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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:24 pm 
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I decided to build a Small Business Server (SBS) to add some capabilities that were not present with my WHS machine. I have it mostly configured now, and it is working pretty well. I run Macs which in turn host a collection of Windows VMs and I wanted to support both environments as well as keeping configuration and administration tasks under control.

The big eventual win for me is to synchronize my 3 email/personal productivity clients that run on a desktop, notebook and smart phone. I am waiting on Office 2011 for the Mac to ship before I make the leap to implementing Exchange Server, although I have tested it with Apple's Mail, Calendar, and Contacts programs (which support Exchange, unlike my version of Entourage). I also wanted to be able to remote into my network via RDP, which is something I have not been able to make work with WHS.

The server itself is pretty basic and low price was high on my priority list:

AMD Athlon II X4 640 (3.0GHz 4-core)
Asus M4A785T-M microATX mobo
8GB G.Skill DDR3 1333 memory
Lite-On DVD burner
Seagate 7200.12 1TB drive (repurposed from my WHS server)
Maxtor 320GB 7200RPM driver (OLD drive I had floating around - for server backups)
Supermicro CSE-731i case

I didn't buy a monitor or keyboard/mouse. If I am doing something where RDP won't suffice, then I use the monitor and KB/mouse connected to my Mac Pro. The server is currently living on a cheap Kantel mobile CPU stand under my desk and adjacent to my Mac Pro.

The machine assembled easily. The Supermicro case is nicely made, looks nice in a server sort of way and is tool free. I probably should have spent a couple of extra bucks and bought a newer mobo, probably one based on the 880 chipset. On the bright side, this mobo has 6 SATA connections. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an eSATA port, but that is something an expansion card could fix. It's reasonably quiet, but louder than my Mac Pro.

People have written books on configuring SBS (and I bought one) so I am not going to write a how-to this post. Installing and configuring SBS is not too difficult a process, but bear in mind that I have 25 years experience in corporate IT. If I felt I needed a book to help me make this work, the odds are pretty good that you do too.

I installed and configured SBS a couple of times as a VM on my Mac Pro to work out some of the procedural bugs in an environment where it was easier to deal with them (refer to no monitor/keyboard above) and where I wouldn't feel sad blowing the environment away and starting all over. The best approach seemed to be performing the initial install, then exercising some of the core functions by running the configuration programs for the different components that SBS installs. Once I confirmed the install had essentially succeeded then I carefully introduced product updates to bring the server current with required updates. I made sure to smoke test the server after each update cycle to ensure nothing obvious was broken. I was very careful about optional updates - especially the server rollups - I had one that didn't take on one of my throwaway attempts and I couldn't figure out how to fix it in a more elegant fashion than blowing it away and starting all over again. I had to find a way to install the rollup that broke the server on that earlier approach as it added support for Windows 7 client registrations, of which I have several. Bottom line, think carefully about changes before you introduce them and continually test.

Remote access was next on my plate. I have had a domain for quite some time and it is currently hosted by godaddy.com. My ISP is Comcast, and while my IP is relatively stable, it is not static. I used dyndns.com to set up a link between a host name and my IP address. I then created a CNAME record on my godaddy domain to redirect requests to a subdomain on my domain to the host name I established with dyndns.com. I had to repurpose the port forwarding rules I set up on ports 80/443/4125 for the WHS machine to instead point to the SBS server. SBS sets up a web site for remote access, and I tested connectivity via my laptop and a Virgin Mobile broadband modem. This worked perfectly via my Windows VM, and email connectivity was supported from Safari. Firefox on the Mac was not able to connect.

The next step was to establish a VPN connection. This required having SBS take over DHCP server responsibilities from my router, an Apple Airport Extreme. This device does not like to relinquish being a DHCP server. Complicating things, I have two of these devices set up in a wireless distribution system (WDS). The solution ended up being having the Airport Extreme continue to be a DHCP server, but to distribute only one IP address: the one used by the remote in the WDS. I configured the SBS DHCP server to manage a range of IP addresses that did not include the one used by the router nor the WDS remote access point. After a server reboot, this configuration seems to be stable but a couple of days of curing time is needed to confirm this. Once I had the SBS machine managing DHCP, then a fairly normal PPTP VPN configuration was able to connect successfully.

Phew!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 4:50 am 
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Looks great Cliff, thanks for sharing!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 3:43 pm 
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Very nice, thanks for sharing your build! :mss:

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:37 pm 
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Thanks all. The server is starting to settle down and I think it's probably time for me to leave it alone for a few days to let it stabilize.

I re-added another 1TB drive as a RAID 1 mirror to the primary drive. The BIOS on the mobo supports RAID 0, 1, and 0+1, but I decided to just let Windows manage it instead. I have also set up DHCP reservations for all my PC workstation VMs and added DNS host entries for the Macs (I learned that correctly configured, the DNS server can manage Windows client DNS entries directly). I have had some problems with the server not accurately reporting Windows client status information so I've been tweaking some DCOM settings on the clients with the hope of fixing it.

It would be interesting to run this along with Vail on top of a hypervisor on a single server with a crapload of external disks...

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:29 pm 
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I learned a critical lesson this evening: DO NOT DISABLE IPV6 PROTOCOL. SBS is dependent on it and won't boot if you do. So I went into safe mode with networking, re-enabled it, restarted the server, and everything is hunky dory again.

I am on a mission to make this machine quieter, and the first step in that direction was to install a new heatsink. I did some research and settled on a Scythe Shuriken. My mini server case isn't deep enough for a tall heatsink so I had to go the low profile route. My 95W CPU doesn't need a whole lot of cooling either, so based on reviews, price, and newegg availability, the Shuriken seemed the way to go. It fits reasonably well with the g.skill memory I have, and my unpopulated B-channel slots are readily accessible. CPU fan RPMs are down from ~2600 to 1750, and temps are running around 19-20 deg C. The temps should come down a bit as the thermal paste cures, but right now they're roughly the same as what I was seeing with the AMD heatsink and fan. I think the case fan is the loudest thing in the box now. It's running at 2000 RPMs or so. I should have ordered a Nexus case fan while I was at it.

Edit: this server is definitely quieter. I used to be able to hear it from the family room, which is adjacent to but separated by a wall from my office. No more. Color me happy :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:39 am 
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I have finally achieved PIM nirvana (as in Personal Information Management). I've been trying to have a unified view of my email/calendar/contact/etc information since I bought a Palm Tungsten C back in 2003. It didn't do the trick. Neither did the Treo 650 and 755p that succeeded it. Nor did Mobile Me work worth squat keeping my 2 Macs and iPhone synchronized.

Of course, the problem is that I've been trying to keep multiple devices in sync. The better approach was keeping them connected to a single source Image Exchange Server to the rescue! Image

I upgraded to Office 2011 this week, and with it came an Exchange-enabled version of Outlook. I finished configuring Exchange Server overnight and I am in PIM heaven.

Connected locally via my LAN:
Image Image

Connected to the Internet via Virgin Mobile, and connected to Exchange Server via Outlook Anywhere:
Image

Connected via my LAN (AT&T pretty much blows here at home, but if remote connectivity works from Virgin Mobile it should work with a decent cell signal too) edit: It works fine via 3G as well, provided the signal is good.
Image Image

I edited a schedule entry on my iPhone and it updated the Exchange server entry Image

Setting it up was not without its challenges. The biggest challenge was establishing the outbound mail connection to my domain hosting provider. Hard coding the IP address of their SMTP server rather than specifying the FQDN is what solved that problem. The next big challenge was securing x509 certificates. I requested these for free from cacert.org and they work well enough considering the cost. Small Business Server configured the remote access stuff pretty much straight out of the box. I had to make some DNS entries to both my public and local domain.

I think I am in serious need of an UPS for this server.

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Last edited by Cliff on Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:44 am 
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Thanks for sharing Cliff. Seriously though, all this work and no UPS????

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:46 am 
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FYI - I was thinking about beta testing this to see how is works as far as PIM

http://www.mball.com/FamilyDiary.htm

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:52 am 
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dbone1026 wrote:
Thanks for sharing Cliff. Seriously though, all this work and no UPS????


It's at the top of my list. Power here is pretty stable what with relatively new construction and underground lines in the immediate area. Caltrans is building a freeway interchange nearby though, and construction accidents have caused two outtages. I'm not so much worried about the power being out and keeping the server running for the duration. I am worried about shutting down the server cleanly, then having it turn itself back on when power is restored. A 1000VA unit from APC would facilitate the former, and my mobo will facilitate the latter.

In the meantime, the C: drive is in a RAID 1 mirror and gets backed up to another drive every day. I may increase that backup frequency now that exchange server is up and running.

dbone1026 wrote:
FYI - I was thinking about beta testing this to see how is works as far as PIM

http://www.mball.com/FamilyDiary.htm


The price is definitely right :D

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 4:31 pm 
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I replaced the case fan with a Nexus 92mm (DF1209SL-3) from Newegg, and that seems to have eliminated the loudest sound coming from the box. I was thinking I might have to replace the power supply, but it seems not. Noise is the other factor causing me to be hesitant on buying a UPS. My servers are 30dB or less now. A UPS is over 40dB, and I don't know that I want to deal with the noise.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 9:25 pm 
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I have 2 APC units . one is an older backup xs1000. dead quite. no fan model. 600 watts. the other a newer backup XS1300 with fan, only runs if on backup mode. has a nice front LED screen for info. it has a fan. but if you read they only come on in rare cases and not often. Amazon has alot of APC on sell. and if you think its under 75 watts draw the xs1000 will give you about 80 min. that what mine says when it under draw in test mode for over 1 min. here is one link

http://www.amazon.com/APC-BR1000G-Outpu ... 012&sr=8-2

the XS 1300 here http://www.amazon.com/APC-XS-COMPUTER-B ... 116&sr=1-1

short and long. the other was thin and tall just FYI. also both connect via usb and has nice software for controls and info. other consideration are what else your going to plug in for extra connections. even if they are not on the power backup portion. I need some extra power for an external esata and USB DVD player they dont protection.

PS
the APC BR1500 version is on sale http://www.amazon.com/APC-BACK-UPS-BR15 ... 116&sr=1-2

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 11:56 am 
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Thanks for the recommendations. We had another power outage here this morning, so it's clear I ought to do something. I stuck a Kill-A-Watt on the server and it appears to draw about 75 watts on average. With that kind of draw, I should be able to go with a fairly small UPS since I only want enough battery power to survive for maybe 5 minutes before powering down the server.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:54 pm 
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I sprung for a UPS which arrived today. It's an APC BR700G, which should give me around 45 minutes of battery time. $100 with free shipping from Amazon. The unit does not have a fan, so it is absolutely silent.

It seems that Server 2008 has some native UPS support as the advanced screens let me configure low and critical battery thresholds and actions. These options appeared once the server was connected to a UPS. They are accessed via Control Panel -> Power Options -> Change Plan Settings -> Change Advanced Plan Settings. I configured the critical battery threshold as 25% and the action is to shut down the server. I'll give it a test out at the fuse box after the battery has had a chance to charge overnight. Image

I also sprung for some new surge protectors from Belkin so that I could get my power cables under control. I stuck a 12-receptacle strip to the underside of my desk with some 3M double-sided tape and have everything on and under my desk connected to it except for the SBS server, which is connected to the UPS. I redid the power cables for the stuff sitting on top of my cabinets too with an 8-receptacle SP (router/cable modem/switch/printer/MSS/eSATA drive dock).

I need to go back and clean things up with some cable ties, but at least the floor is clear. I should probably vacuum and dust down there now that I can see the floor again.

edit: I had the critical battery action wrong. The machine needs to go into hibernation mode. This flushes memory to a disk file and powers off the computer. You also need to enable the "allow this device to wake the computer" setting. This will allow the computer to automatically resume from hibernation once power is restored. This needs to be coupled with a BIOS change to the restore on AC power loss setting to Power On from the default of Power Off.

I finally had a successful power test today with the machine powering down and resuming without intervention on my part once power was restored. I still need to run a similar test on the WHS machine.


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Last edited by Cliff on Tue Nov 23, 2010 6:54 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:08 pm 
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Gotta love the galant desks from ikea too. :)

Since you mentioned cleaning up the cables - I drilled a 1 inch hole in my main top's corner and one more on each extension top (left and right) and put in cable grommets from Staples. Nothing touches the floor and nothing gets pinched by the table and the wall.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:38 pm 
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walkabt wrote:
Gotta love the galant desks from ikea too. :)

Since you mentioned cleaning up the cables - I drilled a 1 inch hole in my main top's corner and one more on each extension top (left and right) and put in cable grommets from Staples. Nothing touches the floor and nothing gets pinched by the table and the wall.


Yup. I was shopping for office stuff a couple of years ago and Ikea had a nice mix of functionality, style, and price. This desk isn't moving anywhere, so I am not concerned enough about cords getting pinched to go drilling holes through the table top.

edit: I added an APC BE550G which Best Buy has on sale right now for $40. My MSS is communicating to it via Grid Junction and I connected my cable modem, router, and switch to it. So I'm in good shape for power protection now. I will conduct a test after the batteries have a chance to take a charge and settle in for a day or so.


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