Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What kind of hardware will you require to build a better server?



The hardware in a server is a very important consideration for building your system.

Servers handle different requests to a normal desktop machine, often handling several people’s requests at once. This means that the resource priorities have changed and these can even be different between various types of servers.

Software counts as well, of course, but without a decent hardware base, it will be tricky to have the server work as intended. Scalability and peak loads need to be considered as a future-proofing method, so always try and make sure that you have a bit more power than you need. With all that said, let’s start looking at the individual components.

There are six main components you need to put thought into, and the four most important ones are the motherboard, the processor, RAM and power supply – the core components on any computer. As we mentioned, you need to think differently about what you need components-wise because resource usage is different.

A minor concern for some will be a graphics card of some kind, whether it’s so you can directly interface with the system or do computational work that benefits from multiple different cores instead. You’ll also need a good storage solution for your server build.


Motherboard

Motherboards for servers come in various styles. A lot of server boards will have two ports to connect a CPU to, which is good for servers used for small businesses or if you expect to get a lot of requests on a regular basis. These are more expensive than single-CPU systems, but the benefits in the long run for a big office server are more than worth it.

For home use, a single slot for a processor will do you fine for most cases, the main exception being a web server where you plan to have a lot of regular connections made to it. In this case, you want to keep an eye out for motherboards with plenty of storage and connection slots to make it as flexible and scalable as possible.


Motherboard

When we talk about slots and connections for a motherboard, we’re talking about PCI slots and plenty of SATA drive slots. You can add more SATA slots via a card, but you’ll need to take into account anything else you’d want to add a card for. You need to make sure the motherboard’s chipset matches up with the kind of CPU you want as well, and the CPU will also dictate the type of RAM you get. It’s a multi-layered balancing act that may result in a sea of tabs while you compare and contrast.



FIBRE CARD

Networking cards can be essential if your server is also acting like a more traditional network server, handling all your network data and even being used as a modem and fi rewall. There are plenty of different PCI cards for these kinds of tasks, including this fi bre card for a bit more serious Internet use.


CPU

The most important thing for a server CPU is the number of cores – that’s why dual-slots can be quite useful. More cores allows for more threads, essential if you plan to run VMs off a file server or several sites at the same time. Clock speed is not as important, but you should at least get one that is not ridiculously slow and comes with a decent cache.

With Intel’s Hyper Threading, each core can work harder by creating multiple threads in each core. Conversely, AMD processors will offer more cores for a lower price, especially if you’re on a budget.


RAM

A larger amount of RAM is more important on servers than it is on a desktop PC, enabling you to run more operations at once. Speed and latency is not so important, so gaming RAM with tweaked timings will not grant you a better system – in fact, it may be slightly worse since they don’t have ECC. ECC fixes single-byte errors that make up the most common forms of data corruption in the RAM.

While ECC RAM can be important, it’s more important in web servers and generally much more necessary in business and enterprise servers. On every level though, a larger amount of RAM is good.


RAM

You don’t need RAM with heatsinks for server PCs, really – it’s usually reserved for gaming RAM with tweaked timings. If you are concerned with the heat of your system and have a little more budget to spend, get RAM with some kind of heat dissipater.


PSU

While it’s best practice to never skimp on a power supply, it’s near essential when it comes to server power. While you may need 1,000+ watts for your ridiculous 4K gaming rig (electricity bills be damned), you can be a little more reserved in the peak power for a home server, depending on its intended use. Look for power supplies with an ‘80 Plus’ rating, as these ones have been through some level of certification to ensure that they have a degree of efficiency – this is a good idea for servers that are on all the time as they will save on electricity bills in the long run. Titanium and Platinum are the highest ratings, meaning they’re at least 90 per cent efficient (95 per cent efficient for server power supplies).


PSU

When picking a PSU you need to keep in mind a few things, such as what kind of connectors you need. This can depend on your motherboard, the amount of hard drives you’re using, any extras like case fans and case I/O panels. If you want a better idea of what kind of wattage you will need, you can use this tool to figure it out: eXtreme Power Supply Calculator .



Storage

Depending on your storage requirements, there are multiple solutions that you can use. At the very least we recommend you split up your storage with an SSD for the operating system and associated settings files, and use standard hard drives for storing everything else. This way, when the general files are not being accessed, the operating system can still run while drawing much less power.

Otherwise, your actual mass storage can be configured in multiple ways. You can have straight drives connected with JBOD for minimal complexity. Or you can start looking down the RAID route – mirroring in case of drive failure, striping to more efficiently use the space of two hard drives, or even going as far as RAID 5 and 6, which increases complexity but enables you to create one large, consistent storage space with redundancy failures. The more complex you go though, the more difficult it can be to maintain and the more catastrophic a major failure can be.


DVD Drive

They’re more rarely needed these days, but it can sometimes be handy to have an optical drive for transferring data or to have ISOs installed to. If you’re using your server to serve files and media, you can create redirects to be able to play DVD or Blu-ray movies, or even rip ones that don’t come with any DRM at all.



PC Case

For server cases, you need to think of where you’re using your server. At home, a silent case can be great, with padding to keep the noise down while it runs all the time. In the office, and assuming it will be taxed a bit more, you’ll need to take into consideration proper cooling. Size is also a factor, as you need to fit your parts in.



By PCmatter

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