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Old Apr 11, 2010, 04:47 PM   #1
TheKrs1
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Home Based Business - XServe ?

Hello all.

I work for a home based company (each employee at their own houses, so were a bit spread out) where we have a handful of employees, all running macs and iPhones. We currently have no server setup, so the aspect of getting snow leopard server so I have control on what updates are applied, programs installed etc. really really appeals to me.

We currently have a website hosted through go-daddy and an online learning site hosted elsewhere. I would love to amalgamate them (and am working on it) to our own server.

So... I am looking at an XServe (can wait a few months for a product refresh) to VPN our network and give me that computer/phone control. I would also like to move our web sites to the XServe and host them there.

So, you read all of that.... what do I want from you? Your opinion! What sort of storage would be required? I would obviously want a RAID or some method of protecting from data loss. I would want a way to take some off site backups. I have no idea what sort of ram and processor requirements I need. What's your 2 cents?

Thanks!

(The software we are looking to use for the online training says it needs ~1GB of ram per 50 active users. I can do that math... but would like your thoughts on the rest)

Last edited by TheKrs1; Apr 11, 2010 at 04:58 PM. Reason: Added more info's
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 08:04 PM   #2
keantan
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Perhaps consider a Mac Pro first?

You can bundle OS X Server with it and you will get almost the same functionality and I think the mac pro is slightly cheaper as well.

If you want raid both Xserve and Mac Pros are available with Hardware raid cards. Or you can just use OS X's built in software raid. You might consider a backup rather than raid as raid only protects from drive failures not noobs deleting stuff accidently

Amount of RAM/processing power is dependent on number of users.

As a base start off for a server maybe 4-6gb of ram would be a good start and either a quad or an entry level octo if your company isn't so large.

Mac Pro's are rumoured to be updated on wednesday so if you can try and wait.
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Old Apr 11, 2010, 08:11 PM   #3
Glial
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Just wondering: Are you planning on co-locating the xserve somewhere? or are you planning on putting at your home?
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 11:30 AM   #4
belvdr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keantan View Post
You might consider a backup rather than raid as raid only protects from drive failures not noobs deleting stuff accidently
No, he has it right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheKrs1 View Post
I would obviously want a RAID or some method of protecting from data loss. I would want a way to take some off site backups.
Glial's question is a good one. You do not want to bring your websites into your home unless you have sufficient bandwidth and are under a business agreement with your ISP.

I'm not sure what benefit you'll see by bringing the websites in-house. Also, you'll likely incur lower costs by not purchasing hardware and using web hosting providers.

Last edited by belvdr; Apr 12, 2010 at 12:57 PM. Reason: I can't spell today
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 11:45 AM   #5
hakuryuu
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It sounds to me that you might want to colocate if you are going to be hosting websites. It will also give you a margin of safety as most datacenters are secure, have backup generators, and multiple ISPs. The higher bandwidth at a datacenter will also allow you to do remote backups to another location for offsite storage of data.

As for hardware you will likely be just fine with a quad-core xserve (or hexacore if you do wait for the refresh), 6GB RAM and 3x 1TB HDs in RAID 5 via the RAID card option. The RAID 5 setup will give you drive fault tolerance as well as decent performance. But a lot of things will depend on your planned growth as well. You will potentially save money in the long run by over speccing with another processor, more ram, and faster drives or more storage.

If you are going to keep this at home I would recommend the Mac Pro loaded up with SLS. It is way more quiet and home friendly.
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 01:27 PM   #6
deanklear
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Honestly, I think you are trying to solve a nonexistent problem. Web hosting in a location like a home is usually a bad idea - no redundant power, single point of failure for web connections, etc etc. However, it's a great option for staging servers that can then be deployed to a company like Slicehost (my personal favorite, but no Mac server support) or MacHighway.

For your situation, I'd recommend a Mac Mini Server. They're only a thousand bucks with an unlimited client Snow Leopard Server, and it would be a good staging server as well as centralized location to gather your workgroup. The only downside is that only has a single ethernet connection, but I'd recommend putting it behind a hardened router anyway. It has a single FW800 port to connect to a simple RAID backup, but it already comes with dual 500GB drives for Time Machine, which is enough for most of my clients who have less than 20 users and self-manage large media libraries attached to the network.

Just remember, there is no substitute for a weekly offsite backup. I'd rather have a Mac Mini with money left over for backup redundancy than an XServe without, hands down.
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Old Apr 12, 2010, 02:41 PM   #7
TheKrs1
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Thanks for all your replies!

Yes, I am looking to get this hosted in a co-located server room. I'm not trying to do this arbitrarily as our current online learning portion of our company costs us $1,500/mth to host. I could buy 2 xServes and have them mirrored and also a good back up solution, and still lower our annual costs at that rate. And it would also allow everything to be in one place instead of 3-4 different hosts!
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 02:43 AM   #8
TheKrs1
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Oh one more thing.

If I have the RAID set up and get 4 x 2TB drives, would I be able to leave 3 in all the time and then come to the site and swap out the spare drive and take one of the others as an off site backup?

What is the best solution for that?
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 07:43 AM   #9
belvdr
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You cannot do that with a RAID 5 scenario. However, If you setup RAID 1, with 2 drives being active and the third being a hot spare, you could remove the middle drive, wait for the array to rebuild, and then push in your 4th drive into the middle slot.

Honestly though, I'd recommend a software backup solution. You may be able to work with the colocation facility for them to provide you an NFS mount somewhere on their network, yet remote to that site. This would provide you backups without the need to visit the colocation center often.

Also consider that by colocating servers, you may save costs directly on a month-to-month basis, but you may see increased costs (such as time spent) for managing the colocated hardware.
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 12:50 PM   #10
svenwillmann
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Don’t know exactly what kind of requirements you have (except the hosting and backup).
e.g. How many users, what are they doing, where are they located etc.

Maybe a Mac Mini Server would do the job
Maybe reading here gives you some ideas.


I also would like to quote “Deanster” in this thread on the issue reg. moving a server inhouse


...
moving a server in-house gives you tremendous control, potentially greater security, etc.

However, it also creates some new issues you should think about: Do you know enough to secure it effectively, and not do/install anything that compromises security along the way? What will your backup plan be? Does it protect you against deleted files, stupid moves by the administrator, bad hard drives, fire, flood, theft? How will you know if you've been hacked? Who checks the server logs for intrusion attempts? What do you do if the electricity is out? Your network connection goes down? Who gets called when the server can't be reached in the middle of the night? What about when that person is on vacation, drunk, or not answering the phone?

None of these are insurmountable, but you should have a decent answer for all of them (especially the Backup) before you begin
...


It might not give you more answers reg. RAM but these are my thoughts on the rest
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 05:01 PM   #11
Deanster
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Thanks for the quote! I was about to link to that thread...


To the OP - no idea how much traffic you're talking about, but for many/most smaller enterprises, a Mini Server will do the job just fine. It's not quite as robust in terms of build, but given that you can buy 4 of them for the price of an Xserve, that's perhaps not such a big deal.

I think the larger problem comes for users for whom the MiniServer isn't quite enough, but who aren't up for a full-on Xserve. I agree with those above who suggest that a Mac Pro might be a middle route.

My last thought, just because you said 'Xserve' and 'home' in the thread title, is that Xserves are LOUD. The 1U enclosure requires smaller fans, and there's ~10 in the enclosure, depending on which vintage you have. They're jet engine loud. You not only don't want one in your space, you don't want one within a room or two of your space. Xserves should go in dedicated equipment spaces, IMHO.
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 05:30 PM   #12
TheKrs1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
Don’t know exactly what kind of requirements you have (except the hosting and backup).
e.g. How many users, what are they doing, where are they located etc.
~5-7 Employees that travel the area. They all have Macbook Pro's or iMac's in their own homes. It would be a bonus to have the server control their configurations (installs updates) and the users e-mails/contacts/calendars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
Maybe a Mac Mini Server would do the job
Maybe reading here gives you some ideas.

I also would like to quote “Deanster” in this thread on the issue reg. moving a server inhouse


...Do you know enough to secure it effectively, and not do/install anything that compromises security along the way?
Along with some local support yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
What will your backup plan be?
Trying to figure that out in this thread and with the potential data center(s)

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
Does it protect you against deleted files, stupid moves by the administrator, bad hard drives, fire, flood, theft?
Ideally! I want incremental backups and off site... so it should.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
How will you know if you've been hacked? Who checks the server logs for intrusion attempts?
I will in partner with some local support

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
What do you do if the electricity is out?
UPS with 2 hours of back up --> Genset with potentially unlimited service.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
Your network connection goes down?
3 different service providers into the box... switch SP's

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
Who gets called when the server can't be reached in the middle of the night?
Me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by svenwillmann View Post
What about when that person is on vacation, drunk, or not answering the phone?
Wait... lol or we will rely on a local support team as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanster View Post
Thanks for the quote! I was about to link to that thread...
To the OP - no idea how much traffic you're talking about, but for many/most smaller enterprises, a Mini Server will do the job just fine. It's not quite as robust in terms of build, but given that you can buy 4 of them for the price of an Xserve, that's perhaps not such a big deal.

I think the larger problem comes for users for whom the MiniServer isn't quite enough, but who aren't up for a full-on Xserve. I agree with those above who suggest that a Mac Pro might be a middle route.

My last thought, just because you said 'Xserve' and 'home' in the thread title, is that Xserves are LOUD. The 1U enclosure requires smaller fans, and there's ~10 in the enclosure, depending on which vintage you have. They're jet engine loud. You not only don't want one in your space, you don't want one within a room or two of your space. Xserves should go in dedicated equipment spaces, IMHO.
Well our online training course takes about 3 hours to complete, streams over an hour of video and could be require about 10-15 concurrent users. So I'm not sure the mini or the Pro are up to that task... as I said I am not worried about the cost of an XServe and would want to do it right. (and located in a datacenter... not my actual house).

Thanks for all the good stuff guys. There is so much to think about, I just want to make sure I get it right!

Last edited by TheKrs1; Apr 13, 2010 at 05:32 PM. Reason: spacing
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 08:02 PM   #13
wisty
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Have you looked at cheaper ways to host the (presumably static) video?

If streaming video is the big problem, there might be cheap file servers (E3C, but perhaps that's not cheap enough) that can host for you. I guess security could be an issue though, if you want to keep the videos private :?
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Old Apr 13, 2010, 09:43 PM   #14
jtara
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If you really have a need to have the server run OSX, you should be able to find a provider that can lease you an XServe. I know there's at least one place that hosts Mac Minis, and that is likely to be sufficient. I think you ship them your Mini, and maybe they will lease one to you as well. I've no interest in doing this, so I dunno the details. I just know I've run across them.

You should still be able to get root access, but won't have to be responsible for maintainance.
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Old Sep 16, 2010, 03:28 PM   #15
Lotusman
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Similar story here, home business, 3 roaming outlyers... MBP's

Using a Mac Mini with OS X Server, set up as a RAID, hosting our website etc. 5Ghz Time Capsule backs us up and provides lightning fast wireless locally. Ended up using Kerio Connect for office services... 'cos quite honestly OS X Server is still a bit lame in these respects.

Rarely see our CPU go much over 30% which is impressive considering we're flinging image rich Keynote stuff around over VPN as well as all the other stuff.

We love our mini!!!

BE WARNED... you will need a friendly local Mac consultant to help you set up IF you haven't done it before... because despite what Apple may claim on their website... it isn't entirely straightforward (as discussed in other threads). We spent ~$899 on a refurb mini and $750 on an Apple geek... money well spent.

That's my experience anyway!

)
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Old Sep 17, 2010, 02:37 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Similar story here, home business, 3 roaming outlyers... MBP's

Using a Mac Mini with OS X Server, set up as a RAID, hosting our website etc. 5Ghz Time Capsule backs us up and provides lightning fast wireless locally. Ended up using Kerio Connect for office services... 'cos quite honestly OS X Server is still a bit lame in these respects.

Rarely see our CPU go much over 30% which is impressive considering we're flinging image rich Keynote stuff around over VPN as well as all the other stuff.
How do you find the performance of Kerio Connect on the Mac mini? I run a couple of Kerio Connect servers on Dual G4 and G5 towers with internal RAID 1 for storage and would love to migrate those installs to the smaller, faster, more energy efficient minis, but I do fret over the slower 2.5" internal drive(s) and not-really-fast-enough Firewire 800 connection for external storage: Kerio's performance is really tied to storage I/O speeds.
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Old Sep 17, 2010, 11:13 PM   #17
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We just have a super cheap Atom 330 running Ubuntu Server edition. It's plenty fast (gigabit) for our office and remote ftp needs. We use Dreamhost for our websites (we host about 9 of them), it's like $10/month. And actually, if you CHOOSE dreamhost, tell them I sent you, I think I get referral credits...

But yes, either way there are TONS of hosts out there better than GoDaddy. They're not a bad company (I buy my SSLs from them), but their hosting is confusing and limited.
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Old Sep 20, 2010, 08:08 PM   #18
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I think you're trying to bridge the production and operation sides of your company. This is NEVER a good idea.

As a case in point, you talking about running websites (presumably publicly accessible) on the same server that you're using for OD to manage your remote computers. Don't do it.

Running bound clients with OD access only over a VPN is possible, but you're going to have fun. You mentioned remote workers connecting over VPN, but didn't say if you meant a software client VPN, or a hardware VPN at each remote site, doing it with a software client is easier, but it means that unless the remote computer is on, somebody has logged in and logged in with the VPN software the remote machine is not reachable. having a VPN "router" at each site is simpler, but then you are opening up your core network to all of the remote networks. If these are peoples homes where you have no control about what else is connected to the remote network this gets even more "fun"

I can certainly understand the desire to get new hardware in and get it doing everything, but take a step back, look at each of the parts of the picture and independently of each other part work out the best way of solving it, then when you have each part worked out, then you can work out what compromises you are willing to accept for the whole. Frequently looking at the whole picture at the start will lead to the sort of problems that I earn my income solving like people specifying hardware or software at the start of the project before the whole project had been designed. The (very) old adage measure twice cut once is very applicable..,
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