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Another question for my fellow computer geeks

Discussion in 'Members' Lounge' started by dohcvtec_accord, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. dohcvtec_accord

    dohcvtec_accord WRX Sellout

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    Alright, so some of you know that I'm my company's IT guy. We're currently researching options for a new file/print server, and I've got some ideas and questions. Eric (lsvtec) has been very helpful so far, and I wanted to get some more opinions.

    Our current setup (don't laugh, we're a small office):

    -P2 266 running Windows NT 4.0
    -Old-school tape backup drive
    -Serving project files and serving one printer and one plotter
    -6-8 computers connected in a workgroup, no one doing any sort of heavy downloading/uploading from the server
    -No real security issues

    We don't have any issues with the setup being slow, only that we're running out of disk space and the box is hella noisy.

    My idea, in part suggested by Eric:

    Get basically a glorified desktop machine, with a P4, some RAM, a big-ass hard drive, and some sort of backup system and run it on Windows XP. Why? We're on a budget of about $1200. No money for dual RAIDed drives, backup power systems, or a 10 client Windows Server 2003. Our setup sounded great, until a shmuck at Dell (who we get our machines through) really tried to talk me out of it, saying we'll be slow, and Windows XP is not a good OS to use for a small server.

    Anyway, my questions are as follow:

    -Can anyone see why not to use the above setup? Anyone have any personal experience with a similar setup? If you see problems, what's a good compromise that won't break the budget? Finally, what should I be looking at as far as a simple backup system goes?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading all the BS.
     
  2. phunky.buddha

    phunky.buddha Admin with a big stick Admin VIP

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    XP Pro is fine to use for a small server. We serve quite a few systems off Win2k Pro and XP Pro in the computer lab at school- and that's over 100 clients too. For $1200 I'm sure you could build a pretty beefy server style system- P4 with a 200GB RAID 1 across two drives, and provisions for managing multiple printers.

    Have you thought about putting your printers on the network by themselves and printing straight to them by TCP/IP? I don't know the capabilities of your printers, but that might be an option to look into. You could do that, or just use any basic machine to spool your printers.

    FYI- the 5 high volume laser printers and the plotter in our lab that server 100+ clients all go through ONE P3-450 with 256MB of RAM. That's it. It handles everything just fine, and there aren't any speed issues. It's running Win2k Pro, but only because the rest of our lab is running 2k Pro, and because our print quota mangement software won't run on XP (Print Control). It receives all the print requests, acts as a print server, then shoots the data right back out to the printer IP addresses.

    Simple.

    Suggestion-

    Upgrade the chip in your current machine to the fastest Slot-1 processor you can fit in there for dirt cheap, pump up the RAM for dirt cheap, then use it as a dedicated print server. You could probably upgrade that machine for less than $100, and have something equivalent to what we're running for a print server in our lab. With the rest of the money, build your file server. It's easy with $1000.
     
  3. ovcrash

    ovcrash Senior Member

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    To go with this idea, you could use Netports on your printers to get them off your file server, that's like small printer server that connect to the LPT port on the printer and have a RJ-45 connector on the Netport so you can connect them to the network, via DHCP or Fix adress, since a file server would need some bandwith, because you transfert alot of files.

    Well for the other part, that's a great setup for a small office. A nice litle P4 with alot of ram, 1GB??, a real big HB. For the backup system, depending on the size of your backups, you could use NTIbackup (if i have the write name!) that backup's your data automaticly(sp?) onto CD-R or CD-RW media, that could be a nice compromise, and save money for more RAM or HB. Or i'm sure you could get a nice Montherboard, not to expensive, that does RAID 1, or Mirror RAID, so that you have 2 HD, one that's the Mirror of the other one, that could be another solution maybe more expensive.

    Well Hope i help a little.
     
  4. CRX-YEM

    CRX-YEM Super Moderator Moderator VIP

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    how much data are we talking about for backup 100MB or 20-40GB ??
    how fast do you need this data backed up (ie my backup here for 25-30GB takes 5-7Hours)

    depending on how much data and the speed you need to backup is going to dictate how much your going to need to spend on a backup device.

    The Quantum DLT 4000 drive I used here goes for $2500 buy itself (I'm sure it could be found used for much cheaper). and the media is $40 per cartridge.
     
  5. dohcvtec_accord

    dohcvtec_accord WRX Sellout

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    We are currently using a 30-GB tape backup drive, with three different tapes so we can back up a few days before just in case we lose some data. So, if we get a nice big 120-GB hard drive or something, we'll need maybe a 60-GB storage device. It's a good idea to mirror-RAID the main hard drive, but it's also nice having the three separate tapes so I can go back several days to find some lost data.

    Don't care how long it takes to back up. We have all night. :)

    We can't use our current box to serve the printers. It's got the wrong OS, no USB ports, and a small-ass hard drive. It'll be much easier to just upgrade the whole damn thing than to worry about hardware compatibility issues. Plus, we can't run our inkjet on TCP/IP, since it doesn't have a network card.

    I think that, based on the suggestions, I'm going to recommend getting a desktop to act as a file and print server, with a standard 2.x GB processor, a decent amount of RAM, a backup drive, a CD drive, and a NIC, then load it with Windows XP when it gets here.
     
  6. lsvtec

    lsvtec GNU/Linux Evangelist

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    HP makes a device called the JetDirect that puts a printer on the network. I don't know what they cost but we use them here on campus, they are pretty easy to configure. Just a thought.
     
  7. Sabz5150

    Sabz5150 FALCON PUNCH!!!

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    If you're doing SMB for file and print serving, fire up some Linux with Samba installed to do all the work for you. You can keep the filesystems on the server in ext3 format to take advantage of the journaling features in the event of a crash.

    It'll handle the tape drive too :)

    It can also be configured to work purely as a server. No extra overhead to bring your performance down. And with the software price down to nil, you can take that extra cash and put it to hardware.
     
  8. CRX-YEM

    CRX-YEM Super Moderator Moderator VIP

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    well it sounds like you've got yourself covered on backups, just wanted to be sure you thought thatone out. and I'd invest in a few more tapes and start a GFS rotation scheme you never know when you might need to grab data off a tape from a month or two or up to a year ago because some moron deleted a file from the server that doesn't get used to often and brings it to your attention 7 months after he deleted it.
     
  9. dohcvtec_accord

    dohcvtec_accord WRX Sellout

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    Thanks, but I was more looking along the lines of, what tape backup system should I be looking at? Whatever Dell provides, or should I be looking at some other bakup system that Dell doesn't offer?
     
  10. lsvtec

    lsvtec GNU/Linux Evangelist

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    I think that in this case Linux is not a good idea. Integration between Linux servers and Windows terminals is not seemless so some of his less techinically inclined users might complain that "it looks different". Plus (I wish I knew where the credit goes for this) "Linux is only free if your time is worth nothing."
     
  11. CRX-YEM

    CRX-YEM Super Moderator Moderator VIP

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    If you want a Quality system with no headaches. Get a Quantum DLT or ALT drive
    I've had ours running for 4 Years and haven't had a single problem. I'm using Computer Associates Arcserve v9

    The DLT 4000 is capable of storing 80GB per tape (so I do a complete backup of the entire server everynight, time consuming yes, but I never have to worry about losing data ever)

    the only thing I wish I did different is to buy an autoloader for the DLT drive this way it'd be a hands free operation for 7 days.

    but then again youv'e got a limited budget
    the DLT Drive is about $2500 (w/ autoloader $5500)
    CA Arcserve v9 $2000

    so just for a backup device your looking at a min purchase price of $5500
    but you need to ask yourself how much is your ata worth to you.

    There are other options but they won't very much cheaper for a quality backup system.
     
  12. Sabz5150

    Sabz5150 FALCON PUNCH!!!

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    You haven't played with Samba recently have ya? Better performance than Windows for serving files and printers. No need to worry about users thinking "it looks different" because it doesn't. When you click on the computer under Network Neighborhood, you get the same share list and printers that you would with a Windows machine.

    It'll only seem different in how much faster it now runs.

    And Linux is only time consuming for admins who don't know what they're doing. I can set up a Samba server with full security and drive/printer setups in my sleep! I can do it with that P2 that he has running now and get very impressive performance results. No overhead, no unneeded processes, NO FRIGGIN GUI and remote administration that even Citrix won't give you. All for what, class? The cost of a blank CD.

    Seemless? Quite.

    Next.
     
  13. lsvtec

    lsvtec GNU/Linux Evangelist

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    And where is this office of 10 people going to procure a Linux admin for the salary of $0?

    Linux is not always the best solution (besides FreeBSD is a better OS anyways ;) ).
     
  14. Sabz5150

    Sabz5150 FALCON PUNCH!!!

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    Same way they produce a Windows admin (or user). They grab books and learn.

    And BSD is more secure. That's about it.
     
  15. lsvtec

    lsvtec GNU/Linux Evangelist

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    And you don't have to track dependencies when installing software, and it installs properly everytime, and it comes with all the same tools available to Linux.


    Why when one already knows how to use Windows and if anything goes wrong with this new Linux box the boss is likely to can someone?
     
  16. Sabz5150

    Sabz5150 FALCON PUNCH!!!

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    Never had an issue installing Linux on any system. Yeah, getting my winmodem to work was a pain in the ass, but otherwise everything was great.

    If installed properly, things won't go wrong. I can guarantee that Windows box will be down more times than that Linux box will. And THAT will get you canned.

    As for learning Linux, let the budget decide that one. I can buy all the books someone needs to get up and ready with a Linux box for about the price of a Windows XP license. Plus I'll get a copy of Linux with the books. Besides, it isn't that hard to learn anymore. It's just that most Win-jockeys fear the command line. If they can't click it, they can't use it.

    What dependencies have I needed to track? SDL... for sound support in my breakout clone :) Everything else is usually installed unless you're doing freaky things like traffic shaping or frame diverting.

    And if deps still frighten you, just download a static binary.
     
  17. dohcvtec_accord

    dohcvtec_accord WRX Sellout

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    Sorry guys, no Linux. As Eric said, I have no experience with it, I'm not willing to learn it, and if anything goes wrong, it's my ass. Windows XP Pro it is. I don't fear the command line, I learned DOS and BASIC 16 years ago, and I've done plenty of time at the C: prompt. It's just that, I'm not a full-time IT guy, I'm an architect who happens to know the most about computers and networking at my office. I don't want to spend the time learning Linux for just our file/print server.

    That said, thanks for the suggestions Dennis. Those are some hefty prices for backup drives. I'm not sure we can afford those, so I'll look into some more buget-friendly drives, probably directly provided and installed by Dell.
     
  18. CRX-YEM

    CRX-YEM Super Moderator Moderator VIP

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    your not kidding about those being hefty prices my boss did a double take when he saw em, I told him you want a backup system that's gonna get the job done right the first time, this is what we buy.

    but hey I'm sure there are other cost effective methods that will get your job done.
    but I'd seriously look into getting more media to do backups on, you can never have enough backups around. A GFS rotation scheme need 21 tapes to be able to do a yearly, 12 months , and a Weekly backup , and a backup for every day of the week. The daily tapes get overwritten the next week, and the weekly tapes rotate every 5th week
    So in theory you'll be able to go back to any day during the week, go back to any Weekending for 5 weeks, go back to any month for the last 12 months, and go back to the previous year,

    the monthly and yealry tapes are archives, and well it's up to you to reuse them or not.

    ie you make a backup on Jan 30th, 2002, when Jan 30, 2003 comes around you either
    overright the 2002 tape or use a new blank tape. and you've now extended the time period you can have for your archives.

    For my work place we overright the monthly back up's when the time comes to reduce the cost on media, but keep the yearly tapes. so we cna go back a few years if need be.
     
  19. ovcrash

    ovcrash Senior Member

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    The exact model would be the JetDirect 300X made by HP. They work really nice, very easy to set-up, we have some at work for the older printers.
     
  20. dohcvtec_accord

    dohcvtec_accord WRX Sellout

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    We're currently on a three-tape rotation, and it works just fine. We have a Monday/Wednesday tape, a Tuesday/Thursday tape, and a Weekend tape. We've never encountered a problem where we need to go back any further than that.
     
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