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I'm building my first server. I've got a budget of around $1,000 to start and I want to be sure to get a motherboard that I can upgrade in the future, preferably the ability to get up to 32 GB of RAM, dual quad core processors or something like that.

I definitely want 2 hard drives so I can mirror my main drive so if it fails I've got a backup ready to go.

What should I focus on when I'm searching for these specs?

Update

I'd prefer to build it with off the shelf parts.

I will be running MySQL/PHP driven web sites off of this server. Nothing really special that I can think of about it.

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Are you talking about choosing a server to buy or building your own one with off-the-shelf parts? –  Massimo Jul 29 '10 at 19:03
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What you want the server to do will affect its configuration - please explain what you'd like to achieve with the server. –  Ben Pilbrow Jul 29 '10 at 19:03
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I want a unicorn that farts glitter but you don't always get what you want do you - why not ask for it to be literally gold plated while you're at it? –  Chopper3 Jul 29 '10 at 19:06
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@Chopper3: Gold-plated glitter or a gold-plated unicorn? –  Evan Anderson Jul 29 '10 at 19:37
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Hell, why compromise - let's go for both! –  Chopper3 Jul 29 '10 at 19:38
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3 Answers

Personally, I would't be caught dead building my own server computers in 2010. The pricing from name-brand vendors, with support and warranty, is very, very good and you're not going to mysterious compatibility issues (issues with boards not fitting in cases, power supplies not having enough "oomph", devices not fitting into slots, RAM not working on a board, etc).

Assuming you don't go crazy with the initial specs, the Dell PowerEdge T310 will do what you're looking for under $1,000.00. You only get a single processor socket, but you can put quad-core Xeon processors in it. It has a maximum memory capacity of 32GB and supports a pretty nice variety of processor, RAID controller, and hard disk drive options (and, of course, you can get multi-year warranty and support contracts).

Equipped with a single Xeon X3440 processor (2.53 GHz, 8M Cache, Turbo, HT), 8GB of RAM, a single 500GB SATA hard disk drive, and a 3 year next-business day warranty Dell will sell you the box, right now, for $899.00. You can add another hard disk drive to fulfill your 2nd disk requirement.

I don't mean to sound like a shill for Dell. I use their gear in a lot of Customer sites and I'm very happy with the gear and Dell's support.

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Yup, spend the extra cash on Same Day On-Site Warranty for 3 years; Dell will come on-site and swap the hardware for you when/if something fails. –  gravyface Jul 29 '10 at 19:50
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+1 for not building your own server class machines any longer. –  DanBig Jul 29 '10 at 19:54
    
+1 Why build when there are lots of great systems with great support –  Dave M Jul 29 '10 at 20:31
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I've got a budget of around $1,000 to start and I want to be sure to get a motherboard that I can upgrade in the future, preferably the ability to get up to 32 GB of RAM, dual quad core processors or something like that.

Stop dreaming. I think with Motherboard, Case and one processor you are already close to that budet.

Dual socket motherboards cost some money (mine was about 600 EUR - 900 USD). My computer case was 1200 EUR (granted, 24 SAS slots in 2 rack units).

You CAN stay in your budget, but it will not be an expandable systm like you wish.

I'd prefer to build it with off the shelf parts.

Head over to SuperMicro. Choose case, server grade motherboard etc. Have a distributor put it together for you.

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+1, nice post, I went for something similar above but you put it better. –  Chopper3 Jul 29 '10 at 19:25
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I got one off of ebay, used, much more cost efficient. Thanks for the advice guys!

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