enterprise. What this will give you is the ability to have a virtual console to the server over the network. This is a nice feature where you don't have to be physically at the box. And if you set up VPN capability to your network, you can have full remote admin capabilities without having to physically go into the office. Having the Enterprise version of iDRAC will also provide you the ability to mount ISOs and CD drives from your remote terminal where the server will see it as a locally attached device. Very handy in a number of situations.

All of my servers I have in my home network have the Enterprise version of iDRAC.
 

PDU72

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Thanks! I'll take note of all of this. It might be a while before i receive a quote.
 

PDU72

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Hello again, so I mentioned to my programmer guy regarding RAID 1 and he still seems to prefer RAID 5 as he says RAID 1 is faster in writing data but slower in retrieving. Furthermore that RAID 1 cannot operate when one drive fails, and when recovering data RAID 5 allows a quick swap and it will automatically recover from the parity drive info.

I guess there's nothing inherently wrong with going RAID 5, just extra initial capital for the minimum of 3 drives.

Anything else i should be aware about?

Thanks again.
 

zx10guy

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He is correct about the read times of RAID 5 being faster than RAID 1. It's a function of striping the data across multiple drives and being able to read simultaneously from the member drives at the same time. In the case of a RAID 5 with 3 drives, you'll be reading data from 2 drives at the same time. With RAID 1, you only read from one drive at a time. He is absolutely wrong about RAID 1 not operating when one drive fails. RAID 1 is a set of two drives which are direct mirrors of each other. If one drive fails, the other drive will just step in and operate in place of the failed drive. This is why most sys admins choose to use RAID 1 for the OS boot drive because it's simple and fast for recovery of a server. I build all of my servers with the boot volume using RAID 1.

You still haven't done the leg work to determine what your actual performance issue is. You don't know if you need the additional read I/O that RAID 5 can give you. By keeping things simple which is using RAID 1 and SSDs, it'll probably give you all the performance you need without the complexity of going to a striped RAID volume. Don't make the mistake of throwing solutions at a problem hoping it may fix the problem. Figure out what the actual problem is and then formulate a solution around fixing it.
 

PDU72

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I get your point. He seemed abit hurt when I suggested using Raid 1, and replied quite saltily with "I'm fine whatever you want."

Might switch to a different guy, but thanks for your input.
 

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