Tony Walker Head of Liverpool IT Consultants, ICU Group Shares His Top Tips on How to Choose a Server

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Tony Walker Head of Liverpool IT Consultants, ICU Group shares his top tips on how to choose a server.

Staff using a computer network

Staff using a computer network

There are many servers on the market and if you choose the wrong one it can be a very expensive mistake

Tony founded Liverpool IT consultants, ICU Group in 1998.

Mr. Walker and his Liverpool IT Services Company have been providing North West based businesses with IT support, consultancy and computer hardware for nearly fifteen years.

Tony said “We often receive new enquiries from companies who are having server problems or are looking at buying a new one.”

He added “There are many servers on the market and if you choose the wrong one it can be a very expensive mistake.”

From ICU’s head office in Liverpool, the Merseyside based IT support specialists provide IT help to all types of businesses throughout the North West of England and also to clients in North Wales.

The ICU group provides IT support in Bolton, Lancashire and IT services for Cheshire based businesses too.

Tony offers the following tips and advice on choosing a server:

1. Purchase from a reputable manufacturer like Dell, Hewlett Packard or IBM.

Ensure you are provided with a manufacturer's warranty and as a minimum ask for a three year ‘next business day on-site warranty’ (with parts and labour included).

If faster support is required then consider a ‘four hour, on-site mission critical warranty’.

2. If, in the near future, the network is for up to ten users then consider installing Microsoft Windows Server Foundation Edition (which provides free licences for up to 15 workstation/user connections).

Check the limitations imposed by this edition and do not limit any software installations (see tip 10).

If the network is for up to twenty users then consider installing Microsoft Windows Server Essentials Edition (which provides free licences for up to 25 workstation/user connections).

Check the limitations imposed by this edition and do not limit any software installations (see tip 10).

3. “Ensure the server has an ample amount of memory. 8GB is as an absolute minimum for a basic Windows File Server and 16GB is the minimum if the server is going to be running a Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Exchange server. I would go for at least 32GB” advised Tony.

“Install 1333Mhz RDIMM memory sticks (in matching pairs) wherever possible” he added.

4. Ensure the server has an adequately powered processor for the function it is going to perform and consider dual processors.

Check the processor is adequate for any software installations (see tip 10).

5. Think ahead and ensure the server has an adequate amount of storage space (hard disk drives) for immediate use and room for extra storage capability for at least the next five years.

6. “If the server is going to be used for a database system, consider installing SAS drives instead of SATA drives and choose 15Krpm SAS drives (if you want that extra performance boost)” Tony recommends.

7. Ensure the server has a minimum of a RAID 1 Disk drive setup, preferably using a hardware based RAID controller.

For a server which is will be running a critical database system and needs fast write/read speeds, consider installing a RAID10 configuration.

This will require a minimum of four hard drives (preferably SAS drives and not SATA).

8. Ensure a reliable backup solution is in place to secure data, software, applications and the configuration details of the server.

Ensure the backup solution has adequate capacity, the correct agents and licences and that it will be monitored on a daily basis by somebody who has experience with backup systems and software.

“Please note that RAID setup of hard drives is not a substitute for a reliable, robust backup system. RAID offers performance and up-time benefits only and does not provide a reliable backup system for your data” advises Tony.

9. Have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) unit installed which will protect the server from power surges and power outages.

For business critical operations, consider installing a dual, hot-swap, redundant power supply within the server (if one fails the other takes over automatically).

10. Always check the minimum hardware requirements for any software that is going to be installed on the server and always aim for a more powerful server than the one detailed in the minimum hardware requirements, failure to do so will most likely mean poor performance when the software runs.

If unsure, always consult with a qualified, experienced IT specialist before committing to such a large expenditure.

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Tony Walker
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since: 03/2009
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