File Server Questions...Suggestions Please!

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Metatron, Oct 27, 2005.

  1. Metatron macrumors 6502

    Metatron

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    #1
    I need some feedback guys. I work for a blood bank as the Network Admin. Me and a few of the guys were talking of trying to simplify a few problems, which I will not go into detail about, but a file server came up. Now of course, we know how to set one up, but never have we really done it on this scale and was wondering if anyone has, or hasn't, and why?

    We though that we would have each person store anything they work on in a folder on the file server. Everything, from the documents to their outlook PST file. Alot of things are in flux here lately and there is constant movment and expanding. I know people like Dell and Microsoft do this. There users login and only have so much space on a file server and everything they do is saved there. Plus it would greatly simplify backups.

    My concers are bandwidth and the system choking up when the hard drive can't keep up. If money was no problem, they I would never worry about it, I would just give each department it's own server, but I need to try to simplify this into one server.

    We have 100 PC's. Each user would need there own folder on the file server. I am trying to think along the lines of how many people per drive so that there is no delay in the time it takes to open. I want them to click and bam... We have a gigabit network. So a server with dual Gigabit adapters with load balancing should suffice. I don't know guys. Let me know what you know.

    Please only reply if you know what you are talking about. Knowing the number of people, assuming normal usage, what kind of system with what specs am I needing to look into.

    Personally I was thinking a system with a 7200RPM HD per department. Most departments have about 8-12 users. The only real power users here except for the IT Department is Marketing. They do alot of photoshop and Quark, but there are only 4 people. Everyone else is just Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.
     
  2. Roger1 macrumors 65816

    Roger1

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Location:
    Michigan
    #2
    How about an xserv with multiple hard drives? If you get one, you can set up each person to have a certain amount of HD space. Anb maybe buy an xserv raid for back up.

    You can even buy an xserv with 4 hard drives in it, and set it up for mirror imaging (for back up).

    Just my .02
     
  3. OutThere macrumors 603

    OutThere

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Location:
    NYC
    #3
    I'd go with a mid-range x86 rack-mount server running Linux. You have the best range of open-source server software and fancy widgets available for Linux, and, if you know what you're doing, you have the most control over the OS.

    If you're storing absolutely everything on the hard drives, you might want to move to 10,000 RPM drives, using hardware RAID. If you don't think the drives will be all that taxed, you can stick with 7,200 RPM for the normal people, and only use 10,000 for the graphics people. Otherwise, go 10,000 for everyone, with maybe a 15,000 for the graphics guys, for storing files that need to move quickly or be used by more than one person at the same time...the 15,000 RPM drives are brand new and not all that big, but they're fast as hell. :D

    In any case it really has to be rack-mount, so that you can easily pop in more servers/modules if you're having trouble. I'd personally recommend Linux because of it's power and customizability, and because you can run it on an x86 box that will be significantly cheaper than an Xserve. :)
     
  4. Metatron thread starter macrumors 6502

    Metatron

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    #4
    Yeah, I was looking more at X86 too... Would love to buy an xserve, but not at that price. I guess a rack mount server with 4 drives would do. And put 25 people on each drive.

    Of course you have to understand, we use an old program called SafeTrace that tracks the whole life of a unit of blood from draw to the time it is put in a person. So most of what is done around here is from a database on 2 Sun servers. So only a few file are actually used for each user. The most accessed will most likly be the outlook.pst file for peoples emails.

    Thanks for the suggestions...
     
  5. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #5
    What you are describing is normal practice for Win 2000/XP corporate networks. The client's data and 'profile', including their email folders, is stored on the server and retrieved by password from any machine the client chooses to sit down in front of. Application software is the only thing installed on the local hard disk.

    Obviously, this puts a premium on server performance and network bandwidth, but especially on server hard drive performance and reliability. Given the performance of OS X Server with high user loads you do NOT want to go with an XServe. *NIX or Windows Server are the viable choices.

    I would be hesitant to entrust the department data to a 7200 RPM IDE drive. This drive is gonna be thrashed 10 hours a day. A $150 consumer-level drive isn't the best choice. Servers in these environments usually use UltraSCSI/160 and 320 RAID 5 arrays with hardware RAID controllers and for good reason. Although RAID is an iffy choice for a single user machine, it really shines in multi-user server workloads. Same with SCSI -- the SCSI controller takes over some storage processing responsibility from the CPU, and can interleave multiple requests better than IDE. There are some IDE hardware RAID or SAN systems, notably the one from Apple. IDE RAIDs are not inherently worse, it depends on the quality of the drives chosen and how good the hardware controller is. Look for IDE drives that are engineered for server use. SCSI drives are more expensive, however they are typically 10,000 RPM or even 15,000 RPM and have been engineered for 24/7 operation and temperature management.

    RAID 5 of course combines data security (with the ability to recover from failure of any one drive in the array) with speed (striping across multiple drives.) The several thousand dollar cost of a proper RAID hardware setup is easily amortized over 100 users, compared to the cost of 100 local drive upgrades, backing up 100 client machines remotely, etc.

    The other thing you must have in this scenario is a high-speed high-capacity backup system that backs up all user data at least once per day. You can go with a tape library system, or do a two stage backup, making frequent, primary backups to another hard disk array, and then a secondary periodic backup to tape.

    This is not a trivial scenario, no matter how you approach it!
    You are putting all of your user data in one basket for better and worse. Don't cheap out on the infrastructure or the planning!
     
  6. Roger1 macrumors 65816

    Roger1

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Location:
    Michigan
    #6
    Linux is an excellent choice. I was primarily pushing Apple because, well, you know, :eek:)
     

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