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Is it okay to use processors like core i3 or i5 and intel desktop board to run an always-on home web server?

Or should I buy intel server boards and xeon processors? (they seem to be more expensive compared to desktop components, but also more memory support, two sockets etc.. so 1 more reason for me to be confused :S)

What might be the issues with using components made for desktop, in a server? By this I mean the issues that I will ONLY get using Desktop hardware, but NOT on proper server hardware. Things like power failure, net speed (or earthquakes :P) etc will affect both.

I am talking about the effects of running 24x7 vs a few hours a day, the difference btw Movies/Games/Office and one constantly on web server, etc.. will I get problems with Desktop hardware?

Also, this is going to be dedicated to web service. It wont be used for my personal use like watching movies in the middle etc.. Once up and running, it will only be a web server. It wont be used for personal reasons by anyone.

Basically what I want to know is, when running a single resource consuming app 24x7 from a home, all else being equal, will intel server board/proc components outlive/outlast intel desktop board/proc components?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

To get a relatively nice server: (and in short,)

  1. You don't need a high power processor.
  2. You preferably want more RAM
  3. Get hardware-based RAID for failovers
  4. Get high quality, over-specified power supplies
  5. Get a real network card.

Reasons

  1. Remember, your site isn't going to get millions of IOPS, and you are not going to set up a RDBMS with millions of transactions per hour. If you are, you are at the wrong place.
  2. More RAM means that things are better cached among other things. You want disk access to be as low as possible for all servers. RAM are cheap these days
  3. I for one do not respect most motherboard implementation of RAIDs and their failure mode, well, i can only say "creative".
  4. Low quality power supply = magic smoke coming out. Go figure.
  5. Motherboard ethernet adapters can and will fail with heavy loads.

Hints:

  • almost all processors nowadays can run 24x7 for very long, longer than your motherboard and power supplies.
  • the weakest component in a well-equipped server is usually the hard disk
  • the weakest component in an amateur built server is usually the power supply
  • CPU usually can live for >5yr, same for RAM.
  • Motherboard life is dependent on CPU power use, the more CPU power use the faster your motherboard dies.
  • Harddisk lives around 3yr. they can do 5yr with good caching & UPS.
  • don't mess with display cards in such servers.
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If you are running a small web server at home for a simple forum or dev site you could use a small computer or netbook. Granted, they are a far shout from £1000 servers but ultimately you don't really need one.

  • You're running a low-resource site. You'll need a single or dual core processor, probably 2GHZ to keep things running OK. If you were going to run the next facespace then yes multi or quad cores would be the way to go - but you're not.
  • RAM will amount to at least 1GB nowadays. Be it IIS on windows 7 or a LAMP install, I would say 1GB is minumum
  • Hard Disk. Ok, so you'll get about 160-320GB storage. But there is no fail-over, if the disk dies then it's gone. This is why you pay for RAID cards and setyps in a high-end server.
  • Power Supply. If you get a notebook or light PC it would probably have an Intel Atom in it which tends to draw a lot less power than an i3/5/7 and would be a bit more economical to run. A laptop would also have a built-in UPS of 1+hours (but more of that later)
  • Redundancy. As mentioned above a single HD is a point of failure. SO is the power, but if you are using a laptop you could use the battery for that if the power drops off (although you'd loose your connection to the net as your router would die)
  • Cost. Do you need to spend £1000+ on a server which a £300 netbook will do just fine?

I run a small dev site on a spare laptop (W7, IIS) with dual core 2GHZ and 3GB RAM and to be honest it just works.

tl:dr summary: buy what you need that will do the job

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This largely depends on what level of uptime is acceptable to you. Perhaps two consumer grade machines setup in a fail over pair is enough for you, and it depends on your budget.

If you're running it at home, the power and net connection will be the weakest link if you buy server grade hardware anyhow, so i'd say it's likely ok.

Impossible to say for sure though.

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1  
The quality of your electrical grid is very much region dependent. I had more personal (desktop class) computers fail in the past five years than power outages in my home. –  Daniel Beck Dec 17 '10 at 16:11

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