Need advice! Mac for small business server

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Dear Appleinsider,



Collectively, you always give good advice. I need some.



I work for a small non-profit (four-person office) and we're upgrading our technology. We want a Mac for our fileserver. I'm basically advising on the purchase. But I'm basically running into the dilemma so verbosely debated in the "plain old Macintosh" thread. We don't need (and couldn't justify the price of) a Mac Pro. But we're nervous about getting something with limited expandability and a built-in monitor (the iMac). And the idea of entrusting all our operations to a Mac mini is just... unsettling.



To my mind, given that we want the Mac (and not the $399 HP workstation currently onsale at Tigerdirect) it seems like the only viable option is a low-end iMac. But is there anything I'm missing in terms of treating it as our central server? The benefits of Mac vs. PC don't need to be spelled out-- as a small operation we want versatile, reliable computers and we all just like Macs better for the obvious and often extolled reasons. One small part of me considers going back to a G5 or something to get the tower experience at lower cost, but I 1) don't expect the cost will be much lower, and 2) hate the idea of going back in time technologically.



Performance is not really a concern-- we need Filemaker to be snappy and we're reliant on Office... speaking of which, how is it under Rosetta? How long until the Universal update? Also, what is compatibility like between Intel and non-Intel macs?



Please advise!

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Why don't use the a server as a server not a server + desktop.
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joe_the_dragon


    Why don't use the a server as a server not a server + desktop.



    That would be sensible. I think the problem is that we need a new desktop as well, and so it would raise the cost. Incidentally, though, what would you recommend for that server, if we were going to use it as such?
  • Reply 3 of 17
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    I had no trouble using my mini as a server and a desktop computer at the same time, and it was the G4 mini with 512MB of memory. Stuff 2GB into a Core Duo mini and it shouldn't be a problem.



    I used a utility called Sharepoints to share an external drive.



    Buying a second external drive is be strongly recommended for regular backups.



    For just sharing files, even a G3 tower is likely up to the task, maybe you'd want a G4 tower with gigabit ethernet, I don't know which models have gigabit ethernet.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    pbrpbr Posts: 24member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM


    Buying a second external drive is be strongly recommended for regular backups.



    For just sharing files, even a G3 tower is likely up to the task, maybe you'd want a G4 tower with gigabit ethernet, I don't know which models have gigabit ethernet.



    I second this.

    I would either go for a second-hand G4 Tower or, if you need more performance in terms of CPU, a Mac Mini. But the probably most important thing is to get an additional decent harddrive, no matter whether you go for the used or brand-new Mac.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    get a cheap Dell server, they start at ~$500, get RAID-5 for storage (a main point of a file server is that any one part can fail and you will have 0 data loss...) and toss on Ubuntu server with LTS (long term support) A single P4 will be just fine and 256MB of RAM is enough...



    File serving is I/O intence: spend the money on scsi or SATA 10-15k drives, forget OSX and the apple markup for this task.



    at LEAST do a raid-1



    And using the server as a production desktop is kindof crazy...end users (bless their hearts) just are not trustworthy on a server...they fubar a desktop: no problem: they fubar the file server...big ooops.
  • Reply 6 of 17
    Thanks for the input, very helpful.



    I definitely see the wisdom of the dedicated server, and it makes much more sense to me in terms of the organization's tech future.



    One question; would getting a Poweredge RAID server or something similar running Microsoft Small Business server work with a mix of Mac and PC clients? How do the CALs work for non-windows machines?



    Also, I have to balance the benefits of a dedicated server with the cons of upgrading to Filemaker Server (which would run blind on it) from our current network of Filemaker Pro clients. Though I suppose there are long-term benefits there too.



    I think part of the problem is that the office is coming at this from the perspective of a modest tech budget and a philosophy of upgrading individual computers as they age, as opposed to implementing a new system across the board. I am the end-user on the server, currently, which is an 800mhz G4 tower. Reading these posts (and communicating with Filemaker support) has shown me that this machine is not the problem, and that upgrading it would be redundant. Far better, it seems, to keep the clients as they are and upgrade the server to provide a new "core" for future tech upgrades...
  • Reply 7 of 17
    I work at at k12 school and we just droped close to 3 grand on a super nice dell server, and its complete junk. Will not run anything but server 2000. Secant's spent countless hours on it. Im all set for a marathon phone convo with dell on tuesday *again*



    my advice, a mac mini with plenty of ram, and hdd should work fine.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    At a small office I help out in we simply took one of their G4's, upgraded them to a new machine to use as a workstation and then started putting new parts in the G4. We replaced the original drive, added another and then mirrored them together for some level of redundancy. We also have two external hard drives that we back up to nightly (in a weekly rotation so one is always off-site).



    The setup is running on two machines now, one serves the web pages, the other files. The web one is running OS X 10.4 server and the file server is running 10.2.x. I'm hoping to upgrade the file server to 10.5 server once it's available. We did have a motherboard failure in one machine at one point and we simply dropped the two hard drives into another machine, booted of an OS X boot disk and ran disk utility which got the machine to recognize the raid and we were up an running again.



    Cheap, efficient and easy...
  • Reply 9 of 17
    The mini would make a fantastic server.



    The dive shop I used to "live" at used a Cube for a server.... it worked great... served about a dozen iMacs (G3 and G4) throughout the store and offices.



    A server doesn't need to be particularly powerful for a small intranet. An old (used) G4 would work great ... or even an old G3 tower if you want expandability or "need" lots of HD space... and they can be had for a very few hundred $$.
  • Reply 10 of 17
    messiahmessiah Posts: 1,689member
    I'd be checking Ebay for a suitable MDD G4.



    Four drives (which can be configured as RAID 0+1). Two optical drives, and as it was the last G4 tower, it was super stable.



    The money you save could buy you a lot of RAM for that machine...
  • Reply 11 of 17
    haveing raid with disks that are on the same ide channel is slow
  • Reply 12 of 17
    First off, no offense a_greer, but you're way off here. That kind of disk access is well beyond the realm of requirements here. On a typical 100BT network, there's only so much disk access permitted, and if it's filesharing only, there's not going to be at all the same kind of load -- or even load characteristic, divided down -- as you'd have on an enterprise database or application server.



    Friends don't let friends use Windows Server. Don't do it -- you'll be up to your eyeballs in unplanned IT costs. . . . I've been there. From 2003 to 2004 I was part of a four person start up that operated off of a junk PC, running linux, as a fileserver (now we're finance-backed). It did a fine job, auto back-up, etc. Linux can be a pain in the ass if you're not ready for it, so the way I see it, you have a number of options.



    1. Buy a used mac G4 or G5, set it up as a file server



    2. Buy a current mac, make it dual use.



    3. Buy a network drive or two.



    There are network drive appliances out there which are cheap and good. Most of them run Linux, but they're quite embedded, so you don't have to deal with any of that. There's one from linksys (I think it's called the SLUG) that is getting a ton of attention.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    loulou Posts: 43member
    If you're an non profit organisation why are you looking at mac?



    How about a PC with a dedicated Linux Server distro, Maybe Red Hat or whatever Novell renamed the SuSE server edition to?
  • Reply 14 of 17
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Lou View Post


    If you're an non profit organisation why are you looking at mac?



    How about a PC with a dedicated Linux Server distro, Maybe Red Hat or whatever Novell renamed the SuSE server edition to?



    Why not? It's a lot easier to set up and learn. It doesn't have to have OS X Server if you use SharePoints and it doesn't require nearly the same level of knowledgeability to administer. It doesn't need fancy or expensive hardware either.
  • Reply 15 of 17
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Messiah View Post


    I'd be checking Ebay for a suitable MDD G4.



    Four drives (which can be configured as RAID 0+1). Two optical drives, and as it was the last G4 tower, it was super stable.



    The money you save could buy you a lot of RAM for that machine...



    We are talking about a file server here...right? It will run SMB and NFS and maybe a user validation/LDAP suit...that, if done properly does not need more than 512 MB of ram for under 50 users. and for the acctual storage, DO NOT use IDE, period! get SATA or Ultra SCSI drives and a HARDWARE RAID controller...do a RAID, do not be talked out of it. One would be foolish (and if ones profession is Info Tech, professionally incompetent) to rely on one disk for your organizations mission-critical data. If a software raid lakes out, you are most likely screws, whereas with hardware, you just slam in another drive and go with it.



    Get a tower-server (new or used) with at least a 1.5 Ghz proc, gig E, 512 MB ram and a RAID cage, get (or if included use) a HARDWARE RAID controller and new drives (sata or ultra scsi) for the data storage, and on the OS drive, just use an IDE drive attached to the MoBo and install Linux.



    Using a server as a workstation is nuts...spend a little more now and save a lot of time and hardship when a disk crashes.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,584member
    I have been using a Simple Share 250 GB HDD I purchased at CompUSA that is an ethernet drive (10/100). It works great for me and my wife. We are going to test it out at work with 20 users for a file sharing device. It beats having a computer in a lot of ways. It was simple to setup (took 2 minutes to password the device and rename it something meaningful) and was automatically on our network after I turned it on and plugged it in.



    You won't be doing 160 GB back ups on it but you can move data fast enough for everyday work items. Plus, you can hide it away in a closet or on a shelf.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    lundylundy Posts: 4,466member
    I'd get a used MDD or a used G5 tower. MDD can hold more hard drives.
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