I'm having a difficult time trying to decide what to do with a server setup. A company have asked me what to do with some servers. They recently acquired the assets of another company and in the assets where two servers (5 years old).

Dell Poweredge 1800 - 3Ghz Dual Processors, 4GB RAM, 36GB SCSI RAID 1, Windows 2003 SBS Dell Poweredge 1800 - 2.9GHz Dual Processors, 1GB RAM, 76GB SCSI RAID 1, Windows 2003 Standard

Before this they were running off an old desktop machine and have finally decided they want a proper server setup. The details of their needs are below

  • 5 Company Users
  • AD
  • At least 2 HD's in RAID for redundancy
  • They do use Outlook so exchange may make managing their emails easier
  • Need to run the Sage Line 50 account software across the network
  • Fileshare
  • Printing
  • Remote Desktop for all users

Now currently they want to keep using the servers they acquired since they need to access the old company data from them. So I can only see 1 option and that is get a new server. I was thinking something in the region of:

Dell T110, Intel i3-540 3Ghz, 4GB RAM, 2x 500GB SATA, Raid 1, Windows 2008 SBS

But it seems a shame to ignore those two servers. I know there isn't much HDD space on them but I could pinch the drives from both and install in the faster server. My only other thought with this is they would be using Windows 2003 SBS, which is 7 years old now.

Any advise would be most welcome.


You could spend $3-5K easy to get them a new server, SBS 2011, Outlook 2010, proper spam protection, etc... OR I would setup the company to use Microsoft Online BPOS, or at least Exchange Online, then just have a single onsite server for file share, printing, Active Directory network logins, and any server apps they need.

Exchange 2007 Online is $5 a user per month, Exchange+SharePoint+OCS+LiveMeeting 2007 is $10 a user per month. http://www.microsoft.com/online/ This is what I advise small business startups to do today... onsite email servers are only necessary for large shops with custom requirements (and even they are moving to Microsoft Online).

You can literally have them setup in a few hours of work, and use www.migrationwiz.com to migrate their email from any other platform they have now (or just upload .pst for free).

You could then choose to use the existing server with (at least) Windows Server 2008 but the best supportable solution is something new like the Dell T110 with Server 2008 R2. RAM is cheap so I would recommend buying 8GB or more in case you need to turn that box into a Hyper-V/VMWare box later to host a SQL server or something.

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  • I forgot they also need Remote Desktop, isn't that a main feature of the SBS product line? I know you can RD into the Standard but its for admin use only isn't it. – Adam S-Price Mar 28 '11 at 15:56
  • are you talking about a terminal server or remote desktop gateway. SBS allows users a remote web tool i.e. remote.company.com that will have RDG setup so they can remote into their work PC from home, check OWA email, access sharepoint, and more. There is no terminal server licencing with SBS that allows many users to remote into a single server. You probably want RDG anyway – Bret Fisher Mar 28 '11 at 18:41
  • Yes they will need to be able to connect to their PC from home and work. I don't need them to connect to the server. – Adam S-Price Mar 28 '11 at 21:22
  • Then you're good to go with SBS remote features. – Bret Fisher Mar 29 '11 at 0:25

You probably can't just plug the old drives into the new chassis as they are using a different interface (sata on the new one vs. scsi on the old).

It could be possible to re-use one of the old servers though: combine the drives and memory you have in the two, or even buy a bit of memory and buy a couple of new hard drives and you could make a very decent second domain controller out of that. Be very clear about what problem you're solving with any additional server and make sure that whatever you do is a good solution - don't compromise something vital for the sake of being able to say you've re-used old systems.

As for Windows 2003 - yes its old and I'd be reluctant to do a new deployment on it but if it stops you having to buy a new licence and windows 2003 will meet their needs then this is one case where it might be worth re-using the windows 2003 (none SBS) licence they have already.

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Small Business Server 2003 isn't as much of the problem (it's still supported/widely-deployed; we manage several that haven't upgraded yet) with the old servers as is their lack of warranty. I would never run a business on an SBS server without 4-hour turnaround on hardware replacement.

You may be able to purchase a warranty extension and/or upgrade the disks (or add additional disks in a new RAID1 array for data): just grab the Service Tag (should be on the chassis somewhere) and hit up Dell's Support site under Warranty Status. They usual post up upgrade options there as well.

If warranty upgrades/extensions are available, the second server could be a member server/domain controller running Sage (with a warranty extension/RAM/disk upgrade).

All told, buying some additional disks, extending warranties, and RAM may start getting close to the price of a new server though.

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Forget about those old servers, you will be throwing money into a pit trying to support them. Your proposed new server is not powerful enough to run SBS 2008 comfortably (we have a SBS 2008 instance that is a dog running on a higher-end server with 8 10K rpm sas drives in Raid 10, 6GB ram and dual Xeon X5680 CPUs). My recommendation for a new server would be one of the smartbuy skus of the HP DL380 G7 server but if you are stuck with Dell, look to the R710. Use VMWare ESXi and buy a license for windows Server 2008R2 Datacenter edition which allows unlimited virtual instances. This would position the company for growth. With 5 users do not even consider running Exchange; use a hosted service of some type.

If this approx $10K spend is out of budget or the company is not positioned to grow then I would seriously consider the recommendation to go with an online hosted service. This would include searching for a new hosted accounting system. Spending time administering SBS is just spinning wheels in my opinion and maintaining a server in house for 5 users is really overkill.

If this business needs to stay with in-house windows based application the owner needs to seriously look at committing the dollars for a decent infrastructure (as in the first paragraph) with a capital plan to replace the server every 5 years at most. You could go with cheaper hardware and a non-virtualized solution but I think you (and your users) will be happier with Windows Server 2008R2 Std. Ed. instead of SBS. Use the leftover money to buy a good NAS box for backups.

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