How to setup server for 30 small office computers?


Dec 23, 2013
we have 30 computers, and we run email(gmail), word processing and some simple finance software.

Somethings I would like to achieve

1. backup 80 gigs of storage currently stored on a win 7 computer linked by "homegroup" settings to the other 30.
2. host a intranet webbased data entry program(light weight) (currently hosted by my IT guy online
3. possibly move to company based email instead of gmail. then do i need to store and host emails locally? (not sure/no idea why i would have to locally store emails)

We have a few shared docs we access every day, but do not do any heavy lifting. just image saving, word and excel editing, and all the documents are stored on the "server" computer. Every computer accesses the server around 15 times per day.

Do i need a server? I've read about virtualization, and its confusing. WHy would I need a server, server cpu, server motherboard, server rack, raid etc.

Can't i just add another hard drive to the current computer, set it up in software raid and call it a day? should i be worried about to many read/writes to the hard drive?

I only have about 80 gigs of storage i need to backup.


May 13, 2011
Let's look at your risk evaluation and need for a server in this light: What would happen if you came in one day and your "server" PC has had a power supply failure? Perhaps a power surge not only took out the power supply but also the motherboard? What do you do? How long is your office basically closed until replacement hardware can be set up, installed, and data transferred? What kind of data loss may you be looking at, and can your business easily recreate that data if it is lost?

If you don't like the answers to the above in terms of your business essential roles, then yes, you need to invest in a server. A server is designed for this kind of usage, not standard desktop computers which don't have the hardware quality, driver support, or fault tolerance capabilities as a server system. This doesn't mean you have to go and buy an entire server rack cabinet and add a whole bunch of servers, a single pedistal or desktop style server will work fine, but yes you need one. Especially with the number of computers on your network.

Given the current number of computers and users you have, plus the ability to grow as you move more and more services and data onto your server, I'd highly recommend looking into a dual-socket server system, even if you only run a single processor for now. This gives you the ability to add a second processor into the server in a couple years if needed to greatly increase your processing capabilities if you find that you need to expand. This way you don't have to go buying a whole new server again. I've personally used several HP ProLiant ML350p G8 servers for the environment like you are talking about.

Set up Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard on your physical host server, then create a new virtual machine on there for running your domain controller and file storage server. I'd then also suggest setting up a second virtual machine running Server 2012 Essentials Experience role which will give you many added small business features such as automatic backups of all computers, remote web applications, managing website and Office 365 subscriptions, etc. I would say you could go with just a single Server 2012 R2 Essentials license for your server but you are already beyond the limit for that given you have more than 25 users.

Don't underestimate your storage needs either. Especially if you plan to start backing up your computers onto your server, or you wish to store video files from a security camera system or anything like that. You can start with a couple of 300 GB - 450 GB SAS hard drives in RAID 1 to run your host, virtual machines, and shared space if you want, but be sure your server will accommodate additional future hard drives for storage.

It is hard for us to make a recommendation on the exact hardware that you need as we don't really know details of compatibility, budget, or your expected growth. But I would say that as a minimum look into a 2.0 Ghz six-core processor, 16 GB of memory, and a dedicated hardware RAID controller with at least 512 MB of onboard cache. It would also be very good security to invest in redundant power supplies, and at least two NIC adapters on the system for plenty of throughput and configuration options. There is more to it all than just the server, though, as you also need to ensure your computers are running the Professional edition of their OS (Windows 7 or Windows 8 ideally) and that your network infrastructure, switches, and routers or firewalls are also configured for the throughput and efficiency to utilize your resources optimally. And then you also need to consider a backup system for protecting your data because, just as stated above, RAID is not a backup.

Another thing that I will mention, since you stated wanting to run your own business email, is looking into a subscription of Microsoft Office 365. The annual subscription of the Small Business Premium or even Mid Size Business is quite affordable given all the features that you get, such as cloud-hosted exchange email services for all user subscribed, activation of all the latest versions of Microsoft Office software on multiple computer per user, and integrated use of Microsoft Lync communication and virtual meeting system.