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I am looking into moving our files in our Active Domain from our single server running Windows Server 2008 into another low performance server.

I was wondering if a file server really needs high quality/speed processors etc. or if I can just get a low spec server and add high volume hard drives for it? I have a spare Dell Poweredge 2550.

TWO INTEL PENTIUM3 1.4Ghz (512Mb L2 cache)

I was planning on installing MS Windows Server 2008 and having it's only role as a file server. This would mean I could then add another higher performance server to the network as an Additional Domain Controller and they could both link to the Dell file server.

Is this a bad idea? Will a low spec server make the performance of the network lower speed etc.?


We have around 30-40 users, the files would range from roaming user profiles (average is about 100mb per profile). We would also store the users personal files on the server which would be a combination of office documents etc. We would comfortably be able to fit the entire offices documents and files on a 100gb drive.

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You don't mention the number of users, file/folder numbers or size, types of file accessed (shared documents? user profiles? redirection? audio? video?) so it's tough to speculate. A generalization would be something like: "Faster servers usually perform faster, slower servers usually perform slower." That being said, the specs you list exceed the minimum requirements to run Windows Server 2008R2. – jscott Apr 15 '11 at 15:29
I have updated my question to answer some of your points. – dannymcc Apr 15 '11 at 15:42
512 MB L2 cache and you call them low end ;) – Sameer Apr 15 '11 at 17:53
up vote 2 down vote accepted

It should not be a problem. You could run a low perforamnce file server of an ATOM. That is what most low end NAS providers do... up to 16 discs or so, without any problem.

The main problem is that your outdated equipment will cost you a lot in electiricty ;)

I ahve the same, and I decided to retire them for that reason.

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Do I really need to put the whole server OS on there, or did you use something 'smaller'? – dannymcc Apr 15 '11 at 15:21
@dannymcc Non-server Windows OSes are intentionally limited by Microsoft to encourage you to use their server-grade products. There are, of course, many non-Windows options for file servers. – jscott Apr 15 '11 at 15:25
OpenFiler comes to my mind. FreeNas is an alterantive. – TomTom Apr 15 '11 at 15:34
After your answer I would possibly buy a little 8 bay box. Uses less power and is easier to maintain. – TomTom Apr 15 '11 at 15:50
Any examples of a decent price 8 bay box? – dannymcc Apr 15 '11 at 15:51

Unless you do full-disk encryption, file serving doesn't really require a lot of CPU. The things that affect a file server are:

  • Drive speed
  • Network speed
  • RAM

Given what you state I'd say max out the RAM and install a gigabit NIC.

Datasheet says the system can do 4xSCSI with RAID. Take full advantage of that.

A lot of people logging in at the same time (say, the morning when they come in) will drag the server down with all those roaming profiles. Get a PCI SATA if possible adapter and put the roaming profiles on an SSD; that might help.

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If you are open to non Windows alternatives then you could give openfiler a try. It can be integrated with AD guide and its hardware requirement is much lower than that for Windows.

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