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What are the Benefits of Server Hardware?

I want to set up a webserver. I would like to buy a hardware for that and i am trying to understand if i should buy a desktop and host the webserver on that or do i have to buy some used server from ebay and host on it. Example is http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180986172861&ssPageName=ADME:X:RTQ:US:1123

But what is the difference in desktop and server? These days even desktops are coming with high RAM. Only other difference i see is servers have RAID HARD disk. Is there any other difference?

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marked as duplicate by joeqwerty, Magellan, Michael Hampton, voretaq7 Oct 27 '12 at 17:16

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Is there any other difference?

There are a lot of differences.

  1. Servers often come in 19" format for easy rack mounting. (not so important when you only have one of them. But very important once you have a few dozen or more).
  2. Server hardware is build to last. E.g. typical fans on servers are designed to run at least 5 years for 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
  3. Servers often come with redundant hardware? E.g PSU failed? No problem, we just use the other PSU and you can replace the broken one without the server going down. Again not so important on a small scale. But a PSU failure on a fileserver which causes problems for a few thousand people (and thus wasted a a lot of man-hours) is expensive.
  4. Servers often come with chip sets (or CPU's) that support ECC RAM.
  5. Server class hardware often supports 'bigger' computers.
  6. Server hardware is often better tested.

The RAID is not important. I can put a nice RAID card in a desktop. But a good quality RAID card, tested with the motherboard and the drives is has less unpleasant surprises. If I buy a server from HP I usually add a HP (400) RAID card, and HP branded disks. (with HP firmware and well tested by HP). Same for Dell (Replace HP 400 RAID with PERC RAID).

New (not second hand) servers often also come with 3 or 5 years Next day guarantee or better. And the manufacturer will have spare parts for it. Guaranteed compatible spare parts. (Just because a desktop component has the same name does not mean it has the same hardware or needs the same drivers as the identical named part sold a month earlier).

I could probably go on for a bit, but briefly: Yes, there is a difference. and if there was no difference people would not pay the premium price for server hardware.

See also the post What are the Benefits of Server Hardware? [closed].

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There are many differences between server-class hardware and desktop-class hardware:

  • Quality - Server-class hardware is mostly built to handle 24/7 use, requiring better components.
  • ECC RAM - Able to identify and repair single-bit errors in memory, and detect double-bit errors. Requires motherboard support, so you can't just stick ECC RAM into a desktop.
  • SAS v. SATA - Servers use a disk drive standard called SAS. SAS spins faster (15k), reads and writes faster (6 Gbps), and is built for 24/7 operation.
  • Multiple CPUs - Desktop CPUs such as the Intel i7 do not allow more than one CPU to be used on a motherboard, even if the motherboard supports it. Intel XEON (server-class) supports multiple CPUs within a single motherboard.

There are others that I am either forgetting, or omitting for simplicity's sake (SAS especially has a few extra, but complex, features).

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I disagree with SAS v. SATA and multiple CPU. Too many servers these days also use SATA instead of nearline SAS. And home users use SAS. And SAS does not need to spin faster. And some home users do use multi-socket motherboards. But your first point really hits the spot. Quality. Quality and again quality & reliability. –  Hennes Oct 27 '12 at 16:36
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