Networking / Beginners

Evaluating the Server Hardware

For server hardware, you have many vendors and many vendor models from which to choose. Vendors also offer a variety of additional features to improve the performance of their products. The processor, motherboard, memory, hard drives, and interface cards are important components to evaluate during the hardware selection process. Other key factors are the nature of the server backup and the media to connect servers to other machines.

The server (or servers) will likely play a key role in your network. Make sure it's located in a well-ventilated and physically secure room. As a rule, it's recommended you purchase a server with two or more processors. This approach enables the server to handle more simultaneous tasks from clients, resulting in faster response time and increased throughput. Most vendors offer products with two processors. Some support a concept called hyperthreading, which gives the illusion of a single processor appearing as two processors to the server OS.

For some servers, a low-end processor will operate at 300 megahertz (MHz)-not very fast. You and your users will be well served if you do not lowball this part of the hardware selection. My recommendation is to purchase the highest speed and largest number of processors that the company's budget will allow.

A low-end server does not need much RAM memory-only 256 megabytes (MB). However, like the processor decision, it is recommended you configure the server with a lot of memory. How much? As much as you can afford-but with a caveat. Memory is easy to add later. So, perhaps you start with a few gigabytes (GB) and then add more later, if needed. But make sure your OS is capable of addressing the additional memory. For example, Vista 64 is needed to address the 4th GB of memory.

Modern server-based disk drives come in capacities ranging from a modest 40GB to terabyte (TB) capacities. However, servers support multiple hard drives, so you do not need to purchase the biggest drive. You can add more hard drive capacity later. The issue of power consumption should also be considered when evaluating potential disk systems. Ask the vendor to furnish data on power usage; ask for an explanation of the vendor's design rationale for the efficient use of power for the drives.

Make certain your server selection includes sufficient network interface cards (NICs), associated connectors, and disk drives for proper backup of the company's data. Table-1 is a summary with associated considerations and recommendations, courtesy of Microsoft.

TABLE-1 Comparison of Drives
DescriptionConsiderationsRecommended For
IDE1 or ATA2Slower and cheaper than other types. Only one drive can be accessed at a time.Small network, with little use of hard drives.
SATA3Faster and more expensive than IDE. Only one drive can be accessed at a time.Small network, with moderate use of hard drives.
SCSI4Faster and more expensive than IDE or SATA.Larger network, with extensive use of hard drives.
1 IDE = Integrated Drive Electronics
2 ATA = Advanced Technology Attachment
3 SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment
4 SCSI = small computer system interface
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