I have to product an IT hardware quote...and in 12 hours
March 18, 2010 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I need some quotes/ideas on IT hardware...and have to generate a proposal in 12 hours!

I have a lead tonight for my IT business. I have to generate a quote in the next 12 hours, and of course, all distributors are closed. I have resources, but because of the time crunch, I am looking for as much information as possible.

We have a potential new client. Needs a server running Exchange and it will have 10-12 users. It will also be used for file storage. Obviously a SBS with RAID 0 or RAID 5 is my choice, but most have to be configured. I can do this at Dell but am looking for pre-built machines with a similar configuration out of the box.

They need a hardware firewall, as well as a wireless network. It is an old building and they don't want to run new cabling if they don't have to, so the network will be predominately wireless. Looking for ideas about best configuration scenarios.

Thanks for your time!
posted by titans13 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
all distributors are closed
You probably don't need a distributor for a one server setup. Why not price things out on NewEgg or CDW?
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:09 PM on March 18, 2010

Don't trust NewEgg, and CDW charges above retail.
posted by titans13 at 7:11 PM on March 18, 2010

titans13: Don't trust NewEgg, and CDW charges above retail.

You don't have to buy it there; just price it there.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you looking for machines from companie's like HP and Dell with your specs? I mean, each of them have a million servers that fill your requirements. When I was looking around both those website a year or two ago, almost all their server machines came with some form of hardware raid and would be able to run Exchange.

Or are you looking for vendors similar to newegg & cdwg where you can find prebuilt machines? Of any online vendor I deal with, I tent to trust NewEgg the most.

It seems the easiest solution would be to create a few quotes from Dell & HP with similar specs.

And regarding a fileserver, can they avoid running wireless? You say they want to avoid running cable...It can work, but that's not exactly optimal.
posted by jmd82 at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2010

Yes, be sure you understand their data transfer requirements before selling them something that won't perform well for their workload.

My clients are all pretty small, but even the miniscule operations are wanting GigE these days. Middle of the road PCs have gotten fast enough in the past couple of years that the difference in time it takes to transfer a Word document or whatever across the network between 100Mbps and 1000Mbps is more noticeable than any software slowness on the client side.

I'm pretty sure you can quote something appropriate from Dell's website, or HP, or Tiger Direct, or just about anybody out there with a decent website.

Is the customer really expecting a server to be installed Monday or something? In any event, if you want something from stock, I know Tiger Direct used to sell machines sized for your use with RAID-1 and everything.

RAID is not a backup, be sure to have a plan in mind for how they will regularly back up their data, preferably keeping at least some copies off site.

As far as a hardware firewall goes, there are several. You could always go with the PIX, or with something like an Untangle box (there are several manufacturers of untangle appliances).
posted by wierdo at 10:35 PM on March 18, 2010

Why wouldn't you just go to Dell's Small Business site and price it there? (Lenovo has an equivalent. As does HP.) You pick a base server, configure it out however you like, and they give you a price quote. For a single server you're unlikely to get much of a price break beyond what they're quoting you online.

E.g., a PowerEdge T310 with a Xeon X3430, 4GB, SBS, PERC RAID card for RAID-5 (you could also do RAID-10 if you want, but I hope RAID-0 was a typo, because that's madness), 1TB across 4 SATA spindles ... $2,659. Seems fairly reasonable to me. You could probably beat that price if you want to white-box it, but I wouldn't (unless I was really desperate to get myself a new responsibility as resident systems integrator). That's a tower machine; if you want a rackmount you can spec one out just as easily.

I had wanted to spec out a similar one from three different manufacturers, just out of curiosity, but Lenovo doesn't seem to give price quotes online — you can configure one, but then it just gives you some sort of ID and then expects you to call sales to get the price. (Ugh.) If you can drill down to a specific model though, you could probably just Google it and find what it sells for from various OEMs and that would give you a good idea of the pricing you'd be likely to get.

HP seems to have pricing in their SMB storefront though, so you could at least get two datapoints; navigating it is a bit more difficult/annoying than Dell's, because it's not obvious what the specs are of each model in their lineup, but they do have a magic configurator thingy that you could play with.

If what you're really asking for is some sort of appliance that would come pre-configured with Exchange and as a file server ... although I'm sure there probably is something out there, I've never actually seen it. Getting a server preloaded with SBS and then dumping Exchange on it isn't really that hard, if you know what you're doing — most businesses that don't have someone comfortable with that just go directly (and rightly) to hosted Exchange solutions rather than maintaining any server on-site at all.

So I'd just pick the a server with SBS preloaded from whatever manufacturer you prefer, add in the cost of the requisite Outlook license (and additional SBS seat licenses, if you have more than 5 users), and that's your proposed solution. Repeat as desired for as many as you need to generate for comparison.

At this point though, what might be more useful than just generating multiple quotes from various hardware mfrs would be comparing the cost-risk / benefits of doing this in-house versus using hosted services, both for email and files, or just for email (reducing the specs and software licenses needed for the server). "Dell versus Lenovo" is probably less interesting than "Dell [in-house server] versus Mailstreet [hosted Exchange]."
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:51 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

BTW, you want RAID-1, not RAID-0. RAID-0 increases the risk of data loss as you add disks. RAID-1 and RAID-5 decrease that risk.

Also, RAID is not a substitute for (off-site) backups!
posted by jrockway at 12:11 AM on March 19, 2010

Hosted Exchange is an incredibly good point. For most organizations, there's not much sense running things in house. We run mail servers for a couple of our clients, but that's due more to inertia than anything else. It is somewhat less expensive when you have more than 20 or 30 accounts or so (at least if you're not using Outlook and Exchange), but it does require regular maintenance.

I'm still not sold on the idea of off site file servers, though.

Good luck!
posted by wierdo at 8:00 AM on March 19, 2010

Obviously a SBS with RAID 0 or RAID 5

You want RAID1 not RAID0. RAID1 is mirroring. So if you have two 500gb disks then you'll have one single 500gb array. If a disk fails then you still have that other disk running. In RAID0 you have two disks working soley for performance increases. If one fails, the entire array fails.

They need a hardware firewall, as well as a wireless network.

I find that wifi is a pretty terrible solution for offices, unless its for conference rooms or temporary setups. At around 10 users you start having issues with inteference and bandwidth limitations. For instance, with wireless-g you typically only get 17-22 mbps not the advertised 54mbps. I believe 27 is the theoretical maximum. Splitting 20mbps between 10 users is kinda rough.

You can work around this by having two or even three WAPs on different non-overlapping channels (1, 6, and 11). Configure the clients properly to connect to only one WAP and split the load. I guess you can try wireless-n, but I have yet to see more than 50mbps on a 300mbps link. So thats only double the bandwidth.

Is there any existing wiring? You'd be surprised on how well 100mbps works on even older wiring. Ive seen 100mbps ethernet run over short runs of CAT3 cable run 15 years ago. Personally, Id rather have a 10mbps wired than wifi, so even if you can only sync at 10, you're still doing okay.

As far as small office router/firewalls go. I'm partial to the cheaper Pix and Sonicwalls. Sonicwalls are pretty dead simple to use. There are a few SOHO Netgear routers that are pretty rock solid too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:44 AM on March 19, 2010

Keep in mind that you'll need to setup a domain, anti-spam, reverse DNS, and possibly spf records just to be able to not have all your mail scored as spam.

Also, seconding looking into hosted Exchange, google apps, etc. Its a lot less headaches for small business.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2010

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