My boss just asked me to buy a new server for our office network. I know next to nothing about servers and networking, so I need someone to point me in the right direction.

He said he wants this to be our e-mail server with a network login. I have no idea how to set up an e-mail server, especially one that sends/receives e-mail using our domain name.

We use a terrible piece of order/inventory software called Mail Order Manager (MOM). Our computers currently connect to the MOM database through a networked drive. My boss would like to move away from this peer-to-peer MOM setup. The software publisher offers a SQL version of MOM, but it's way overpriced. Is there a better way to connect to these databases without using the SQL version?

Finally, the server needs to be running Windows.

Does this question make sense, is it possible, and can someone help me get started?


  • Server setup -> not programming -> belongs on Serverfault.com – marc_s Dec 29 '10 at 17:13
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    I know next to nothing about servers and networking Then why is your boss asking you to purchase a new server?? – GregD Dec 29 '10 at 17:21
  • @Jason, you really need to get someone in to help you with this. It's no small task and if not done correctly will result in more wasted time than you can imagine. Do you really think our trade can be learned in a matter of moments? – John Gardeniers Dec 29 '10 at 21:06
  • There is a few angry people here by the looks. I guess it is a bit insulting to ask that question, but we do offer free advice here. And I have always been impressed by the professionalism and patience of contributors. @OP please for your own good and the good of your boss and company, decline this job and point your boss to the suggestions here that you seek help from a consultant. – Ablue Dec 30 '10 at 10:41

If your boss came to you and said, "I need you to replace the engine in my car", would you then peruse a car forum and ask "where do I get started replacing the engine in my car"?

My assumption is your boss came to you and asked you to do this because "you're good with computers". This doesn't extrapolate into "I know what the hell I'm doing and make a living as a Systems Administrator", so I'm not sure what makes you think we can point you in the right direction other than to say, HIRE A CONSULTANT.

Not quite sure why people think that Systems Administration is something you can just pick up by being pointed in the right direction. It's a bit like saying, "I'd like to be a brain surgeon. Can someone point me in the right direction?"...

Edited to add

@Jason - I apologize for being snarky in my answer above. I simply wanted to point out to you that sometimes people are in over their heads (based on the way you worded your question). I in no way wanted you to get the impression that I didn't think you were capable of doing this, just that it's not particularly easy to do right and it can be VERY EASY to do wrong.

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    Concentrate on that area above the shoulders and between the ears. – Jeff Ferland Dec 29 '10 at 17:49

Hire a consultant, or point out to your boss that he has assigned you a task that you do not have the appropriate background for, nor could anybody in your position acquire it in a reasonable timeframe.

Finally, as a personal pet-peeve, why is Windows a requirement for the server?

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    Probably because it runs on MS SQL Server? – mfinni Dec 29 '10 at 17:56
  • Seems that he's saying the MS SQL system is too expensive, so won't be implemented, and he's looking for an alternative? – Jeff Ferland Dec 29 '10 at 18:06
  • For someone who is just getting into the sysadmin position, which it sounds like he is, Windows is a heck of a lot easier to learn to manage and a lot easier to find outside consultants when you need help. – ErnieTheGeek Dec 29 '10 at 18:09
  • I find the following often happens: "It needs to be Solaris / HPUX / Linux / etc." -- they have a solid reason. "It needs to be Windows" -- "well, because..." – Jeff Ferland Dec 29 '10 at 18:11
  • @Autocracy - It probably has everything to do with the fact that they're running some version of Windows on their own computer. The assumption is then made that their server "has to be Windows" in order to be "compatible". – GregD Dec 29 '10 at 18:24

These are really two separate questions, from what I can tell, so I'll try to answer them the best I can.

Email Server: Setting up an email server can be a challenging task, especially when you begin considering spam/virus filtering, account setup, security, etc. For any type of small or medium business, you are probably better off going with a hosted solution, such as Google Apps http://www.google.com/a or maybe Microsoft Office Live Business http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/en-us/ I've implemented Google Apps at a few places, and had really good experience from the email/calendaring side.

Application/File Server: The question really depends on the specifics of your application and your usage. You could always move the shared drive to an Windows server, or some sort of NAS appliance. The SQL option is probably expensive because it is designed for large environments. You should not move to it unless you have a real need, as SQL servers generally require some expertise to maintain (although Microsoft SQL server isn't too bad compared to Oracle).

As others had advised, you might want to look at external expertise in these areas, if you feel uncomfortable with these technologies.


You're really going to want to hire someone to do this right. Your best option would be an Exchange server but if not properly configured you can make your life pretty bad.


Echo the suggestions of others - get an external in to look at this.

But still, he would ask more questions which you will need to provide more details for.

  • how many staff?
  • how reliable is your Internet connection?
  • do you have an existing AD domain?
  • budget?
  • existing or new hardware?
  • who will maintain/manage/support it?

Goto the cloud (Google Apps or Hosted Exchange , Azure) with this request/situation, and purchase some type of support. Can make the email part even easier with other hosted services. It will have all the items you need.

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