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TechChild

Our work server needs upgrading... never built a server machine, need suggestions

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hello LTT community! At my startup company our main server has slowed to a crawl (it's an 8 year old machine, and has been under heavy load for a while). It's a single tower, and I am not sure what the hardware is for it. It isn't our server that is consumer facing, it's just for internal accounting use. My boss is wanting to just buy a server, but I am afraid he'll make a dumb decision and purchase a pre-built server that is going to cause more problems. I need some recommendations for building a server machine, specifically:

- What processor would you suggest for a server build that needs to lean on the budget side? We are not serving media from this machine, it is only running Great Plains software and running a database that is used by Great Plains. It doesn't have to be fancy.

- What RAM, motherboard, and other components? again leaning on the budget side.

- Tower?

 

We have a budget of about $2000. Also, if it is not suggested to build a machine for that low a budget then let me know as well. Like I said before I haven't done a server build, so suggestions, reality checks, clarifying questions are all welcome.

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7 minutes ago, TechChild said:

My boss is wanting to just buy a server, but I am afraid he'll make a dumb decision and purchase a pre-built server that is going to cause more problems.

It's actually not a bad idea to buy a prebuilt-one, because you get warranty and various kinds of support-options. I mean, it's used for making money, so any time wasted on you trying to fiddle with the hardware should something go wrong is money lost. I would only suggest going the DIY-route if you are already exceedingly familiar with DIY-builds and you are sure you can fix any issues faster than the folks behind a prebuilt, brand-name one could.


Hand, n. A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody’s pocket.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

I hadn't thought about the warranty and support. That's a good point. Any suggestions on brands to look at for a reputable pre-built?

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Just now, TechChild said:

I hadn't thought about the warranty and support. That's a good point. Any suggestions on brands to look at for a reputable pre-built?

HP, DELL etc.  The big names have lots of options for servers at all levels of performance with the kind of support you need.

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So you weren't willing to go prebuilt because you're afraid your boss would make a bad decision, yet you have no experience spec'ing a system, let alone building one with the requirements you have in mind...

 

To amend @WereCatf's comments, when you talk to them about spec'ing a system, you may want to talk to whomever in your company can give you an approximation for anticipated growth over the next 3 to 5 years for this system specifically. No need to worry about full company growth, just growth in the number of people expected to access this system. That way you avoid a situation where you're spec'ing a system that'll need to be replaced sooner than your company might like. Your boss may even make that part of the requirements for the purchase.

 

Since WereCatf already mentioned the service agreement and warranty, there's no need to elaborate on that. Only thing I'll add is to speak to their sales teams about your use case. They'll likely be able to give you an idea of what similarly situated companies are using with Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) so you can make an informed purchase decision. I wouldn't necessarily try to go for that on your own. You could also try contacting Microsoft, letting them know that you intend to upgrade the server you're using and ask for specification recommendations based on your use case and anticipated growth.


Wife's build: Amethyst - Intel i7-5820k, 16GB EVGA DDR4, ASUS X99-PRO/USB 3.1, EVGA GTX 1080 SC, Corsair Obsidian 750D, Corsair RM1000

My build: Mira - Intel i7-5820k, 16GB EVGA DDR4, ASUS Sabertooth X99, EVGA GTX 1070 SC Black Edition, NZXT H440, EVGA Supernova 1050 GS

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Posted · Original PosterOP
13 minutes ago, brandishwar said:

So you weren't willing to go prebuilt because you're afraid your boss would make a bad decision, yet you have no experience spec'ing a system, let alone building one with the requirements you have in mind...

Yes and no. Like I stated previously I haven't built a server tower. But I have plenty of experience building personal computers. I have built 7 personal machines for myself for gaming, + several more for my wife, siblings, and parents. I have complete confidence in being able to build a computer; but the problem comes in that I have nil experience building a server tower. I don't know what the differences are between building a server vs. a personal machine because (like I said before) I haven't built one. I haven't searched for server-grade parts. I know that enterprise-level parts have redundancy and error-checking (specifically for RAM). But again because I haven't purchased those parts before I don't know what to search for and I don't know what good purchase decision is for the price. Which is why I was searching for recommendations for those parts.

11 minutes ago, brandishwar said:

spec'ing a system, you may want to talk to whomever in your company can give you an approximation for anticipated growth over the next 3 to 5 years for this system specifically. No need to worry about full company growth, just growth in the number of people expected to access this system.

That's a really good idea. I will send an email to my boss and ask them for projected growth in the number of people accessing the system. That's an excellent idea.

 

15 minutes ago, brandishwar said:

They'll likely be able to give you an idea of what similarly situated companies are using with Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) so you can make an informed purchase decision. I wouldn't necessarily try to go for that on your own. You could also try contacting Microsoft, letting them know that you intend to upgrade the server you're using and ask for specification recommendations based on your use case and anticipated growth.

That is also a great idea. I will see what I can do with that.

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14 minutes ago, TechChild said:

I have complete confidence in being able to build a computer; but the problem comes in that I have nil experience building a server tower. I don't know what the differences are between building a server vs. a personal machine because (like I said before) I haven't built one.

The major difference is multiple users accessing the system simultaneously. Hence why I said to ask about anticipated growth in access to this machine as that will inform the spec decisions to keep the system in service as long as possible - generally 5 years is the anticipated lifespan of a server or desktop for SMB and enterprise.

 

Beyond that, the specifications are also going to depend substantially on what that server is doing. Anyone can look up system requirements for software, but unless you have recommendations based on your use case, that doesn't really tell you much. For example, a Raspberry Pi can be a great server option for light duty and proof-of-concept. But it'll choke if you try to use it to host a website being hit by a significant number of clients simultaneously. That's why servers tend to have much beefier specs compared to desktops, or are multiple nodes behind a load balancer.

 

And the other major difference between a desktop and server: downtime must be kept as close to zero as possible. Hence the recommendation against going DIY. Prebuilt systems are inspected prior to shipment, and servers are even more closely inspected to ensure the chance of failure after they've been put into service is as close to zero as possible. The manufacturers are also in a much better position to anticipate and account for the one-off dead piece of hardware that could cost you (and your employer) hours or days of time replacing, not to mention any downtime should that part fail after you put the system into service.

 

43 minutes ago, TechChild said:

Like I stated previously I haven't built a server tower. But I have plenty of experience building personal computers.

That was supposed to be that you have no experience spec'ing a server, let alone building one.


Wife's build: Amethyst - Intel i7-5820k, 16GB EVGA DDR4, ASUS X99-PRO/USB 3.1, EVGA GTX 1080 SC, Corsair Obsidian 750D, Corsair RM1000

My build: Mira - Intel i7-5820k, 16GB EVGA DDR4, ASUS Sabertooth X99, EVGA GTX 1070 SC Black Edition, NZXT H440, EVGA Supernova 1050 GS

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Posted · Original PosterOP
1 hour ago, brandishwar said:

That was supposed to be that you have no experience spec'ing a server, let alone building one.

Ah, I see. That is true.

 

1 hour ago, brandishwar said:

 

Beyond that, the specifications are also going to depend substantially on what that server is doing. Anyone can look up system requirements for software, but unless you have recommendations based on your use case, that doesn't really tell you much. For example, a Raspberry Pi can be a great server option for light duty and proof-of-concept. But it'll choke if you try to use it to host a website being hit by a significant number of clients simultaneously. That's why servers tend to have much beefier specs compared to desktops, or are multiple nodes behind a load balancer.

I have the expected growth of the # of users that are going to be accessing this system, and I am expecting a reply from our representative at Great Plains.

 

1 hour ago, brandishwar said:

And the other major difference between a desktop and server: downtime must be kept as close to zero as possible. Hence the recommendation against going DIY. Prebuilt systems are inspected prior to shipment, and servers are even more closely inspected to ensure the chance of failure after they've been put into service is as close to zero as possible. The manufacturers are also in a much better position to anticipate and account for the one-off dead piece of hardware that could cost you (and your employer) hours or days of time replacing, not to mention any downtime should that part fail after you put the system into service.

Also great point. Once I get the recommendations from Great Plains I will be searching for a prebuilt server that matches those specs. 

 

@brandishwar Thanks for the reality check and advice.

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If this is a business, you should already have a trusted reseller or vendor you deal with.  A legitimate business server has absolutely nothing in common with a personal computer tower.  Nothing.  Experience with one means absolutely nothing with the other.  If this is a business, make the right decision and go with one that has the warranty and support.  I can't recommend Dell PowerEdges enough.

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