70-282 Exam: Design a Hardware Specification [Microsoft Small Business Specialist Primer book excerpt]

G’day folks – I am the publisher of the above title and I like to hold a daily virtual book reading. This is all about passing the 70-282 exam baby! Let’s rock!

Design a Hardware Specification

Hardware specifications will depend on the load that will be placed on the Small Business Server 2003. If you are currently running on an existing server and have to design a specification for a migration to a new server, you could sample performance on the existing server. For 70-282 examination purposes, remember the following mantra, which will be reiterated in the next couple of chapters:

Go with Microsoft’s hardware specifications for SBS 2003. What Microsoft posts on its public-facing SBS 2003 website is gospel on the 70-282 exam regardless of how you personally feel .

With your architect hat on, think about the best time to baseline the current performance so you get a data point to track the SBS 2003 network over time. A baseline would be performed during times of heavy usage—for instance, when everyone logs in first thing in the morning and checks their e-mail and the morning news and launches their applications that connect to the database on the server. That’s when the network is most heavily taxed and stresses will be revealed.

The next three sections view hardware by usage classification.


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Database Server

If your SBS server will mainly be used as a database server, you want to take a close look at the storage and memory subsystem. Take into consideration the amount of hard drives you should use to get the best performance. You may want to consider placing the database log files on a separate hard drive from the data files if you plan on running SQL server, doing so not only for performance, but also for recovery reasons.

File Server

If your SBS server will be used as a departmental file server—for instance for a company that works with larger files like AutoCAD (Architects) files or multimedia files (Photo Studio) that easily average 30 MB and more— consider faster disk drives and a gigabit network card. Remember that the file server function is historically one of the reasons folks implemented local area networks.

 

 

 

E-mail Server

Running Exchange on the SBS server will use storage, memory, and some CPU cycles. Just as we recommended for the database server, placing the log and data files on physically separate hard drives is a good idea. So consider the following test-taking tip in the design context: Knowing the role of the server will help you determine the appropriate hardware requirements.

Fault Tolerance Considerations

Having covered disaster prevention and recovery using the Backup Configuration Wizard and available media options, let’s not forget additional hardware options available to us based on the Windows Server 2003 operating system. If you are able to purchase more than one hard disk, you can implement a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) solution to the point where you could continue operating despite a single hard drive failure.


Mirrored Drives (RAID 1)

This is a simple solution requiring at least two hard drives. As the name states, one disk drive is the exact mirror of your currently working disk. If the working disk should fail, you have fault tolerance with the second disk and the system will continue to operate using the unaffected disk. You can create a mirrored drive set in the Disk Management console. Usually the write-performance takes a hit with RAID 1, due to the controller having to write the data to two disks simultaneously. RAID drives are discussed in Chapter 10.

RAID 5

This requires at least three disks and uses intermittently striped data and parity for fault tolerance. Parity is the information that allows you to re-create a single failed disk based on the data information of the remaining two intact disks. If two disks fail simultaneously, you will not be able to recover. RAID 5 volumes are created on dynamic disks and can not be extended or mirrored. If you use hot-swappable drives, you will be able to remove the failed disk while operations continue (at a somewhat decreased speed, since the remaining two disks have to create the data of the third missing disk), and then swap out the failed disk with a healthy disk, and the RAID array can rebuild the data without interruptions to your operation. RAID drives are discussed in Chapter 10.

If They Let You…

If you have a client who sees the value of continued business, and she follows your advice and lets you implement the best solution, I recommend a system with a minimum of five drives: two for the system partition, which should be mirrored, and the remaining three as the data partition in a RAID 5 array. It is possible to partition a RAID5 array. This can be beneficial, as you can separate your mission-critical data files from the users’ shared folders and also separate application files. You could run a separate additional backup on just the mission-critical data to make sure you have additional redundancy on top of your regular full SBS backup. The above solutions can be implemented by using built-in tools in the Windows Server 2003 operating system, meaning that these are software solutions. These solutions, since they are software-driven, will impact the performance on the server. You could choose to use a hardware


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solution, using a hardware drive controller. That would cause a higher initial outlay, but would not use system resources since the read/write operations would be performed by the hardware controller and not the system.

IMPORTANT: I promised another important tip and here it is. DO NOT OUTSMART YOURSELF on the 70-282 exam. If you are an SBS 2000 and SBS 2003 guru, it might be easy to become confused about which version of SBS contained which feature. It’s kinda like taking classes in college. When you have a full schedule of classes, you might use a word differently in one course versus another. For example, the word “risk” can have different meanings in your real estate class than your finance class. And when you have to define risk on the respective exams for each course, you might get confused and transfer the definitions inappropriately. Ergo—while honoring your SBS expertise, keep an eye out for questions that call for a Windows Server 2003 solution! Case closed.

 

 

 

cheers…harrybbbb

Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host a technology conference in the New York City area each spring? Save the date for March 6-8, 2009 and watch “voice meet data” in the SMB space!

PPS – my SBS 2008 book will be out in mid-November 2008!

PPPS – my Microsoft Response Point Primer book is here NOW!

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