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  1. #1
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    Question Questions on Buying a server

    Note to Mods: You may move this if its in the wrong forum...

    In the near future, I'm most likely going to purchasing a basic server (not a high-end server or anything like that) for home use. Does anyone know of a good place where I could buy a server besides ebay? I'm wanting to learn a little about servers and the best way I learn is "hands-on". Many of you might think I'm nuts, but it will give me somthing to do... Also besides a Cobalt RaQ, what are a good server for learning purposes (note I have zero experience with any *nix platforms and would like to have something that comes with a restore disk). I'll be colocating it in my room, so if I happen to totally screw something up, I wont need to call anyone at a datacenter. If I can get pretty good at administering the server, I'll likely colocate it at a data center.

    Basic summary: What is a good newbie server for learning purposes? I would like to get a server pre-built (yup, *gasp* prebuilt) though I do have some experience with building desktops. I would prefer a rackmount (I dont have any room for a tower).

    Does anyone think a RaQ 3 or 4 would be ok for home learning purposes? I'll prolly expect to spend between 900 to 1500 for a good server for learning, even if I buy from the manufacturer.

    Either way, once I can get the funds, I will buy a server for learning purposes so you cant scare me away now . If anyone has some recommendations for servers or places to buy them let me know.

    Thanks for any comments or suggestions.
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  2. #2
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    there really is nothing to "learn" about a server with exception to raqs. A server is just another name for a computer. No difference(with exception to what its upgradeable to in some cases). So I think you may want to "test" out different operating systems, just put it on some computer. No need for a server
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  3. #3
    Here are some low priced, and cost effective vendors that we use:

    http://www.pricewatch.com
    http://www.ebay.com
    http://www.gogocity.com
    http://www.malabs.com

  4. #4
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    Go find a cheap tower or desktop and slap a *nix OS on it (I suggest FreeBSD, but linux (Slack/Red Hat) will be just as fine for learning).

    Unix doesn't need massive power to run. Find a cheap Pentium machine (486es just compile wayyyy too slow for me) and play around with it.

    I would advise against a Raq because Raqs tend to give more hand-holding than a normal Linux/BSD server would (with _NO_ control panels). Also, stay far away from RPMs and build things from source.

    What I would do (and have done):

    Find a cheap Pentium I/II/III machine with decent RAM (32M would be plenty) and a decent hard drive (the more the space, the more you can stuff into it to play with; a 6GB drive would be plenty). If you can, get a NIC for it and connect it to your home LAN.

    Download and install FreeBSD 4.5.

    Try to set things up like DNS, Web, Mail, and other server applications.

    Do not be afraid of making mistakes. In fact, make lots of them. You'll only learn from the mistakes. If everything always works and nothing goes wrong, you haven't learn a whole lot (except how to read a HOWTO).
    Alex Llera
    Professional Server Management
    FreeBSD|Linux|HSphere|Cpanel|Plesk

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the replies

    davidb - Well I'm wanting a server, to learn "real world" details (ftp, web, SSL, DNS, ssh/telnet, etc) at home. I'm also wanting to "host" a site for development and testing. So I do think a server is necessary But, eventough its on a LAN I'm going to get me and some friends in a LAN party and were gonna attack this thing.

    ARETNA - Thanks for the links, but I already had ebay I'll keep an eye out on those sites to see how it all goes...

    allera - Thats the part that kills me... The OS... What os do you think would be good for someone who is a compelete noob to *nix but can also be useful for a running a php/mysql site. A tower is out of the question, cause the only available spot I have is only 3.5" high, 21" wide, and 14" deep. (a 1u is about 2" high, 13" wide and bout 10" deep right?). small size is crucial for my setup because I'm very limited in space, so it makes the space issue a requirement.

    At the current moment I dont have any available computers, and my ability to build a computer is a little awkward (I have a bad home-built curse. Long story).

    A little hand-holding is ok for me, but as long as I can do it myself too (in telnet/ssh) a raq shouldnt be too bad providing if its possible to do stuff without the CP. But a control panel would be a nice big plus (especially if I'm in the mood for develping instead of administering), but I'm wanting to learn telnet/ssh commands mainly.

    I'm afraid of downloading any os, because I'm on a slow dialup that gets disconnected every 6 hrs, and I'm sure freebsd will take longer than 6 hrs on dialup, plus I'm on a network proxy that blocks FTP to the internet.

    Mistakes.... and lots of them... Ok, thats definately me sop that shouldnt be too hard I'm not too fond of reading manuals, so I'm guaranteed to do a fresh install quite a bit. However once something totally baffles me, I'll be hitting the book. I'm also able to pick up on what things do through trial and error (I guess I shouldn't "rm -rf" anthing right? I'm assuming that deletes all files and folders in a directory). Another problem I have is I dont have a CD burner, so I guess a 2nd HD would have to be essential to put the os, and my addons like php and mysql (assuming the os doesnt come standard with them).


    Again thanks for the comments, suggestions, links , etc. I'm still definately open to the os discussion and debate because I dont know what would be good for learning purposes and actual functionality in a "real world" environment... In the end, Im going to feel sorry for the server cause me and my friends are gonig to abuse the hell out of it If anyone is willing to sell a decommisioned 1u server let me know (It may be a few months though).

    But, how much would I be expected to spend on a decent learning server that could also serve up a website, whether prebult or homemade?
    Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Brain Cancer Awareness. May is Brain Cancer awareness month. Gray Matters!
    Incurable, 6-18 months prognosis, survivors longer than 3 years less than 1% chance.
    Don't like what I say? Ignore me.

  6. #6
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    Sorry, let me clarify. The main difference between a server and a personal computer is the software, not hardware.
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  7. #7
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    Thats the part that kills me... The OS... What os do you think would be good for someone who is a compelete noob to *nix but can also be useful for a running a php/mysql site. A tower is out of the question, cause the only available spot I have is only 3.5" high, 21" wide, and 14" deep. (a 1u is about 2" high, 13" wide and bout 10" deep right?). small size is crucial for my setup because I'm very limited in space, so it makes the space issue a requirement.
    I personally started on Red Hat (before I knew anything else even existed -- I assumed Red Hat was "microsoft" and Linux was "windows"). Then I started getting all confused about all these other Linux 'distros' out there. I stuck with RH and their RPM structure as I had no clue there were other ways to install the software. Eventually, I had to do things the RPMs didn't provide and I learned the ways of compiling and installing from source.

    A BSD freak friend of mine later convinced me to try FreeBSD, claiming it was better, more organized, blah blah. I was hesitant because he said it wasn't "Linux," but still worked like it. So I installed it (quite a few times, I didn't get it right the first time -- what the heck are ports and packages and where are the RPMs?). Knowing the general structure of Linux (/bin, /etc, /lib, and whatnot), I poked and stumbled around BSD. I didn't have RPM support in my BSD installation, so I was forced to use sources. Eventually I discovered what the ports actually were and how they functioned, and started using those instead.

    All during this time I was playing with BIND, Apache, and so on. So by the time I got to BSD and the ports, I was familiar with installing and configuring that stuff. Since then, I haven't been able to put the stuff down. Even to this day I learn something new almost every day. I don't think I'll stop learning for quite a long time to come (and I know quite a bit by now...).

    Take all that as you may. Whatever you end up doing, you better go in with a heck of a lot of patience. Without that, you're sunk.

    As for the rackmount, a 1U is 1.75" tall, 19" wide (generally), and the depth varies (Sun Netras and Cobalts are mighty short; custom cases can get quite long -- I think we have one that is 24" long.).

    A little hand-holding is ok for me, but as long as I can do it myself too (in telnet/ssh) a raq shouldnt be too bad providing if its possible to do stuff without the CP. But a control panel would be a nice big plus (especially if I'm in the mood for develping instead of administering), but I'm wanting to learn telnet/ssh commands mainly.
    Try to learn to do the stuff on your own. Use a CP once you know how to do things so that you make your life easier (I use CPs all the time, but should something happen to that CP, I can manage).

    I'm afraid of downloading any os, because I'm on a slow dialup that gets disconnected every 6 hrs, and I'm sure freebsd will take longer than 6 hrs on dialup, plus I'm on a network proxy that blocks FTP to the internet.
    PM me what distro of what OS you want and I'll burn and mail it to ya.

    Another problem I have is I dont have a CD burner, so I guess a 2nd HD would have to be essential to put the os, and my addons like php and mysql (assuming the os doesnt come standard with them).
    Second HD? Burner? All you need is a CDRom, a Floppy if your BIOS doesn't support cd-booting, and a decent sized HD for goofing around in.


    But, how much would I be expected to spend on a decent learning server that could also serve up a website, whether prebult or homemade?
    If you must have a rackmount, buy the case for $180-$250 (www.pricewatch.com). Find some friends with old hardware and put it into the case (make sure the motherboard fits and you get a low-profile fan). Remember, you won't be able to use any Slot-1 processors because of the height restriction. You'll also need to watch the RAM as most of them are too tall. Either find low-profile memory or a motherboard with slanty RAM slots.

    Or you could leave the cover off and forget all the height restrictions.

    Good luck! (phew!)
    Alex Llera
    Professional Server Management
    FreeBSD|Linux|HSphere|Cpanel|Plesk

  8. #8
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    I'm fairly familar with the layout of *nix with the /bin, /usr, /etc, etc.. So that doesnt necessairly scare me too much...

    Try to learn to do the stuff on your own. Use a CP once you know how to do things so that you make your life easier (I use CPs all the time, but should something happen to that CP, I can manage).
    Thats why I was wondering about cobalts... If anyone has one, can they still admin it without the cp? I've also been fond of "exploring" what stuff does, so I'm guaranteed to break something.

    PM me what distro of what OS you want and I'll burn and mail it to ya.
    Thanks for the offer... I might just take you up on it

    If you must have a rackmount, buy the case for $180-$250 (www.pricewatch.com).
    Heres a couple things I'm not to fond off.... First off, I'm not really in the mood to build a server, though I might end up doing it anyway. Another thing is the case I get better look good cause It'll be in my sight alllllll day (A cobalt would match the rest of my hardware pretty good, or maybe a black case)...


    Does anyone have any suggestions for a good case (nothing thats an eyesore to look at), and motherboard in case I do end up bulding it. I think a P3 800MHz would be ok for a processor and **at least** 512MB RAM..

    Thanks again for the replies everyone
    Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Brain Cancer Awareness. May is Brain Cancer awareness month. Gray Matters!
    Incurable, 6-18 months prognosis, survivors longer than 3 years less than 1% chance.
    Don't like what I say? Ignore me.

  9. #9
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    Get a cheap tower or desktop and put Linux Redhat on it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
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    Originally posted by allera
    If you must have a rackmount, buy the case for $180-$250 (www.pricewatch.com).
    You don't buy ANYTHING off of Price Watch. It's merely a resource of different vendors, with products. Make sure you check each vendors Reseller Ratings.

    Additionally, I use NewEgg and MWave for all my stuff, so take a look there. Great companies.

  11. #11

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    techbargains.com is also a good site to check for deals and coupons on tech gear.

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