Welcome to the second post in this series of blogs looking at how to choose a server. If you missed the first one, you can check out Choosing a server – processors and RAM here.
This time, we’re looking at space and hard drive size.
So what do we mean by space? Well, it seems like an obvious one, but you need to make sure you’ve physically got enough room to store your server correctly. Think about where you will keep it. It needs to be accessible to your IT staff at all times. If you buy a rack-mounted server, you need to make sure you do actually rack-mount it for ventilation purposes. If you go for a tower server, you need to keep it out of harm’s way – you wouldn’t believe the number of helpdesk calls we get because somebody has accidentally walked into a server, kicked it and powered it down. And remember, servers like it cool. In an ideal world you need to keep it in an air-conditioned room. If this isn’t possible, it needs plenty of ventilation. Keep it away from heat sources and don’t pile papers or folders around it. Increased humidity will also affect it so if your office is prone to condensation it might cause you problems down the line. Try to maintain a consistent temperature in your office if possible. If your server overheats it can lead to permanent failure.
Hard drive size
There’s no definitive answer to this one, because it of course depends on what you’ll be using your server for, the number of users, and which operating system you’re planning to run. Some of the space will be taken up by your operating system, then you’ll need space for data. So really, it depends on how much data you have. Are you data heavy? A company in the creative industry with lots of data heavy images will need a much bigger drive than a smaller business with fewer files. The servers that we supply as an IT solutions provider, tend to have between 1 – 2TB of storage, (remember the operating system will take up a good 60-100GB of this). This could be overkill if you’re a small business, but our advice would be to go for the overkill. Upgrading server drives down the line can be tiresome to say the least. The extra disks might not fit, it might mean a server rebuild, plus all the engineering time to get this done makes for an expensive job. It could even mean a server replacement job. So if you calculate that you need 1TB of storage, go for 2TB. This will be more cost effective than starting small and trying to upgrade. Go for the most sensible and affordable storage overkill you can to allow for growth and to minimise cost.
These days most servers support drives with high-speed Serial ATA or SATA interfaces, but for a better performance go for a server that supports Serial Attached SCSI or SAS drives. Both SATA and SCSI will have built-in RAID technology (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) which helps protect your data to different levels. RAID 1 for example, works by duplicating the same data over two disks by way of a backup (although you’ll still want to make sure you’ve got a full external backup solution in place) whereas RAID 5 has the ability to rebuild data from a failed drive. And if you want the ultimate top-dog performance, go for a Solid State Drive (SSD). These are based on flash memory rather than spinning platters and are a much faster type of hard drive. Really, it’s a game of cost vs speed vs size to work out the best type of drive for your needs.
And look out for the last in this series of blog posts which will look at future proofing your servers.