What server hardware do you recommend for a small business?


I’d like to recommend a self-hosted server for a customer because he needs a lot of storage space and access speed.

What hardware would you recommend ?

  • 15 users
  • 4 hard disks + raid controller
  • Racked (?)
  • Mail stack / nextcloud / low traffic web server / some web apps / Gateway
  • 2 network interfaces, 3 would be nice.
  • As standard as possible
  • Reasonably fast to last at least 5 years.
  • Best price / performance ratio

HP proliant ? Microserver ? Anything else ?



NS7 or NS8?

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IMVHO any reputable hardware brand like HPE, Dell, Lenovo can provide a good enough as services and reliability, also providing a big enough market for subscribe a service contract not only as 1st party/official brand support network.

However, neither these three brands are there to be charity. Not unaffordable, but they will be pricey compared to do things “custom build”, even with top tier manifacturer brands like Supermicro, which can totally provide reliable, well designed and feature-rich mainboards.

On the most difficult topic

well… tough call.

A lot of second hand servers can be a nice choice. But as performance par watt, they are less efficient than brand new/close release time hardware. Which is pricier.
Also, do custom builds might seem more convenient. However, three years later may be tougher to find the raid controller replacement, compared to a branded server.
Which on RAM, hard drives and options are… really pricey, even compared to business grade/enterprise grade hardware. But once realised the custom config, the hardware support contract is usually cheaper (considering the deliver time and the fixed rate for spares) than having the cold spares available. But it’s money wasted, when nothing fails.

Last but not least.

It’s your customer, not one of these forumers. You know them, we don’t.

If you share a configuration you think viable for your customer, other persons might review it, adding comments and hints for less errors or other possible options. Design from scratch a config is a job.

Also… no info about current disk spaces used, and for what Only number of hard drives. Ok.
Are they doing lan-based video editing (worst case scenario)? Or 10gb/month of new data? All info that we don’t have, even with an important parameter: a reasonable idea of how much money you think they wanna spend!

Mr Lucio Cadeddu provided free audiophile consultancy for more than 20 years on his website, tnt-audio, and mostly the submittant was not providing how much money was willing to spend on his/her beloved audio system. :slight_smile:

Maybe even a ZFS-based NAS might be a better idea, for some part of the project…

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NS8 ready ? :blush:

Possible ETA this server go-live?

Thanks @pike for the valuable insight.

Well, their needs aren’t really extraordinary. Yes they accumulate a lot of data (mainly pictures) they need to access at a reasonable speed. Their internet connection is not that fast and fiber is not an option.

They need approximatively 4To with redundancy of course.

I plan to configure it with Proxmox + NS7 @LayLow and later migrate to NS8.

I don’t wish to make a custom-made machine. The more standard the best.

Price must be contained sub 3K I guess. Still discussed.

The NAS idea isn’t bad, that’s also an idea I’m considering. The only thing is that I’d like it to act as a not too dumb gateway (NS7 used right now) as well. Any pointer ?

Well, let’s see. If you want rackable, a MicroServer is out. If this is for a customer, I’d guess used equipment is out (that would otherwise be my go-to, but maybe if you were to go “refurbished”?). If you plan to run Proxmox on it, drop the RAID controller and use ZFS.

For 4 TB of storage, I’m kind of surprised you’d be calling for four drives; a pair of SSDs would handle that (mirrored), and surely a pair of spinners would.

But for specific recommendations? The Dell R250 and R350 would fit the bill, at least with the pricing in .us. I’m not as familiar with the HPE or Lenovo product lines. But if it were for me, I’d probably go with a used R630 or R640.

Hardware only? Is not a small budget, but substantially cuts off most of server-grade hardware at high speed. Sort of, for 4tb of redundand storage, which means RAID5 and hardware controller with some grunt… and even more grunt if these 4tb redundant are solid state storage.

These are stock prices, probably you can find better deals for pre-cooked configurations. Prices in EUR
P44008-B21 HPE SSD 960 GB, SATA, Read Intensive 3yrs warranty ~400 par piece (SATA!)
P49047-B21 HPE SSD 800 GB, SAS, Mixed used, 3yrs warranty ~500 par piece (still not NVMe)
P53562-B21 HPE HDD 1,8 TB, SAS, 10k RPM, 3yrs warranty ~350 par piece

To put that in perspective…
ST12000VNZ008 Seagate Ironwolf 12tb SATA hard drive, NAS grade, 3yrs warranty ~300 par piece
ST10000NM0478 Seagate Exos X14, 10tb SATA hard drive, Enterprise grade, 5yrs warranty, ~450 par piece.

HPE as stock price provide 800gb SAS SSD with 3 years warranty (which seems to me say than for at least 6 years might not have any issues)… and with less money you can achieve 10tb HDD enterprise grade with 5 yrs warranty from Seagate.
With a peak performance of 250mb/s, compared to consumer grade SATA SSD is slow as a turtle and compared to SAS enterprise SSD is a yawning snail.

Also 10gbe could be a nice to have.

Salut @pagaille

My suggestion, for here in Europe would be a HPE server.

For the suggested use case / environment, a HPE Microserver Gen10 or Gen11 would be enough, even with Proxmox.

64 GB RAM max, HPE only supplies 32 officially, but 64 work.
I have a couple of these in operation, one at home, some at clients.
Rock solid, quiet and “handy”, sizewise.
Equipped with Enterprise Grade SAS.
The CPU can be upgraded to the next better Intel (6 cores, 12 Threads, Hyperthreading).
2.5 GBE or 10 GBE networking are options, out of the box 4 Intel NICs are included.
iLO (equal to DRAC from Dell).

Cost: Depending on Disks, RAM, slightly over 1200€…

But make sure of good, fast Backups, use a small PBS, not NAS.

I have the HPE Microserver Gen10 (Not. the Gen10 v2) at home.
Here are more details:


Mes deux centimes.

I have a MicroServer Gen 10 Plus, and it’s a nice little machine. It isn’t rackable, but maybe that isn’t essential. The drive bays aren’t hot-swappable, which would be a bigger deal for me if I were using it as a NAS. HPE’s product naming sucks–you have the Gen 10, the Gen 10 Plus, and the Gen 10 v2, each of which is a different system–but it’s working well for me as a small Proxmox host.

Thanks all !

@pagaille so… how the hardware upgrade came up? :slight_smile:

No matter what server you put into place… do a long memtest on it.
I don’t really worry so much about performance per watt here (our power prices are very low), and as such my clients have a mix of SuperMicro, Lenovo, HP and Dell. My vendor preference is by far Supermicro, then HP, Lenovo, Dell. for me, eBay is the best seller, though sometimes Amazon and Walmart resell server gear - in particular 6/12G SAS shelves are available in some of the strangest places!

Test/Verify your gear when you buy it, and then just before you deploy it. Also, make as accurate a simulation of their environment as you can.

To be honest, I’m still buying E5 v3 and E5 v4 systems for my clients. Outfits like construction companies, architechs, dentists, etc. These guys don’t care about the razoo stuff on the latest greatest, they just want something that will perform well. And the latest proc - for the intended client will not provide a file or query results any faster than a E5 v1. The #1 thing I strive for is balance. And I’m not an SSD nut, I like SSD, and if the budget allows it great. but in enterprise gear, they run SAS, and SAS HDDs are really really cheap!

Latest installation (approximate prices in USD)
Dell T340 Xeon E-2124 3.3Ghz, 32G ram ($600)
8 HGST UltraStar He10 10Tb 7200rpm SAS. 10 purchased to have 2 spare on hand ($1000)
Supermicro NVMe PCIE card ($40)
Intel Optane 56G NVMe drive ($40)
Dual Intel 520 180G Sata SLC SSD. ($80 for both)
this machine has TrueNAS on the Intel 520 for it’s OS mirror, then the data drive is a RaidZ2 with the nvme as the log drive. compression is on, atime is off, relatime is off.

Machine had a bonnie++ test of 96G files and is able to read and write at 2G+ rewrite is 800mb+. IOPs hovers around 1200 up to 2k depending on the operation. each drive is low-level formatted to 4k to verify it’s integrity, the hardware is fully disassembled, cleaned, new heat sink paste on ALL the heatsinks - North/south bridges and the CPU, along with any other misc heat sinks.

Anyway, this machine isn’t going to win the performance races, but it does AMAZING for them on a 10G switch with their 2.5G enabled iMacs (4 of those) and wifi iMac laptops things. They have a pile of those.

this is a tattoo shop, they video all their stuff. have over 15TiB of data stored from the last few years, were using those portable USB drives prior, this is a HUGE postive change for them.

it didn’t break the bank, I’m not chasing the most amazing hardware, but they aren’t getting garbage either. The system performs ZFS snapshots and sends said snapshots to another site. so they have local rollback capacity and remote restore capacity.

This setup came in well under $3k. You could easily do similar just usuing ns8 instead of TrueNAS.

There’s a couple ways to look at eBay hardware.

  1. it’s used therefore it’s either junk or untrustworthy.
  2. it’s pre-tested and already burned in.

I like the second option because electronics, if they don’t fail in the first couple of months will last until the capacitors dry out - some 12 years later on most computing gear.

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Still discussed ! :blush: I’ll report back :blush:

I hope for a… reasoned solution.
Perfect ones usually do not exists.

So that will be a dedicated server hosted outside the company.

I’m looking at Hetzner’s auctions and think that such machines could fit my needs :

Questions :

there are a lot of machines configured with two HDDs and only one SSD. What could be the use of such arrangement ? Databases on the SSD ? Some kind of ZFS caching or whatever ?

The customer’s nextcloud feels sluggish right now (old Xeon server, 10 out of 16Go RAM assigned to that NS7 Proxmox VM), what would be the best way to optimize it on NS7 (I feel it’s a bit early to upgrade to NS8 right now) on such server ? Thanks for your advices, still learning a lot :blush:

Salut @pagaille

I. do have quite some experience using Hetzner, but I (My clients also) choosed all AMD Ryzen based machines.
Almost all are now running Proxmox, in there an OPNsense firewall, and NethServer7.
Half of them are also running PBS alongside Proxmox PVE - as local Backup, and the PBS at home collects the backups for longer keeping.

These are very performant!

For optimizing your present NS7 on Proxmox VM, send me a PM…

Mes 2 centimes

One such NS7 running on Proxmox @ Hetzner

Disks used here:

All in ZFS (Mirrored)

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Small hints
Before considering viable a server, try to discover if it’s SATA SSD or NVMe SSD.
Even the slowest 2x2.0 PCIe lanes NVMe SSD can peak almost 4 times a SATA SSD, and this can change several things.
Once discovered exactly what’s installed in the server, after installing an OS find the way to discover the wear status of the SSD and meter the data written. Then assess after one, two, four and six months the wear level, so to discover when preventive SSD replacement might be needed. Probably never, but… better assess that on data rather than trust.
Also, schedule monthly S.M.A.R.T. reports for magnetic storage. You never know.

Definitively last, but certainly not least.
Create, apply and test disaster recovery procedure (and backup too). Working “off site” can be trickier than usual so writing procedures before the storm can ease a lot of headaches.