“Personal Servers”

Fred, Can you comment on personal servers?  I am thinking about a Buffalo Terabyte server (Mirra servers are too small) as a way to have a mindless backup system and server for my consulting business.  Some reviewers have complained that these systems are slow and if you want to replace one harddrive you need to replace them all.  I have looked at descriptions to build your own server but I want to be able to plug-n-play and not deal with incompatible components.  Are these servers really practical or given your recent discussion about a new windows OS, should I wait for the next round of servers? Best regards, JoAnn

Remember that most "real" big-business servers are essentially just PCs in a different physical package; and perhaps with some hard/soft/firmware add-ons to ease centralized management. The name "server" really is more descriptive of the function than the machine— *any* PC can be a "server."

In a smaller office, the need for centralized management is kind of moot; and unless you really, really want to rack-mount your stuff (why?), the normal PC form factor is just fine. For example, my "server" sits about 12 feet from my desk. It’s a cheap, generic PC with a huge hard drive; it’s a file and print server for my office; and it also serves as a connection-sharer and firewall, sitting between my office PCs and the internet.

Most inexpensive PCs will support at least 4 mass-storage devices, so you could get over a terabyte of storage in there, using the largest hard drives currently available. Or, you can install a RAID array, if you prefer that technology (I don’t, in smaller office setups; I think the downsides of RAID outweigh the benefits, except in some unusual situations.)

Plus, using a standard PC means all your normal maintenance tools will work; everything will be familiar; and parts for eventual repairs or upgrades will be easy to find. It also means you don’t have to rely on web- or network-based interfaces for server management: Although you can do the remote-control thing if you want, you also can plug in a cheap keyboard and a cast-off monitor and have full access to the server and its contents even if, say, the network is down.

If you’re dead-set on a "personal server," then a Buffalo Terabyte server ($700-$1000+) could be a fine choice. But if I were you, I’d get a very basic, bare-bones, generic white-box or small-brand PC (perhaps $150 or so), load it to the gills with mass storage (you can get a 250GB drive for $80; four of them, totaling a terabyte, will cost $320), and you’ll have a massive "server" for under $500 or so.

See:
In Praise Of White-Box PCs
http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20020214S0003

White-Box PCs Revisited
http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20030206S0014



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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.