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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

Need advice--server software or new machine?


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mrmills
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note: I apologize if this is beyond the reach of this forum...if so, point me in the right direction and I'll go there! thanks!

Here's the question...

I'm part of a 12 computer office and we have been using a mostly dedicated (a workaide will check email on it once in a while) Dual 1.25 GHz power PC G4 with 512mb of RAM running Panther to serve files using Apple's built in filesharing capabilities and the software Sharepoints. The amount of information contained in the shared directory is 54Gb, as it contains all of our multimedia file backups, etc. We're a department within a university, and don't deal with much confidential data. We are all on OSX running panther, except for one laptop running Tiger.

All has been working fine, but we need to start serving our filemaker databases as well. These 8 databases are not huge--all are less than 7mb and several are less than 2Mb. Realistically, no more than 2-3 people will ever have a file open at the same time, and even that would be rare.

We have a budget of about $1750, and were planning on getting a new 1.9 Ghz Imac to act as the server, and using the software we currently have. We tend towards the compact machines as space/purchasing extra monitors is an issue.

Our IT department has recommended that we continue using a G4 along the lines of the one we have, but that we purchase FileMaker Server Edition, as well as OSx server, an investment of several thousand dollars.

In order to keep the total amount under budget, we were thinking of buying a mac mini and using that as our server, and using the built-in fileserving capabilities of filemaker 7 and our current Sharepoints set up. But perhaps we could make one of the software upgrades as well.

My questions are, which solution seems best? New machine? New software? The server editions just seem lke overkill when we have such small user numbers. Am I misunderstanding the purpose of server software? Help!

Thanks!
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rman

 
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Having worked in a server environment for may years, I see that you have the classic problem, hardware verses software costs on a limited budget.

You problem start with the databases you wish to access. Does the version of filemaker that you have allow you multi person access? If does not then you will need filemaker server edition.

Being an IT person, I agree with your IT department. If your current server is working fine, there is no reason to change it. The problem here is your budget.

Here is one way to get around your cost limit. I assume that each one of you can expense items up to a dollar limit. If that is the case, each one you can purchase various pieces to improve your environment.

What I see is that the current server couls use more disk space and more memory. You could up this by using your espense accounts. Then you maybe able to get OS X server and filemaker server.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, It's about learning to dance in the rain!
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mrmills
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Thanks for your quick response! We're using Filemaker 7, which does allow for multiple users. Is there a downside to using this to serve files?
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rman

 
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What mean by multi person access is, can more than one person access and make changes to the database at the same time?

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, It's about learning to dance in the rain!
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lonerider

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmills
I'm part of a 12 computer office and we have been using a mostly dedicated (a workaide will check email on it once in a while) Dual 1.25 GHz power PC G4 with 512mb of RAM running Panther to serve files using Apple's built in filesharing capabilities and the software Sharepoints. The amount of information contained in the shared directory is 54Gb, as it contains all of our multimedia file backups, etc.
...
we need to start serving our filemaker databases as well. These 8 databases are not huge--all are less than 7mb and several are less than 2Mb. Realistically, no more than 2-3 people will ever have a file open at the same time, and even that would be rare.
First, you need to distinguish the differences between OS X Server and OS X. The differences here are mostly in the tools. OS X Server has a bunch of widgets and tools to administer things like FTP daemons, Apache, mail serving, allowing remote computers to remote boot from it, user and group maintenance functions, and a QuickTime streaming server. It also has automatic restart of some daemons if they die unexpectedly.

The big difference though, is if you use SMB or AppleShare to connect. If you use AppleShare (AFB), then there is a limit of 10 simultaneous connections on the client. If you use SMB, there is no limit.

It does not sound to me like you need any of that. If these databases are relatively small, I don't think purchasing a new server outside a dual G4 1.42 would really help. Assuming the load on that server is fairly light, you may be better served by getting an additional hard drive for your dual G4, or perhaps serveral hard drives and evening out the overall load between those drives. You would probably see more improvement in speed from that as opposed to getting something like a Mac Mini as a server (which has a slower notebook drive in it).
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lonerider

 
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One last thing. rman (revovery manager, oracle dude?) has it right in focusing on the database. You want to make sure that multiple clients cannot just view the database, but modify it simultaneously. Typically the difference between 'consumer' variants of a database and 'pro' variants is the number of users allowed to modify data simultaneously. Obviously, there are contingency issues (people changing the same data at the same time) that make the 'pro' versions more complex than the consumer versions.

That said, I have no idea how FileMaker handles this. It may be a problem on the database side if it doesn't handle it well.
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