Small office (3-5 users max) file storage computer

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by complexx, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. complexx

    complexx Gawd

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    Greetings, I am in need of advice for purchasing a new office computer (I know it a boring topic, but a necessary one). Thank you to those of you who take the time to read through this and give feedback.

    1) What will you be doing with this PC? File storage machine so that files are separate from workstations.
    I currently have a quad core workstation in my office which functions as a file storage machine that I occasionally use as a workstation and runs windows 7 pro. Its backed up with carbonite and onedrive (I know, I know, neither is likely considered quality by real computer techs of which I am not). I VNC into this workstation occasionally from my home office using a VNC software program. No gaming, no heavy processing, no rendering, no image editing outside MS paint, yes, I'm hardcore, etc. This is just for typical office use (access) of word docs, spreadsheets, pdfs, images, Quickbooks, and a basic service database software written in alpha 5... Mostly storage/retreival

    My main question is do I really need a server? or can I make this work reliably with another workstation?

    Currently, we have a single user most of the time, occasionally 2 users of the data, but I do not forsee having more than 5 users total in the future. One feature I would like the option of being able to do in the future is host files (pdf) for clients so they can access and download them. I'm sure there a bunch of ways to do this but I'm not sure if it affects the computer design at all.

    2) What's your budget? Are tax and shipping included? Comfortable spending up to about $2-3k although I would imagine that this can be accomplished for less.

    3) Which country do you live in? NY USA (Westchester county)

    4) What exact parts do you need for that budget? Not looking to build a PC from scratch. I have done this many times in the past, I need this machine for reliability and hassle-free transition. My thoughts are to purchase a pre-built machine that has gone through reliability testing already, but I am not up to date on the current technology, reliable manufacturers, good warranty service, etc.

    5) If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? Not reusing parts.

    6) Will you be overclocking? No.

    7) What is the max resolution of your monitor? What size is it? 1920x1200 (28"), I have 2 of these available for use.

    8) When do you plan on building/buying the PC? within the next month or so.

    9) What features do you need in a motherboard? I think RAID and onboard GPU are necessary. Do not need anything special for video/audio/peripherals. My thoughts were to purchase two large SSDs and mirror them in the machine. Is this reasonable? Is it feasible?

    10) Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? If yes, what OS? Is it 32bit or 64bit? I will purchase a new license for this machine depending on what you all recommend.
     
  2. Zepher

    Zepher [H]ipster Replacement

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    A workstation should be fine for the tasks you outlined
    I setup a used Dell T7800 workstation to act as a "server" for a client of mine's Veterinary Hospital, been working fine for over 2 years now, they haven't called to report any issues.
     
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  3. Decibel

    Decibel 2[H]4U

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    If all you need is file sharing, save the space, noise, electricity and heat and pick up a NAS.
     
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  4. rhansen5_99

    rhansen5_99 [H]ard|Gawd

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    I would second something like a synologoy 2 bay Nas, they are super easy to setup and even hook into AD permissions if you need that. You could stuff it with 2X 8gb WD Reds and setup a mirror or jbod and have a nice little box. Now if you really wanting to build a server you can just remember that home versions of windows like win 10 pro limit the maximum number of concurent connections to I think 15, so if that office expands you will need a server level OS. Freenas is a good software to setup a nas out of a spare CPU you might have.

    Also what kind of size are you needing on the share and how fast do you need it to be?

    I would caution against consumer level ssd's as your primary storage pool if you have a heavy write workload as they will wear out eventually because of the nature of flash memory.
     
  5. PliotronX

    PliotronX [H]ard|Gawd

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    Ive set up Qnap TS-231P units for offices just for file sharing. 2 bay diskless and drives range from $50-70 for 1TB each to $100-130 for 4TB. Mirroring allows for redundancy and uptime so youre looking at $340-500 all told. For external users, we just use the Qsync client for shared files so no VPN is required. Ability also to share links with external users. Working out very well.
     
  6. dthree

    dthree n00b

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    Look into ebay or craigslist for a cheap 2nd hand NAS that some small biz is selling off. :)
     
  7. Meeho

    Meeho [H]ardness Supreme

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  8. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

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    I'm a fan of the NAS route, and have a preference towards Synology devices in particular.

    With that said, there are two additional bits I'd want to clarify before formalizing a recommendation:

    1- You didn't mention the quantity of data you have, nor the level of redundancy and backups you are comfortable with
    2- "a basic service database software written in alpha 5"

    1 is straightforward; if you've got data that is important, you must both back it up and potentially keep a redundant copy. These are separate tasks; preferably you would have some kind of offsite backup (Backblaze/Mozy/Carbonite/etc) that would play ball with your chosen NAS device. For redundancy, starting with an appropriate RAID level is good, and if you need more redundancy than that many of the NAS devices can be set up as a high availability pair of units.

    2 would be harder; if you need to have that database software available from the server, then that likely rules out the NAS since you presumably wouldn't be able to run it directly from the NAS. You might need something running Windows. Your options there would be either a NAS capable of hosting a small virtualized system, or just building a Windows-based server or workstation. If this need is real, then I'd probably build a dedicated workstation with a decent RAID card in it, but with your 3-5 users there would be no need to go to a server-level OS.
     
  9. complexx

    complexx Gawd

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    thanks all for the responses.

    answer to some of your questions, my existing storage is about 200-250 GB.

    I would like to have some redundancy on-site, so I assume a RAID 1 would be proper? We do already have carbonite so I would keep that as well as a second form of backup.

    We do not do any processing that is intensive, so I don't think going beyond a mirror pair would be warranted, please tell me if I'm wrong.

    I did confirm with the developer of the alpha 5 software that it would work with an NAS provided we keep the drive letter mapping the same as it is currently (can this be done? I would think so) This database is run from the client machines and accesses the tables that would be stored on the NAS.

    It's my understanding that NAS run some form of OS, which are they typically setup with? Are there options/recommendations on that front?
     
  10. sinisterDei

    sinisterDei Gawd

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    Alrighty then. So that clears up the database issue, if it can simply be hosted on a mapped drive and all of the database-ing type activity actually happens on the client end.

    All the NAS's run some flavor of Debian/Linux/whatever, typically with a fancy web front-end for management and configuration. This isn't anything you'll have to install yourself or maintain, it's part of the NAS and why they're largely considered a turn-key solution.

    My personal experience is with Synology. You'd get the unit, install a pair of hard drives and tell the Synology to set them up as RAID 1. After that, you would want to set up a few things:
    A share - this would allocate some space and present it as a network share that users could map a drive to
    Users - you can set up user credentials for your folks so when they map a drive they have credentials to use when it prompts for a username and password
    FTP access - You'd enable this option so folks could FTP into the NAS with their credentials for remote access

    As for backups, there's a number of ways you can go. You could continue to back things up with Carbonite, as I think there are plans that allow you to back up a NAS. Ideally for me, whatever backup you use would be driven natively from the NAS. Synology devices can sync with Backblaze, OneDrive, Amazon, Google, and others. Carbonite isn't on the list.
     
  11. cdr_74_premium

    cdr_74_premium [H]ard|Gawd

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    I am not going to give any other suggestions because there are many ways to skin this cat and YMMV, but please do not even think about that. Keep it separate.


    I would also not bother with RAID, and focus instead on having backups, preferably offsite. Of course that's because I don't deal well with it, but still, when things go sour I would be able to restore from a backup way before getting anything out of the damn RAID thing. RAID performance wouldn't be necessary in your use scenario, and RAID redundancy, although nice, would be taken care of by backing up religiously. So, in your situation, I would use more drivers for more storage and be done with it. Again, that's me.

    If it were me, I would set up a CentOS install with SMB and Backblaze backups. But scrap that. Poster above said some NAS solution would do that natively, that's even easier. Backblaze is awesome, their pricing is good, and, most important to me, they're forthcoming.
     
  12. PliotronX

    PliotronX [H]ard|Gawd

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    RAID is necessary to maintain uptime in the eventual failure of a drive (it's not if, it's when). The restoration process means downtime and if by back up you mean via the cloud (backblaze), the terrible state of at least American broadband means pulling down data at the download rate of the internet connection. For a 100Mbps connection with 250GB, that is around 7 hours. What is the cost of not having that data a full business day?
     
  13. cdr_74_premium

    cdr_74_premium [H]ard|Gawd

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    Interesting points.

    As I said, I am terrible with RAID, so take it with a grain - or tons - of salt.

    My experience is most the same as his, very tiny businesses. That's around the same amount of data my parents are backing up on my servers right now. I do cloud + external hard drive, to counter the bandwidth issue you described. For me, it's easier to restore from a external drive (or cloud if my house catches on fire for example) than mess with RAID, because of my sheer lack of knowledge on dealing with it.

    Considering I've stumbled upon machines touted as safe because of RAID, only to find out the array was set up as RAID 0 (!), my point would be that, if you don't understand it, try something else, because when the stuff hits the fan it's not as straightforward as it seems. And it's not the kind of thing you want to get wrong, rely on it, and have it backfire when you need it the most.