Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: HP MicroServer Gen8

Round about 2008 my company put together a package we call the Cloud Five Pack. Basically, it's a bundle of up to five licenses for a series services that we believe provide "All the technology you need in a small business."

We sell the bundle along with managed services. It goes over VERY well with 5-, 10-, and 15-user offices. At the time I think we had five full time technicians and we moved fifteen of our clients to that service in one month!

Most of those services are cloud-based (email, web, spam filtering, remote management, storage, etc.). But we find that it's still handy to have a little server onsite for very specific purposes. We use the local server for security, logons, backup, and the occasional line of business application.

We call it "Server Lite" and build it on technology we own. That is to say, we provide a Lite server to the client for a monthly service payment. My company owns the server and the operating system.

Our favorite server for this is the HP MicroServer, currently in Gen8. Here's a review of that machine:


The machine reviewed here is currently configured as follows:


  • Xeon E3-1220L v2 processor - 2.3 GHz / 3.5 turbo
  • 64 bit Windows Server Essentials
  • 16 GB ECC RAM
  • 32 GB MicroSD card internal - contains the operating system
  • 4 x 1TB SATA drives
  • onboard RAID controller
  • GB ethernet x 2
  • ILO - Integrated Lights Out port
  • 4 external USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 external USB 3.0 ports
  • 1 internal USB 2.0 port

If you want to price this at your distributor, the SKU is 783959-S01

Note: I incorrectly stated in this video that a CD/DVD drive is standard. It is not.

This machine is awesome. Fits nicely on any shelf and works perfectly headless. Between ILO, RDP, and the LogicNow remote access, I never have trouble getting to the server!

For more information on the Cloud Five Pack, see http://www.cloud5pack.com/.

Gotta say - this machine is WAY more powerful than the machines we used to load up with Small Business Server, especially back in the days of 32 bit processing and limited RAM. You could stress this a lot more than we do, but with the light duty we give them, we expect them to perform perfectly for 3-4 years.

We used to sell bigger servers, such as ML350 or DL380 loaded with Windows Server Standard, upgraded RAID controllers, and all the goodies. Those machines ran $5,000-$7,000 with software - plus labor. And while those were great, profitable projects, they were hard on the client.

Eventually it became clear that the right thing for the client was to move to mostly cloud services and away from capital expenditures. Our cloud five pack does that - and the HP MicroServer allows us to do it with rock solid dependability.

- - - - -

Related blogs:

- Installing the operating system on a MicroSD:
http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2016/08/booting-hp-proliant-server-from-sd-card.html

- Server Documentation Part One:
http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2016/08/documenting-new-server-part-1-when-you.html

- Server Documentation Part Two:
http://blog.smallbizthoughts.com/2016/08/new-server-documentation-part-2.html

- Server Documentation Part Three:
Will be posted next week. Stay tuned.

:-)

16 comments:

  1. Karl, you mentioned that you use the onsite server to backup the cloud services in your 5 pack. Can or will you elaborate on how you do that? Thanks.

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  2. Great question, Brian.

    This is a little different for different clients, but our preference is that their primary data store is in the cloud. For example, my companies have 99.9% of our data in cloud storage at Jungle Disk. Some clients are on Rackspace. Some are on Azure. We have used AWS. Nothing against them, but we just currently don't have anyone on that now.

    The "reverse backup" simply consists of bringing a copy of that data down to the physical server every night. After the initial synch, this is a small amount of data each day (just what's new or changed). We bring it down to an area on the server that the client never sees or accesses.

    It's sort of the ultimate backup. Even if the cloud storage has super redundancy, our ultimate backup is onsite.

    Ideally, it is on a separate drive or mirror set. So we can unplug that drive at the end of the year and put it on a shelf. It's a permanent snapshot in time for legal and financial purposes. And we then rotate in a newer drive and re-mirror.

    If the cloud drive is via a reliable mapped drive letter (e.g., Jungle Disk), then we can just use something like RoboCopy to bring this data down.

    Hope that helps!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Yes, it helps. It sounds like the backups you are performing are just files. If they have other cloud data like Exchange, SharePoint, etc. those will not be backed up to the server onsite.

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    2. We use Intermedia (and in the past Rackspace) for hosted Exchange mailboxes. If you want to back these up as PSTs or by some other method you can. So far we have felt comfortable just using the spam filter's archive option as our backup, knowing that Intermedia backs up their servers. So far, zero problems, downtime, or lost emails in 8+ years. I haven't used AppRiver, but I understand they are also excellent.

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  3. Brian B.11:51 AM

    Karl P. I don't know if it's coincidence or what, I emailed you about this just yesterday. So thanks for this - just what the Doctor ordered! Your distributors allow you to configure addt'l RAM, DVD drive, OS, etc.? Everywhere I've looked, these are stock boxes w/no option to OEM the OS or other upgrades. Appreciate your insight and opinions on this stuff. Thanks!!!

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    Replies
    1. Pure coincidence. :-)

      I order the HP Smart Buys, so they're preconfigured for a special price and you don't need to be an HP certified reseller. I add the extra memory, etc. as needed. This is a total no-tools box. Although they include a phillips/torx tool that can be used for stuff like replacing the power supply.

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    2. Thanks Karl. I didn't see one that comes with an OS, but it could be added separately easily enough.

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  4. These days it's rare to find one with an O.S. because there is no "obvious" choice that would sell enough units. Although for me the obvious choice is Essentials or Foundation. And since Foundation will go away, that leaves Essentials.

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  5. Karl, I would like to know more about Jungle Disk and how you use it? You did mention that it is the primary file storage for you clients but when I check on their website they are selling backup storage and not primary file storage. It sounds interesting. Thanks, Scott

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  6. I originally used Jungle Disk because it provided a mapped drive to AWS. Then we had a choice between AWS and Rackspace. Then Jungle Disk started providing their own storage.

    When you install the JD widget, you can create backups of various machines. All machines that use the same credentials to run the widget will have access to the same backup space. If you may lettered drives, all of those devices will have access to the same files-and-folders drive space as well. That's what we use for primary storage.

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  7. How do you license the server? Do you use SPLA or perpetual / OEM / Volume?

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  8. I was using the first and second gen microsevers at client sites until I had a power supply fail at one site. Since you cant go to 'Fry's' or pick one up at the local store, I had to take a full size power supply and mount it to the top of the HP server and wire it in to get the client going. There is something to be said for using standard size cases, power supplies, motherboards etc...Currently I am using Dell optiplex 9020 minitower models as this matches what I typically install for desktop use. I can grab a power supply or memory card or even motherboard (if needed) to get the client going. This is not the end all solution but just items to consider.

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  9. Thomas, I haven't had any issues with power supplies or any other hardware on the Microservers, except one noisy fan on a very old machine.

    Again, with our cloud service offering, the physical server is never so critical that downtime affects the client's business. When a server is business critical, we have 4-hour warranties or use hardware with redundant power supplies (etc.).

    Everyone has to sell the solution you're comfortable with!

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  10. With the MicroServer in place at a client's location, how do you handle transitioning the server to the client IF they discontinue MSA services with your company? I really like your idea here, but before I implement it myself, I would like recommendations on how this has been handled by other MSPs.

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  11. I've never had this situation. But here are my thoughts.

    Option One: Get your stuff off my machine so I can take it out of there.

    Option Two: Come up with a price that makes sense. This should be some factor of the cost of the machine minus usage.

    Option Three: My private calculation is to set a "value" for the machine when new, then give a credit of 2% for each month it was in use for managed services. For example.

    Machine cost me $1,000. Retail value $1,250.
    In use for 20 months, so give credit of $1,250 x 2% x 20 = $500 credit.

    Buy out for the machine is $1,250 - $500 = $750.

    Note: in this scenario, a machine would be more than four years old before the buyout is zero.

    Just my opinion.
    (That's the formula I used for HaaS buyouts, which I have had.)

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