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How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008

This question has been asked many times and was once again asked today on an internal forum.  It is hard to come up with an explicit answer, but I feel I can give you some (personal, non-binding, your mileage may vary, please take with a pinch of salt and don’t sue me) opinions.  For SBS 2003 the non-scientific sizing appeared to go like this:

  1. “between 2 & 4GB of RAM, depending on number of users”.  I often saw a machine for around 25 users with 4GB of RAM and there was headroom.
  2. Disk – don’t buy 1.5TB disks, but don’t by 30GB either.  Buy largish and try to size data before you make the decision
  3. 1 CPU or 2, or perhaps more importantly, a box that can take 1 CPU or 2?

The the time SBS 2008 arrived the difference in cost of a 2GB or 4GB box was trivial.  Now SBS 2008, if you want to be scientific about it would look something like this:

Since working all the above out, I tend to use the following guides:

  1. 4GB of RAM for 1 User, 8GB for more than 30 or so, however this is MY opinion and not tested
  2. Disk as above, mirrored in h/w (yes, mirrored, not raid 5)
  3. Dual core for a starter system going to multi-cpu & multi core for a very busy system
  4. The Premium node is sized as any other Windows Server 2008 system SQL or Terminal Services or ISA… etc

Now while this might sound very sketchy, I’ve never benchmarked any SBS systems and this is my rule of thumb.  I’ve seen some 5-person businesses that stressed a 4GB 2-cpu Xeon SBS 2003 system and I’ve seen 40 people lightly load a 1 cpu, 2GB RAM system.  Sizing is not a science and you should always put in more than you need as it is easier for something to be sat idle than to be “in need”. 

Finally, on the sizing, consider your own system.  Put in SBS 2008 for yourself and can use yourself as a reference story to your customers about anything from sizing to how you use it and how it makes a difference to your business.

If you think the system that is running this blog is a 32-bit Windows Server 2008 system with 2GB of RAM.  It serves about 150,000 hits a day (excluding all the pictures that are on some pages), has two monitoring databases and one reporting engine.  The databases are around 30GB in total.  It uses approximately 5% of the 2 cores from a quad core processor system and that system is running Hyper-V.  The other VMs are running a HomeServer and my SBS 2008 system.  My SBS 2008 system has 4GB or memory for 1 user and is using 2.9GBs.  The processor can be a bit spikey, but is often around the 5%, 45 or 80% range, which is why you need more memory, but it is doing things in the background, like mail etc.

task manager on SBS

The Hyper-V load on my quad core system:

 

Hyper-V happy

 

I hope that has given you a bit more confidence and enables you to move your sales forward :-).  This is one that I’d love to hear your opinion on too!

 

ttfn

David

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Posted Fri, Dec 12 2008 10:50 PM by David Overton

Comments

Tim Barrett wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Fri, Dec 12 2008 11:42 PM

We're typically recommending 12 GB of RAM on new SBS installs with over 15 employees, simply because that's an easy RAM configuration with 2 ea. 4 GB and 2 ea. 2 GB. Our feeling is that SBS 2008 raising the mailbox default from 200 MB to 2 GB per user is going to fill up the Exchange 2007 store like wildfire. YMMV -Tim

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Sat, Dec 13 2008 9:07 AM

Tim,

This is exactly the sort of shared information I was after.  I've not seen mailbox explosion.  If you look at the system, how loaded is the memory excluding Cache in Task Manager?

Thanks

David

Brian in CA wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, Apr 15 2009 1:24 AM

Why not just max it out for SBS? My experience has been that SBS installations are most appropriate for small organizations that don't churn hardware.

I've seen old SBS 2000 boxes with 512 MB of RAM, what a WASTE of user productivity to not have spent another $500 and gone to 1 or 2 GB back in the day. Shucks, the 32-bit/4GB limit in SBS2K3 was clearly to limit functionality, why use LESS than 4GB even 5 years ago? $100/year for adequate memory on a server is nothing.

A decent dual socket server motherboard will handle 32 GB with cheap 2GB sticks of RAM, why not just do it properly up front.

Regards,

Brian in CA

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, Apr 15 2009 6:28 AM

Brian,

You could give 32GB of RAM to your customers, but it would be over the top for most people and many people ran SBS fine with 1 ot 2GB.

You could save your customers considerable money by only giving them the memory they need and in today's climate, even saving a couple of hundred dollars is often very important.

thanks

David

Anonymous wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, May 13 2009 1:34 PM

HI Dave

you are talking to people in a laguange we all understand and can easily relate to. From personal experience and comparative recommendations. This is  very helpful.

I got here as I was searching for recommendations on how best to deploy an Access database to SQL server before it's too late. However I discovered even more than tha.

Emmanuel in South Africa

Liam wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Thu, May 28 2009 11:17 PM

The problem I have is that when I run through the MS mailbox storage calculator it gives me a minimum of 7 drives (3 RAID 5 for the database and 4 RAID 10 for the logs). Add two for a mirrored OS/Fileshare (not to mention hot spares) and I need more drives than will fit in any standard Dell server. Help?

RHP wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Fri, Sep 25 2009 7:04 AM

Thanks for the post, was informative. Eriq Neale's Blog (MVP) too recommended a lot of resources even for a small network of 15! I am planning on soon migrating our SBS 2000 network over to SBS 2008. I have been out of the shopping for new server hardware and OS for a while. So all this seems like a HUGE jump for me. I wish there was a more clear agreement among the SBS community, Microsoft, MVPs, Consultants etc.

Joe wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, May 12 2010 11:24 AM

I have several SBS 2003 largest with 30 client and 4 gig of ram, it has never gone over 2 gig usuage!!

Early SBS 2008 testing, If I give it 4 gig it uses 3.5, give it 6 uses 5.5, 8 7.5, you get the idea! RAM is pricy again so I will stick with 6 gig for the mo

Joe

Glenn wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, May 12 2010 4:07 PM

I have just got a dell t110 with 4gb ram. I also got a 250gb hard drive. They would not let me buy one without hard drive - cheaper on the net to get own hard drives. I got two 1.5tb separately. How should I set up the drives on install?

Thanks Glenn

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Thu, May 20 2010 7:01 PM

Glenn,

personally I would seperate the system with two small drives for the OS and two larger drivers for the data, both set up mirrored to enable protection against hardware failure.

Thanks

David

Ed wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Tue, Aug 3 2010 5:45 AM

2 mirrored drives for O/S yes.

but you want a minimum of 3 drives RAID5 for data/exchange, you have to remember, data drive is being written to constantly and therefor you need the performance of RAID5. Add an extra drive as a hot swap spare, and you're done.

As for RAM on SBS2008, I tried running 6GB but found exchange management too slow. Minimum I use for any SBS2008 box now is 8GB. More depending on amount of users, amount of email, and other applications that are used, i.e. SQL...

Paulie wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Thu, Aug 12 2010 9:42 AM

I am going with 12GB for SBS 2008.  Tried a few different configurations and systems seem to run comfortably with 12GB.

On busy systems I add 15,000RPM SAS drives in RAD1 on a decent controller to run the Exchange database.

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Fri, Sep 3 2010 11:12 PM

thanks for the infor Paulie.

David

Johnny wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Thu, Sep 9 2010 9:27 PM

We manage IT support for over 85 small businesses with the majority of them using SBS.  We have found that while quoting disk large size disks in raid1 seems appealing - we found for true performance it is just as easy to quote smaller drives in a raid10 configuration.

Here you now get the drive space but the performance boost of Raid10.  Cost increase? - minimal to none.  The larger drives command a premium while 4 smaller drives that will placed in a raid10 configuration amount to the same price.

just a thought

Kevin M wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Sat, Sep 11 2010 5:31 PM

Okay, holy crap. We did the migration from SBS03 to SBS08, I had to go out the next day and get more memory. 8GB didn't cut it, the system is now at 12GB. The CPU is fine even on an older dual cpu 1.8GHz Intel, the culprit was exactly what Tim Barrett said, the Exchange store eat it all. My client doesn't really hit the web functionality of SBS hard, nor to be honest do they tax the file storage, but they are one of the heaviest Exchange users I have seen, the average mailbox size is 8GB+, the owner of the company is almost 20. I guess it's not that out of the ordinary for a design company that does 90% of their communication via email between LA and Florida offices (just glad I don't deal with their Florida side too).

Had I rally thought about it  would have maxed the memory at the start but on 03 it ran just fine. I was lucky enough the owner gave me the budget to upgrade the drives at the same time we did this so thankfully I don't seem to have that much of a bottle neck on the i/o. When I upgrade the office to new hardware next year, I will however take everything I learned into account up beef up the system as I don't see them becoming a "light" user client any time soon.

shawn wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Tue, Sep 28 2010 4:39 PM

I'd like to add we have 8GB in a 3.0 Quad Core Dell (I think they are 2.8ghz each)...our memory usage is at 85% all the time, so I"m not sure if that is enough...but more importantly SQL built into the system (we are not running the full version) pounds the processors day and night. We had to throttle the RAM it could use (to 2gigs) but it just hammers and hammers.

Should I go to 12gb and allow SQL to have more room to work?!?! I know it will expand to take up everything!

We  have 45 pcs, but only 12 very active users and only about 20 using exchange..many of those PC are POS units and other low tech admin machines for non server dedicated software.

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Thu, Sep 30 2010 9:23 AM

Shawn,  SQL should not "pound" the system.  It would be good to look using the SQL Management tools to find out what the rogue queries are.  SQL is used for the SharePoint site and reporting.

Thanks

David

Craig Smith wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Wed, Oct 6 2010 3:23 PM

I just recently installed my first customer 2008 SBS. I wish I found this blog before starting. Only 4 users in the office, so went in with 4GB ram on a new HP server. With Exch store, Blackberry enter. and a SQL LOB app that 4GB is running 90 - 95 % all the time. Will probably take the server to 12GB and monitor from there.

ATechGuy wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Fri, Jul 8 2011 3:19 PM

As we move to SBS 2011, the memory requirements are no less. Minimum is 12GB. And don't let the memory mgmt fool you as it's going to take all the available in any case, and just use what you give it.

More info is really needed with RAID 1 vs RAID 10. A box full of smaller drives in a RAID 10 config, sliced up into various partitions is compelling, even with a lightly loaded SBS Premium configuration over 2 mirror sets, plus potentially a RAID 5/HS solution to fill out 8 bays. I would love to hear comments on folks who might have gone either way with this kind of config to see what has worked best for them.

David Overton wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Mon, Aug 1 2011 11:14 PM

ATechGuy,

I'm RAID 10.  I've had disks fail and performance still be "OK" while it rebuilt to a hot-spare.  Oh yes, I like Hot spares - the "safety" level comes back up, often before you even get to remove the "bad" disk.

David

Stoyan Varlyakov wrote re: How to size the hardware required for SBS 2008
on Tue, Dec 18 2012 9:05 AM

This seems like I'm adding info to a very very old thread, but there is some memory usage misconception that needs to be clarified.

Starting with Exchange 2007 and SQL 2005, MS introduced the so called cache memory, which task manager always shows as "used".

Therefore if you allow enough time (based on user usage), the server will fill up to 95% of its mem size if watched with task manager.

If you however try meminfo tool from sysinternals you will get the info you need.

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