PC vs. server

Dell, IBM, and other PC manufacturers make servers which are apparently based on regular PC architecture (Pentium III or 4 processors). If a small group needs to share some hard drives (say, four 120GB drives), do those servers provide any advantages over regular desktop PCs?

They usually have SCSI RAID arrays for faster data access and redundancy. Many have dual-processor motherbaords. They also have things like redundant power supplies and heavy duty fans. Some come with utilites that will help you install Netware or NT, but these are pretty useless.

For just sharing hard drives with a small group, a good quality PC with good quality IDE drives will probably be good enough. You could get an IDE RAID card or use software RAID if you want redundancy.

How many poeple are going to access it? What operating system will it have? How important will the data stored on the machine be?

If it will have heavy use and/or your company is paying for it, a server machine might be a good idea.

Thanks for the reply. It’ll be running Linux, used by at most 5 users at a time who access the large data files on the server for analysis work. Even if we get a server it’ll have to be a low-end one without SCSI RAID - four IDE drives with software RAID would be sufficient for now. I guess we’ll be OK with regular desktops.

I’d skip these if I want servers. Go with Sun, SGI or something similar.

No way those match the price performance of an IA-based server. Their advantage (if they have one) is that they offer a vertical solution; i.e., the same company provides both the HW and SW. If the OP wants to run Linux then that is moot.

From someone in IT:

My servers are all server class machines, but then again, we require the uptime of RAID, redundant power supplies, etc. We utilize Compaq Insight Manager for monitoring our systems, require that they be rack mountable, etc.

If you ever intend on passing responsbility for your “server” to an IT department, they will likely want it on a server class machine. We just love discovering that we get to support a Linux box some engineer set up on an old Dell - he left the company, but now IT will take care of it. It isn’t rack mountable, the only fan sounds like it will give out any second and it has a single drive in it.

I’ve run plenty of servers for home, class, in the lab, etc on workstations. They work.

Machines designed to run as servers also tend to use ECC (error-checking and correcting, IIRC) memory chips, which last I heard was still not standard on desktops.