XServe/OS X Server Overkill?

magazineaddict

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
10
0
I am currently right in the middle of making hardware recommendations for a startup company. I seem to have much more hardware and general networking experience than any one else on the small staff right now and it is falling on my shoulders to make purchasing recommendations.

I've had no problem picking workstations, monitors, software etc., but with my limited networking experience I could use a little advice about the server side.

AFAIK, the server will only be used for file/printer sharing. Maybe intranet duties. I am considering offering up an XServe as the best solution (Mac only publishing environment), but I'm wondering if it is overkill for our needs. Currently, there will only be about 6 users on the network (2 design workstations, 2 text editing workstations, 1 sales, 1 executive). Need to scale to about 15 users in the immediate future.

Can I get by with a G4 tower running OS X Server? My only option to offer a lower cost alternative to the XServe seems to be to get the 800 mhz tower and additional HD.

Also, any pointers to primers on setting up OS X Server would be appreciated. Assume complete newbie status when it comes to setting up a server (I am a quite savvy Mac user in general, but I am an Art Director and not a SysAdmin after all.)

:)
 

Hemingray

macrumors 68030
Jan 9, 2002
2,914
26
Ha ha haaa!
I fall in the same boat as you when it comes to being a newbie at setting up a server. Currently, I think the Xserve might be a little overkill for the kind of server tasks it will be handling. But if you're scaling to 15 users, it's beginning to sound a little more realistic. If your company has the extra money... get the Xserve. I see it as a good investment; it will be your friend for many, many years.
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,859
57
Look's like a job for OS X.

1. What type of publishing?

2. What applications are you looking at right now?

3. What type of accounting software are you looking at?

4. What printers are you looking at? color, B&W, duplex, proofing etc. and what interface USB or ethernet.

5. Are you going to include internet access?

6. How about data backups?

7. What types of UPSs are you looking at?

8. When you say you're a newbie, how trainable are the rest of the worker?

9. Break down the 6 employees into jobs and software needed for job.

10. OK, now you can talk about the types of files you'll be sharing.

I know I forgot a couple of the first look questions, but it help pin down what you'll be doing and what you need.
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,859
57
You can do a lot with the built in networking of OS X, and avoid having to immediately purchase a server, but if the job flow dictates a server immediately you might as well overbuy and get the biggest server you can afford.

Otherwise focus on saving a few bucks, bulk up a PowerMac with a couple extra fast/big drives on a ATA PCI card (raid it if possible) and let the network get clogged right now, and share those drives with everybody using OS X - but you'll most likely need to get a good line conditioning UPS and leave that computer on all the time in no sleep mode.

Startup companies are hard to make a judgement call on because there are so many factors that affect the equipment needs.

Depending on where you are in formation, even the choice of phone system can affect the network because some phone systems can be configured to carry intranet/internet traffic.
 

Rower_CPU

Moderator emeritus
Oct 5, 2001
11,219
0
San Diego, CA
A PowerMac + OS X Server should be fine.

An Xserve, while more future proof, would also require special mounting (unless you're going to just slap it onto a table or your company already has racks). The extra cost really comes in with the support packages that are included with the Xserve.

I would say make sure you have a decent network to put your server onto before worryng about a high end server. If you don't have the bandwidth you won't notice the difference between an iMac with a modem and an Xserve with Gigabit.

OS X Server is, quite bluntly, nearly idiot proof. I had absolutely zero background in server administration before two years ago, when my work got a PowerMac G4 running OS X Server version 1...OS 9 GUI + OS X functionality. It's a breeze to set up, and the admin tools are very self-explanatory.

I'd be happy to help with any more questions once you get it up and running, but Apple's discussion boards have always helped me a lot, too.:)
 

evildead

macrumors 65816
Jun 18, 2001
1,275
0
WestCost, USA
print server?

I am a network/UNIX enterprise System admin at work. (mostly work with big Sun systems)


if all your using it for is a print and file server... it is way over kill. You could run a 500Mhz PIII with Linux to do that... and it will cost you $100. Your network is where you need to spend your money. print serving takes nothing. File serving is only a big deal it is used by alot of users and there are lots of contiuouse reads and writes to the drive. Even then, your storage is the main problem. Get a nice raid device (GB) and save on the server. If you must go mac.. and you must go new mac then you dont realy need an Xserver but OS X server is like $1000.00 so its probably better to get the Xserver just because the cost of a new G4 + OS X server is almost the same as an Xserver.

You should as your self:

Will the number of users grow? (50+)
What kind of usage will it get?
Will you need need to run Applications?
Will it need to hold a database? ( a real one)
What kind of network do you have? (if your network is slower than your server.. then whats the point?)
Is it a high-availibility enviornment?
What is downtime going to cost you?
How much money can you spend... and get a way with?
How smart is your Boss?
Do you just want it to have the bigest mac on the Block?
What can you spend on storage?
Do you need a SAN?
Do you have a rack to put it in? Its only 1U but racks can cost alot.
Tape backups or RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or 5? or both?
How big does your storage need to be? 100GB? 500GB? 1TB? 10TB?
Is it an all Mac enviornment? Windows? Linux, UNIX?
How much UNIX do the users know?


The Xserver is a hell of a box for a low price... but thats relative.

-evildead
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,859
57
Write down answer a lot of the questions, you should be able to find someone to help you.

It's a little hard to answer a generic "What type of server do I need?" question when all we really know is you have 6-15 users in a startup publishing company.

Publishing companies can be anything from a small one that only needs built-in file sharing to a really intense installation where job flow and file size really dictates the network and servers.
 

Zeitgeist 2101

macrumors newbie
Aug 5, 2002
2
0
TOMBSTONE

I used a 40-MHZ HP tower running XENIX 1989 (cli) to start Cathexis Motion Picture Productions. We didn't have a server. Only a router.

So basically every single word I input here is "completely useless". But hey, it keeps your thread bouyant now, doesn't it?
 

magazineaddict

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
10
0
You should as your self:

First off thanks to everyone for your replies so far. I appreciate it.

--Will the number of users grow? (50+)
Not Likely.

--What kind of usage will it get?
Well, we're talking magazine publishing here. We'll probably be producing (and storing on the server) something like 10-15GB per month. Every month. Photoshop, QuarkXPress, Illustrator running on design workstations. Text editing etc. on remaining workstations. I have no idea what the accounting solution will be. It will likely be inherited from the parent company, which, if I am not mistaken is also all Mac.

--Will you need need to run Applications?
Not that I know of. You mean server-side apps, right?

---Will it need to hold a database? ( a real one)
Nope. Unless it is

--What kind of network do you have? (if your network is slower than your server.. then whats the point?)
The network is yet to be installed, but most likely will be either cat 5e or better. What's the point of doing less?

--Is it a high-availibility enviornment?
Meaning? The server will be accessible by nearly all the staff. It won't be in lock down.

--What is downtime going to cost you?
Like everyone else, I think my sh*t is super important! :) Downtown would be a big problem considering we'll always be running on a tight deadline.

--How much money can you spend... and get a way with?
Not sure about this.

--How smart is your Boss?
Fairly smart but not super experienced.

--Do you just want it to have the bigest mac on the Block?
Not really. I recently bought 933 towers for design workstations because I couldn't justify the extra cost of the dual 1ghz.

--What can you spend on storage?
Whatever I need to.

--Do you need a SAN?
Small Area Network? SANdwich? My newbie status is starting to show.

--Do you have a rack to put it in? Its only 1U but racks can cost alot.
I've found some open frame racks for about $150 that would work to hold the XServe, Switches, etc.

-- Tape backups or RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or 5? or both?
Tape backups with LaCie AIT+ Firewire 35/70 drive. At least that's what I'm suggesting.

--How big does your storage need to be? 100GB? 500GB? 1TB? 10TB?
Starting with 120GB. In all likelyhood that will suffice as long as dilligent permanent archiving to DVD is in effect.

--Is it an all Mac enviornment? Windows? Linux, UNIX?
All Mac.

--- How much UNIX do the users know?
I would guess none, or like me, very little.
 

magazineaddict

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
10
0
Originally posted by Sun Baked
Look's like a job for OS X.

1. What type of publishing?

Monthly magazine, 84+ pages 4C.

2. What applications are you looking at right now?

Quark, Photoshop, Illustratror, and text editing (word or copydesk).

3. What type of accounting software are you looking at?

Not sure on this. Will probably inherit system from the parent company, which, I believe is also an all-mac operation.

4. What printers are you looking at? color, B&W, duplex, proofing etc. and what interface USB or ethernet.

Color and B&W lasers. Probably 2 Color lasers, 2 BW Lasers. Inheriting a HP 4550 for which I have recently ordered a JetDirect 300X.

5. Are you going to include internet access?

Yes.

6. How about data backups?

Tape. Lacie AIT+ FIrewire 35/70

7. What types of UPSs are you looking at?

Hadn't considered this until now, but probably should.

8. When you say you're a newbie, how trainable are the rest of the worker?

I would assume they won't be trainable. Just the pessimist in me.

9. Break down the 6 employees into jobs and software needed for job.

2 Designers -- Photoshop, Quark, Illustrator
2 Editorial Staff -- Microsoft Office
1 Sales -- Microsoft Office
1 Exect -- Microsoft Office
1 Photog -- Photoshop, Quark, Office

I guess that's 7 on staff now!

10. OK, now you can talk about the types of files you'll be sharing.

I want to keep EVERYTHING on the server for ease of backup.

I know I forgot a couple of the first look questions, but it help pin down what you'll be doing and what you need.
 

bousozoku

Moderator emeritus
Jun 25, 2002
13,973
3
Gone but not forgotten.
Re: print server?

Originally posted by evildead
I am a network/UNIX enterprise System admin at work. (mostly work with big Sun systems)


if all your using it for is a print and file server... it is way over kill. You could run a 500Mhz PIII with Linux to do that... and it will cost you $100. Your network is where you need to spend your money. print serving takes nothing. File serving is only a big deal it is used by alot of users and there are lots of contiuouse reads and writes to the drive. Even then, your storage is the main problem. Get a nice raid device (GB) and save on the server. If you must go mac.. and you must go new mac then you dont realy need an Xserver but OS X server is like $1000.00 so its probably better to get the Xserver just because the cost of a new G4 + OS X server is almost the same as an Xserver.

-evildead
One thing to remember is that this person is not an administrator, but a skilled person familiar with technology. Throwing them into an unfriendly UNIX or Linux environment, no matter how cheap, would be unproductive and frustrating. Part of Mac OS X Server and XServe is that they're both easy to set up and maintain. Even though the big UNIX vendors have improved administration over the years, it's still not simple. That's part of the reason Windows made inroads into the server space, right?
 

evildead

macrumors 65816
Jun 18, 2001
1,275
0
WestCost, USA
--Will you need need to run Applications?
Not that I know of. You mean server-side apps, right?

- Yes I ment server side applications.


--What kind of network do you have? (if your network is slower than your server.. then whats the point?)
The network is yet to be installed, but most likely will be either cat 5e or better. What's the point of doing less?

- I ment the back end. What is the building network like. Is it a 10? 10/100? 10/100/1000? GigabitEthernet with Coper or Firber? What kind of switches are you going to use? Routers? Is that your responcability?

--Is it a high-availibility enviornment?
Meaning? The server will be accessible by nearly all the staff. It won't be in lock down.

- I ment does it need to be up 24x7x365. Will down time kill the company or stop production.


--How much money can you spend... and get a way with?
Not sure about this.

- find out... Budget is everything

--How smart is your Boss?
Fairly smart but not super experienced.

- so you could talk him into getting a bigger box than he heeds?


--Do you need a SAN?
Small Area Network? SANdwich? My newbie status is starting to show.

- a SAN is a Storage Area Network. It's for large Shared Storage Devices. $30,000.00 - 10mil!

--Do you have a rack to put it in? Its only 1U but racks can cost alot.
I've found some open frame racks for about $150 that would work to hold the XServe, Switches, etc.

- is it used? Thats a cheep rack.

-- Tape backups or RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or 5? or both?
Tape backups with LaCie AIT+ Firewire 35/70 drive. At least that's what I'm suggesting.

- you may want to mirror (RAID 0) two server drives so if one goes down, then you loose nothing and work can still keep going. Then some other method like DVD archives or Tape for extra security.

--How big does your storage need to be? 100GB? 500GB? 1TB? 10TB?
Starting with 120GB. In all likelyhood that will suffice as long as dilligent permanent archiving to DVD is in effect.

- thats very small (no SAN or RAID disk arrys for now)

--Is it an all Mac enviornment? Windows? Linux, UNIX?
All Mac.

- Good :)



It souds like the Xserver will be over kill for you. If all you need is some kind of Server for print serving and networked drives then I would just get a G4 tower with SCSI drives run OSX and mirror them, and then hang extra storage off the back if I needed it. SCSI is kind of expensive so you may just go ATA133.. fast enuph. You can also look into small disk Arrays (fireWrire). I dont think you need OS X server.. the regular OS X will do you just fine. OSX server comes with a 5-10 user licence.. thats why it costs so much. All your doing is sharing a drive or two so you dont need it.... just Apple talk.

Network. Dont get any swithes slower than 10/100. All the new Macs will got 10/100/1000. If you can get the faster switches (your boss will pay for them) then go for it. Dell makes some nece cheep ones if you dont want to spend 15k on each.


Print server. What kind of printers are you using? Laser? Just get one with a built in print server and hook it up to the network. You only have 15 users... thats not very many. Epson (and HP) makes some work group level ones with a print server for uner $1200.00. Lots of trafic? Ploters?

Your not a UNIX guy so you can't go the cheep way and get a Used Dell and run Linux on it... but hey.. OS X is more fun anyway!

-evildead
 

gbojim

macrumors 6502
Jan 30, 2002
353
0
One more thing...

The only thing I would disagree with Evildead on is get OS X Server. One reason - the admin tools are amazing for an sysadmin who doesn't know anything about being a sysadmin. Ir's well worth the extra $1000 IMO.
 

magazineaddict

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
10
0
Thanks

Thank you everyone for your replies.

I'm still going for the XServe and OSX, but I have decided to employ a local Mac consultant to help get the network and server off the ground. I'm in over my head. I am almost positive I could set something up and get everyone networked and running, but also almost certain that I wouldn't do everything as efficiently as possible.
 
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