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The Almighty Buck Hardware Technology

Where Do You Shop for Server Components? 447

Posted by Cliff
from the most-value-for-your-<insert-currency-here> dept.
Devi0s asks: "Along with many other Slashdot readers, I have been building my own PCs for years. I use hardware review sites such as Ars Technica, Tech Report, and Tom's Hardware Guide to research the components and pick out the best, and I use PriceWatch and ResellerRatings to find the best deals and to make sure I am dealing with a reputable vendor. I work in a small consulting firm where money is tight, and I'd like to test the waters with a few ideas of my own. In each case, various servers and external storage enclosures are needed on the cheap that will be pushed to their limits. Are Slashdot readers building their own servers and storage enclosures? What web sites provide the latest news, research, and and comparisons for server hardware? Where do you go to buy server components and vet your vendor?"
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Where Do You Shop for Server Components?

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  • Cost analysis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:36PM (#11301564) Homepage Journal
    Time is money. Lots of it and as any person who has done any hiring (especially in small to mid size businesses) will tell you, personnel costs are among the largest financial obligations you will have bar none. Therefore, I actually find it more cost effective to 1) perform an analysis to best determine needs based on anticipated traffic (Slashdottings aside) [GRIN], and 2) purchase a complete system from a vendor based upon the outcomes of the analysis. Spending time rolling your own hardware can be cost effective in some circumstances, but do not overlook the time you are spending on this project. A simple cost analysis should suffice.

    Also, if needs are low, common desktop hardware (even outdated hardware) can meet needs sufficiently without the need for a Server OS. (I have an old G3 iMac running a desktop OS X serving up one of the oldest online textbooks available on the Internet, Webvision [utah.edu] which routinely serves up about 45,000 hits/day of graphics intensive webpages). For larger needs or e-commerce for medium to large businesses, you obviously need something more substantial. After looking at solutions from Dell, Sun and SGI, and a local whitebox builder, believe it or not, Apple [apple.com] makes some pretty nice servers [apple.com] servers at very cost competitive points. We will likely be picking up a couple in the near future for some very heavy data intensive work we are embarking on. The nice thing about these solutions is that we can develop the code cross platform from some Linux workstations and fairly simply deploy on the Xserves.

    • by IO ERROR (128968) * <error@iCHICAGOoerror.us minus city> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:06AM (#11301741) Homepage Journal
      Webvision which routinely serves up about 45,000 hits/day

      You're about to get 45,000 hits in the next hour. Are you ready?

    • Re:Cost analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

      by magefile (776388) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:27AM (#11301837)
      also, if needs are low, common desktop hardware (even outdated hardware) can meet needs sufficiently without the need for a Server OS

      Absolutely. The company I'm at right now does benefits-explanation and healthcare-education sites that firms can present to their employees as if it's their own. We have maybe 2 dozen small clients and two or three big ones (think Fortune 500), but until recently we've used 2 eMacs and 3 old iMacs to do it all. We've upgraded, but we probably didn't need to ... the boss just likes shiny things.
    • Re:Cost analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:29AM (#11301839) Homepage Journal
      Time is money. Lots of it and as any person who has done any hiring (especially in small to mid size businesses) will tell you, personnel costs are among the largest financial obligations you will have bar none.
      A sound business principle, in general -- and one some of my former employers didn't pay enough attention too. On the other hand, suppose you're running a small business, either alone or with a few partners. And suppose you're just starting up, so you (and maybe those partners) are your technical staff. Then time is just about the only resource you don't have to pay for.

      Of course, lots of people take the roll-your-own approach just because that's the only way they know. The last regular job I had was for an internet services company that had started out in the owner's garage ten years earlier. For our virtual web host business, we still used the RYO server management software the owner had written back in that garage! And even though we were now managing a data center with thousands of systems, everything in sight -- the phone system, the customer support database, the procedures we used to checkin hands-on customers, even the tests used to screen potential employees -- everything was very do-it-yourself. Not the most cost-effective way to run a business, but the owner simply knew no other way to get things done.

      After all we wouldn't be techies if we didn't enjoy playing with technology.

      • Server death (Score:5, Informative)

        by Glonoinha (587375) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:21PM (#11305029) Journal
        That said - if the OP is going to build his own, he is going to build his own. If that's the case, here is the most important bit of wisdom I have to offer :

        Heat Kills.

        Computers die for one reason, and one reason only. Heat. I have autopsied well over 100 dead computers (servers, desktops) in the past two decades and with extremely few exceptions the deaths were caused by CPU fan failure (a $10 part), power supply fan failure (a $10 part), or hard drive failure. If I really wanted to push it, I would say the drive failures were heat related, generally due to weak power supply exhaust fans.

        Heat kills. It doesn't matter where you buy your parts if you are building your own systems (hey, we all did it early in our careers when money was more scarce than time) then spend the extra eight dollars to get the best CPU fan you can find, get top quality fans pulling air into the machine, and get top quality fans pushing air out of the machine.

        Heat kills. Don't overclock your servers, and don't go for the fastest of anything. Insure there is airflow space between your drives and make sure the room your machines are in is cool. Maybe even consider underclocking your CPU - a machine running 80% as fast but giving you an extra two years of uninterrupted uptime is a lot better than a server running 105% and dying at a rate of two hardware failures a year.

        If you are hand building, build conservative machines and buy identical spare parts while you still can. Nothing sucks more than having to retire a machine because you can't get spare parts, except replacing a machine because a $10 cheapo fan stopped blowing.
    • Re:Cost analysis (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ylon (656206)
      Very fast actually, I'm not seeing any noticeable slow down on a 3Mb connection, actually zooms right along in terms of downloading images, etc. from the site. Yes, I concur. Mac OS X/Xserves are quite excellent and that is the route we are taking. We were using FreeBSD and Linux, now turning to an all Mac shop.
    • Where I work the corporate mantra seems to be "buy the most expensive thing on the market". Alas the rate of failure and flakiness as well as horrible support seem to plague all of the hardware they buy.

      You'd know the names, netapp, dell, HP, veritas etc. As somebody who lives on "the other side" I can unequivically tell you that the grass is not greener.
      • Re:Cost analysis (Score:3, Insightful)

        by innosent (618233)
        Compromise, roll-your-own, but buy from a specific vendor, preferably one where you can get all of your parts at the same place (with the possible exception of disks, since it seems the cheapest disk vendors don't sell much else). Even if you don't get the best price on every component, you should still be getting systems for less than half of the price for identical systems from IBM, HP, Dell, or (not exactly identical) Apple.

        The other major thing to consider, is that different architectures handle I/O b
        • Re:Cost analysis (Score:4, Interesting)

          by plover (150551) * on Sunday January 09, 2005 @02:05AM (#11302228) Homepage Journal
          Not that I know or understand your company's financial situation, but if you do decide to roll-your-own server, I'd recommend purchasing the components from a local source with knowledgable staff (if you're completely alone on this.) A second pair of eyes to help you if you get stuck is a valuable resource, and the slight premium you'll pay could prove to be cheap insurance.

          Some of the local places around here are only a few dollars above pricewatch figures, and they'll even assemble and test the machine for you for an extra $60.

          I buy all my hardware from the locals, and it's saved my butt more than once.

    • Early in 2004 I was in a position of setting up an office for software dev - absolutely from scratch. I am very familiar with Linux/Apache/Samba/Subversion/Postfix/LDAP/PPTP/N T P /NFS and I opted to go Linux. We decided, just like you stated, that time is money and so we bought some nice DELL machines pre-loaded with the OS.

      The story was all bad from here on.

      2 weeks waiting for DELL to ship boxes.

      RedHat Enterprise Server has all sorts of issues with the drivers DELL was using for RAID and not to menti

    • Re:Cost analysis (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Necrobruiser (611198)
      Therefore, I actually find it more cost effective to...purchase a complete system from a vendor

      I spent a lot of time trying to convince my last boss that the money he was saving by buying components from 3-4 different vendors was being eaten by the cost of my time to put the components together, and by paying for shipping from each vendor. So we purchased a few pre-built computers from a vendor, and discovered that the trained monkeys that they had hired to build the computers would not push the memory
  • Newegg (Score:5, Informative)

    by thegoogler (792786) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:37PM (#11301569)
    Seriously, for everything. That, or ive had lots of luck with small local shops, if i need the parts NOW. there always nice about returning stuff, even if its your fault you broke it -_-;;
    • by KalvinB (205500) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:53AM (#11302180) Homepage
      I bought a low cost Bow Technology 1U server case and in less than a month the PSU died. Since I'd gone through NewEgg, I figured it'd be nice and easy. I called up, they said they'd be happy to let me just send in the PSU (there's no way I'm shutting down my business over a PSU and had already put a temporary ATX PSU in it's place). 2 Weeks later I hear nothing from them. They had told me to ship the PSU next day and they'd next day the replacement. I checked the RMA and it turns out they're expecting an ATX PSU for some reason. I pointed out the error and after multiple phone calls they finally changed the RMA but still no PSU. Now they want the whole case. I tell them no way and they give me some lie about not having the case in stock anymore (meanwhile the site clearly states the cases will be in stock in a couple days).

      Short story we call the Better Business Beurau. NewEgg pulled some shinanigans and got the BBB to close the case as "customer satisfied." Uh, no I'm not. So we call the BBB and tell them we're not at all satisfied as we've got no refund and no PSU.

      NewEgg finally pulls their head out of their butt and refunds the entire cost of the case. I had also got the shipping costs refunded for shipping the PSU to them. What's really pathetic is that we called Bow Technology and they had no idea what NewEgg was doing as BT is more than happy to eat the cost of the PSU. NewEgg had zero reason to try to give me the shaft. It wouldn't cost them a dime to replace the part.

      NewEgg lost well over $100 on that stupidity alone and I've never bought another part from them. That was over a year ago. Fortunatly my ISP was really cool and allowed my colocated server to run with the top off and an ATX PSU towering over it. Other ISPs would not be so kind.

      NewEgg may be nice when things go right but when things go wrong they're idiots. I've found that's the case with quite a few companies.

      They're barely off my shit list only because they gave me more than I wanted (I just wanted the PSU), but I'll have to exhaust other options before shopping with them again. This entire episode lasted 3 months and didn't affect me at all. My server was only down from the time the PSU died till I put in the ATX PSU which was only a span of about 2 hours.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @02:38AM (#11302336)
        Short story we call the Better Business Beurau. NewEgg pulled some shinanigans and got the BBB to close the case as "customer satisfied.

        Follow the money - the BBB is 100% funded by "member" businesses. They have a clear conflict of interest when resolving disputes and stores like yours are all too common.

        I think the BBB must be a division of DeBeers considering how amazingly good a rep they have and have been able to maintain over the decades of duplicity.
  • Only Newegg (Score:2, Informative)

    by Voxxel (147404)
    Exclusively from Newegg [newegg.com]. They are unmatched.
    • They are the best I have ever deal with.
    • I second Newegg. Their prices are great, and they have been rock-solid dependable.

      Which for a business, is more important than the price.
    • NewEgg is great. Along with great prices and fast shipping they have a great return policy. So if things don't work or aren't right it's easy to return them.

      Their pricing on 200Gig SATA Seagate drives is great. (My latest acquisition)
    • Re:Only Newegg (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Artemis (14122)

      Newegg has been great for me as far as personal purchases go, but they are unsuitable for my company and many other business because of their unwillingness to accept a Purchase Order in any manner. While I am willing to use a credit card for personal purchases I am not willing to do business with a company that will not extend credit (NET 30, etc) to any other company on the planet.

  • by signingis (158683) <signingis.hotmail@com> on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#11301603) Journal

    ibm.com [ibm.com]

    Of course, you can go to an IBM reseller and get a year old solution for about 25% of the original cost for a machine. Why mess around when you're building a server. Ostensibly a company will be using this to either make money directly or support the making of money in some other area of the business, so why mess around?
  • small OEM suppliers (Score:5, Informative)

    by zerofoo (262795) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#11301605)
    There are lots of companies that supply OEMs in my area. Companies like Minta, ZT Group, Stars Micro, and Eastern Data. These companies will gladly set you up with a Net 30 terms account.

    Companies like this are great for commodity parts like hard drives, CPUs, and memory.

    Building mission critical systems from motherboards that won't be available next year is NOT a good idea.

    For systems like that, I either use Intel boards (3 year warranty), or I buy complete systems from Dell. I've even bought stripped down Dell NAS boxes and upgraded the CPU, memory, and hard drives to save some money.

    Rolling your own systems makes sense for workstations, but for mission critical servers, i'd only buy from a vendor that can guarantee that parts will be available for the service life of the machine.

    -ted
  • by alen (225700)
    My company is big enough to get good pricing on HP servers from CDW. We have our personal sales rep that also helps out with support issues and since we are big enough we get a nice return policy.

    HP's are good servers and rock solid. The ilo lights out capability is nice too since it allows us to do a cold boot remotely over the LAN if the OS locks up to where access over pc anywhere, terminal services or the raritan kvn is no good.

    there is one point of contact for tech support which makes things easier.
  • Personally, I tend to use pricegrabber for comparing prices, but usually end up going to newegg or zipzoomfly (with occasional bits from buy.com). But when in the market for a full machine, I would just pick the parts up from work.

    On the note of full machines (and yes, this is somewhat of a shameless plug for silicon mechanics [siliconmechanics.com]), most of our customers come back because of the quality of service. Our prices tend to be reasonable, but every one of our customers (especially the small ones like wikimedia and

  • by Theovon (109752) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:53PM (#11301665)
    I'm going to add my name to the list of many who say "only newegg". It's true. Their return policy is stellar, and it's a snap to return something under warranty on their web site. Sometime you pay a little more (although not much), but it's always worth it.

    There is one exception. Newegg is a stickler to the rules for LCD monitors which say the monitor is not defective unless their is some minimum number of dead pixels. The best place to buy monitors is "MonitorsDirect" who will take a monitor for return within 30 days for any reason. (And I took advantage of that to return a monitor with a single dead subpixel!)
  • My approach is to put together rock-solid RAID arrays, and consider the servers to be more or less disposable -- I buy whatever I can get four or more of at a time cheap, then set one or more up as a hot spares. Their lifetime for most purposes is 2 years and then you just throw them away. IMHO, for most purposes, high-end servers are a waste of money, and build the fault-tolerance into the level above that with hot spares, fail-over, etc. This is not the solution for time-is-money folks, but you said y
  • Dell corporate (Score:3, Informative)

    by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:55PM (#11301677) Homepage Journal
    We have a Dell corporate account and the deals you can get there are amazing provided you're willing to wheel and deal and threaten a bit. Usually you can get upgrades to the server or a nice switch thrown in. I don't buy Dell on the desktop but their servers are good gear and priced right. Plus haggling is fun and I don't have the time to build my own servers.
    • Have to second that about the deals. Depsite how much they push web ordering, the phone sales force is hungry and incented... call them on the phone, and pretend you're walking into a used car dealership. They routinely beat the pricing they give even to their resellers (must suck to be one of them), especially if you're ordering a server listing at $10k or more...

      -R
    • Re:Dell corporate (Score:4, Interesting)

      by killjoe (766577) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:14AM (#11302045)
      Aahh Dell. Otherwise known as "the vendor whose name rhymes with hell".

      No two machines coming out of dell are alike. We have had batches of five that had different components in them. Don't even get me started on proprietary firmware on crucial devices like fiber channel cards.
    • Re:Dell corporate (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dourk (60585)
      We recently purchased 2 new machines at work (very small company) from Dell. They were a hundred bucks cheaper on the "home" site than on the business site. And they came with free printers.

      We couldn't buy the home ones on our business account. After 2 hours of bitching on the phone, we got the $100 price break, but no printers.

      The machines run great (for a windows machine :), but I'm left with this really slimy feeling in my gut about dell.
  • by kinema (630983) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:56PM (#11301682)
    I go to the local Fry's and Best Buy and and get what their very knowledgeable staffs recommend.
    • bhahahahaha. Good delivery, too.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:24AM (#11301819)
      Was the parent being funny? I just got back from Best Buy. I can't wait to try my UPS with my laptop. I just can't afford to lose anything I'm working on if the power goes off.
    • Fry's isn't so bad... I went there and talked to this saleswoman about the processor, RAM and video card that I wanted. Then I asked her what motherboard would be best for the combination, she told me which one would be good and that it supports dual channel and it'd be cheaper for me to get two sticks of 512 instead of one stick of one gig. She also gave me a returned motherboard so it'd be like $30 off. Plus Fry's has some really good prices on stuff especially when you need to find something right awa
  • by FlyingSpank (589824) <robcamp AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:57PM (#11301686)
    Quote:

    "...various servers and external storage enclosures are needed on the cheap that will be pushed to their limits."

    You are about to discover why server vendors are still in business, even though commodity parts just reach new lows in pricing.

    I wont bust your balls, or tits(?) over trying to do IT on the cheap.

    However, you will need to make some choices.

    Cheaper hardware will only buy you hardware designed for consumers ( do you recall the IBM Deskstar models that had a monthly hour limit of usage ? ).

    If you need to buy hardware that wont blow up under load, and you can get replacement parts for ( especially outside of business hours ) you should stop and go back and review products from IBM, Dell, and Compaq.

    Recognize these vendors call it a server since they do test these things under load, test compatibility under cirumstances that your describing, and provide service so that your consulting shop wont be twiddling their thumbs waiting for you to run down to the local swap shop to get a new motherboard.

    Those of us responsible for maintaining services ( DB, Email, etc ) dont build servers unless our backs are against the wall. Even then, we buy HW from the same vendors who make the servers.

    Why ? Our job isnt to build hardware. Its to make email flow reliably, keep end users data available whenever management is willing to pay for it, hopefully you get the drift.

    Since your in a small consulting shop, the big goals for the shop is growing clientele. They money will be well spent, when you and whomever else is responsible for the backoffice equipment ( in a small group everyone wears lots of hats ) spends your time building the customer base.

    There will be lots of folks here who will say, sure go do this, this and this.

    Hopefuly, a few will try to influence you as I have, and suggest you use a Cisco grade product, versus Linksys.
    • Why ? Our job isnt to build hardware. Its to make email flow reliably, keep end users data available whenever management is willing to pay for it, hopefully you get the drift.

      Focus on that.

      Our job is to keep the services serving.

      So we get equipment that is designed for that purpose, with overnight delivery of replacement parts and 24 hour tech support.

      I prefer leasing servers for 3 years because that's usually how long the various fans, power supplies and disks will last.

      Losing a server in the middle

  • Canadian sources? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fpp (614761) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:58PM (#11301690)
    I see mostly American sources for parts. Anyone know of good Canadian suppliers?
  • Not bad on finding some stuff

    http://pricescan.com/ [pricescan.com]
  • Kinda depends... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KC7GR (473279) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @11:59PM (#11301697) Homepage Journal
    ...on what you're looking for. I'm no expert on putting together big systems for enterprise environments, so I'll leave that type of reply to others.

    However, I do know a great deal about digging around on the surplus market. If you're looking to put together your own servers, perhaps for self-hosting of your Internet presence, you can save tons of $$ by hitting up used-computer stores and electronic surplus places.

    As just one example: My former employer (Boeing) retired a number of enterprise-class servers a few years back. Among these was a Compaq ProLiant 6500, tricked out with triple Pentium Pro 200 CPU's, twin redundant power supplies, a RAID controller, two-port Ethernet card, and the front-panel diagnostic display.

    That system probably had a five-figure price tag when it was first sold. I picked it up for about $150, and spent another $100 or so on enough nine-gigger drives to create a RAID-5 stack. I added on another external RAID bay, with drives, for about another $100, and had one heck of a reliable FTP archive and database system for less than $400.

    At the risk of Slashdotting my own site, I've got listings of electronic and computer surplus places in California, Oregon, and Washington up at this link. [bluefeathertech.com]

    Keep the peace(es).

  • Toys 'R Us (Score:5, Funny)

    by xlark (689369) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:00AM (#11301702)
    No, seriously.

    Ever since I saw a story here about Lego case mods, I've been building my RAID array enclosures completely out of them. Now, I swear by them: cheap and modular.

    Duplo will due in a pinch, but they really only work well with larger 5.25" half-height or full-height drives.

    HTH
  • this is great (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ubiquitin (28396) *
    I'm getting such a kick out of this thread. With the exception of drives (always buy those new from whoever pricewatch recommends that day), I basically get all my stuff from bottom-feeding off of eBay. So basically, the rest of you suckers are covering my hardware depreciation for me. Hey, thanks guys. And before you give me shit about what's server class and what's low end, know that I've saturated T3's with performance-tuned celerons funning *bsd. Last year's hardware on OpenBSD trumps next year's ha
    • As the parent post implies, hardware that could manage your workload a year ago will still be able to manage the same load next year. Most servers are far overpowered for their workloads in various respects.

      However, if the demands on your system increase, you may find that buying yesteryear's hardware on eBay to replace the used hardware you bought a year ago can be more costly in both time and money than buying new kit and keeping it for a few years.
  • Yet another vote for Newegg.
  • electroseller.com (Score:3, Informative)

    by suso (153703) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:03AM (#11301725) Homepage Journal
    I just recently bought some rack mount equipment from electroseller.com and had a really good experience. The prices were really good and the service was great.

    Plus, they have a nice way of showing you what power supplies and rail kits will work with the case that you are looking at.

    I called their customer service to ask a question and someone (a real person) picked up the phone on the first ring. Now that's service.
  • by selfish (230525) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:03AM (#11301726) Homepage
    I used ZipZoomFly [zipzoomfly.com] almost exclusively to build my PC this summer. There's free two day FedEx shipping on tons of stuff, and their prices always seem to be very near or at the top of the list of best-price vendors.

    I've never had to return anything to them, so I can't comment there, but do at least check them out next time you're buying PC gear.
  • by Lxy (80823)
    I build my hardware from LEGO [slashdot.org].
  • monarch (Score:3, Informative)

    by z-pak (820037) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:16AM (#11301778)
    Two part answer. First, I really think its a bad idea to hand build a server that you expect to push. I'm not even in IT but I know just from home systems how much downtime can result from one bad part needing an RMA. Even worse is having to do tech support for your friends or family. I highly reccomend you get your server from a reputable vendor. Time = Money and I wouldn't risk all the time that could be lost if something goes wrong.

    That said, I was a long time user of Newegg, but I recently started using www.monarchcomputer.com on reccomendation from a friend as they beat Newegg on price in many cases. They've proven reliable so far. Check both sites and see where the best deal is to be hand if you insist on going the DIY route.
    • Re:monarch (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree the support burden for building systems for family and friends is difficult, but it can be just as bad when you recommend they buy from one of the well known PC vendors and they get poor service from them and you end up supporting the system anyway. I have found that this will take up more time than when I have built systems. At least when something goes bad, I know what it is exactly already and can order a suitable replacement for them quickly rather than deal with the red tape and untrained out
      • I couldn't agree more. One thing you forget to mention is the variety of completely non-standard components used in a lot of name-brand machines. Dells with those stupid racks, some Compaqs with Torx bolts, weirdo power supplies and motherboards that only qualify as "ATX style" if you're thoroughly intoxicated. No, for supporting systems in that environment give me standard off-the-shelf parts any day. I understand what the IT folks here are saying about high-end servers and so forth, but at the other end
  • I use Pricewatch to find the vendor but I don't deal with everyone I find through them.

    Nice to know there are others building their own servers. I wouldn't trust hardware put together by anyone else. It's rare I ever have any problems with my boxen.

  • by bechthros (714240) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:18AM (#11301793) Homepage Journal
    Well, I'll probably be in the minority here, but since I don't have a bank account or a credit card, there's a couple local shops I go to for almost everything, component-wise (though I think I did get my last CD burner from WalFart). It's instant retail gratification, they carry most of what I need for a marginal markup, and they can be bargained with in ways WalMart and Office Depot can't. Plus I get to feel all warm and tingly about supporting local merchants.
  • newegg! (Score:5, Informative)

    by bani (467531) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:20AM (#11301802)
    they're not always the cheapest, but they are almost always near the cheapest.

    their shipping is almost always excellent (order friday morning, get it monday afternoon) and inexpensive shipping compared to most other vendors. they must have some sweet deal with their shippers. newegg's return policy is stellar. they always have a good selection of parts in stock.

    their online catalogue is really, really good. instead of just regurgitating vendor material, they take the stuff out of the box and photograph it all over so you see exactly what youre getting. afaik the only vendor who does this.

    their catalogue browsing is excellent, they let you browse/search by everthing a DIY'er would want to know. chipset, memory speed, form factor, manufacturer, etc.

    a lot of products have user comments and ratings, which can be helpful. a lot of other online vendors ripoff newegg's user comments/ratings, which is amusing.

    newegg is one of the best online retailers, if not the best period. highly recommended [resellerratings.com]. online vendors could learn a lot from newegg. it's sad that companies as excellent as newegg are very rare. :-(
  • Penguin Computing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:22AM (#11301811) Homepage
    I've setup a couple servers from Penguin Computing [penguincomputing.com] and have been ecstatic with the results. Pricing out server-specific components really doesn't save money and you get a nice warranty with a system. And the racks I bought from Penguin were top-notch. When I did have a hardware problem (which wasn't their fault), they replaced the hardware instantaneously and we never even had downtime.

    Time is money and they saved me a bunch of both.
    -N
    • I'll give a big second to Penguin; they rock. They have high quality, reliable servers designed to run Linux (so no compatibility issues). We have had a couple of failures (we've bought around 35 Penguin servers over the last 3 or so years), but they are right on top of them and ship replacement parts ASAP (we haven't paid for the on-site service). Plus, servers from Penguin come with a cool Penguin t-shirt and a stuffed Tux (another local company with dozens of Penguins has combined their Tuxes with wir
  • eBay / Dell (Score:2, Informative)

    by NextAdvantage (561512)
    I used to build machines from price watch, but replacement costs and price made me switch to buying used dells on eBay. I always replace the drives throught price watch though...and sell the original drives.
  • We've been buying our "medium-end" hardware, such as dual-processor Athlons. Liked it better before Google made them change their name from GOOGLEGEAR...
  • As a young IT professional in a new business, I had lots of time and very little money. Thus, getting a used P2 on E-bay and coaxing it into a reliable system (this is a few years ago) was worth it. Any problems would affect only the few clients I had, and I had plenty of time to look for problems.

    However, things change. Now, with a quite successful business, I don't have time to spend coaxing the last bit of performance out of an old AMD K6-2 system. Now, I'm looking for something to work quickly, and wel
  • I'm seeing a lot of BS from people who are either saying "Don't risk it, blow your money on expensive computers from Big Blue" or "Don't be a fool, get the cheapest thing you can find; it's all the same." Both are, at least partially, wrong.

    Expensive doesn't always mean better. SCSI hard drives are wonderfully fast, but compared to high-end SATA drives which perform on par with the SCSI drives, they're terribly overpriced. "Servers" from a major OEM are similar. Dell is the worst about this, using

    • ...is that many IDE/SATA/etc drives are the same drive as the SCSI model, just with a different interface board.

      eg, you are getting exactly the same hardware as the 900% more expensive SCSI drive, but with just a tad slower interface and maybe shorter warranty. for the same price you could buy several of the non-SCSI model drive and keep spares in the closet (or throw them in a raid configuration) and still save money.
  • by doormat (63648)
    In order of preference..

    1. Newegg
    2. ZipZoomFly
    3. Fry's (if I absolutely need something right now, cant wait for shipping)

    Stay away from:
    Best Buy, Buy.com (check out reseller ratings for why).

    I've actually managed to stop shopping at Best Buy. I'm going to test out how much I can push them in May when I get a big screen, surround sound system, etc. If they dont give me an outstanding deal (read: make them sell it to me at cost or very small profit margin), I'm going to Ultimate Electronics (cant go to Cir
  • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:52AM (#11301957) Homepage
    . . . build lots.

    Seriously. I don't care how good of a system you buy, someday something *will* go wrong and it'll go bottom up. If that's the only server you bought you're now down for the count.

    On the other hand, if you bought three much cheaper commodity servers, then even if two of them go down you can probably still keep *something* going. Same basis as RAID.

    Anybody who makes the assumption that good quality components means they won't melt down is setting themselves up for disappointment - and if they're lucky, it won't lead to severe financial problems.

    Redundancy is king.

    (Of course, in some cases, it's not practical - but I'd always choose it over individual part quality if possible. And as your scale goes up, it gets more and more practical.)
  • Am I the only one who think Tom's Hardware is completely biased (pro-intel, pro-nvidia). I remember reading reviews where AMD dominates all but video editing and they call it even. I've stopped reading their stuff a while ago, so maybe they fixed it (doubt it though).
  • ASA Computers [asacomputers.com]. It's typically cheaper or only a few bucks more than building from components. It's built, burned-in and has an OS installed.

    And it's not Dell. Baby Jesus cries any time you buy a server from Dell. (They look nice at first, but they're such badly architected pieces of crap...)

  • It's not worth it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ocbwilg (259828) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:12AM (#11302039)
    I don't even recommend building your own desktops for a business environment, though I can see why some people would do it. But when it comes to something critical like a server, especially if it is likely to be around for 4-5 years (as most servers are), then it's gotta be from one of the big boys (HP, Dell, IBM, etc).

    The biggest reason is that if you buy a server from one of these guys, you know that you're buying a reliable, fairly stable platform that will be supported throughout it's useful life. I personally use all HP servers, and if I have a hardware failure I know that I can make a 10 minute phone call and have an engineer onsite with a replacement part in 4 hours. If I roll my own, I may have to do some troubleshooting with a number of different component manufacturers, especially if there's any finger pointing going on. With HP (or any other big manufacturer), there's one number to call and no fingerpointing.

    Also, the big three vendors tend to be better able to do troubleshooting than a number of smaller vendors. I know that HP includes software for management and monitoring with their servers. I have been saved from major downtime on multiple occasions because Insight Manager has detected an imminent failure and I was able to preemptively replace the failing component. So in that sense they are also better supported than a roll-your-own solution. When you're talking about storage systems, EMC goes even further with their call home monitoring/support system.

    Finally, the major vendors all perform compatibility testing on their platforms. If you buy a server pre-built from any of the big three, you can generally choose from a number of different flavors of Windows, UNIX, or Linux and know that the server is compatible and supported on that OS. If HP releases a new driver for a fibre channel HBA you know that it won't cause problems with their SCSI HBAs. If you roll your own, you have to do all of the footwork and compatibility testing yourself.

    If I need a new server, I have basically two options:

    1. Go to a big three vendor, spend 10 minutes configuring it online, and place the order. I can have the server shipped to me and even receive it the next day if I want. All I have to do is unpack it, rack it, and install my applications.

    2. Shop around for parts, comparing reviews and prices, and hopefully come up with a config that I can use. Then order the parts from one or more vendors. Then wait for all of the parts to arrive, because the odds of everything shipping and arriving on the same day are pretty slim. When everything arrives I have to make sure that I have all of the drivers available, and then assemble the server. Then install the OS and necessary drivers, hoping that there aren't any compatibility or configuration problems to be solved. Finally I can install apps and rack it.

    In business, time is money. Option one takes less than an hour of my time from placing the order to server up. Option one also is far less likely to cause me to lose uptime or cause other headaches from a support standpoint. Option two may save me a couple bucks upfront, but in the long run it's going to cost me far more. Option two is especially bad if a part fails and that particular model is no longer manufactured.

    There's a popular saying in the computer industry that goes "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." There's a reason that it's true, and it extends to the other big manufacturers as well.
    • by pla (258480) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @05:26AM (#11302780) Journal
      But when it comes to something critical like a server, especially if it is likely to be around for 4-5 years (as most servers are), then it's gotta be from one of the big boys (HP, Dell, IBM, etc).

      Server? You mean, like the tens of thousands of machines Google runs? The tens of thousands of commodity-PC-based machines? That they don't even bother swapping out when they fail, until the next regular maintenance cycle?

      I understand the people who say "buy Dell or HP or IBM", and I understand the people who say "buy cheap and buy three of them for half the price of Dell/HP/IBM". But it all depends on what you need. If 24 hours downtime will put you out of business, you'd better go with Dell/HP/IBM and buy a spare as a hot backup. If you can live with a few days of downtime, go for high-end commodity parts and buy spares of everything (and 99% of the time, you'll have less downtime by swapping out a drive/motherboard/whatever than it takes just to get the Big Boys on the phone - But I acknowledge that, for some uses, that remaining 1% makes paying almost any amount worth the peace of mind it brings).

      Incidentally, the idea of "commodity" hardware doesn't necessarily mean anything by comparison with "server" hardware - Yes, Dell guarantees all the parts work well together, and will replace the whole unit via overnight shipping if it fails; but at the heart of every Dell server, you'll find nothing more complicated than high-end commodity PC parts. Parts such that, given a list of them, you could build it yourself off-the-shelf from Pricewatch for $5k vs $20k+.
  • by EdMcMan (70171)
    When I order parts, I order from Newegg. Let me share a quick story. I built a computer for my friend, and ordered all the parts from newegg. The was some damage during shipping, and the case window and door were broken.

    I didn't want to send it back because it's too much hassle. I called Newegg, and they sent me the parts I needed for free, even though it was not their fault or responsibility. They could have told me to go talk to Fedex (it was insured), but they didn't. Their customer support is gre
  • The most important thing you can have is good people. Firstly, good staff. Secondly, a good vendor.

    Since about 1998, I've been dealing with MultiWave for parts at home and work. Prior to that I used multiple vendors. Always had an excellent experience with Multiwave. I picked out the hardware and had my staff assemble our workstations and servers and except for a bad Adaptec RAID card (which we RMAed), had zero problems with server hardware.

    Had some problems with the Shuttle SV24 and SV25 boxes - mostl

  • www.pogolinux.com

    This is my favorite server vendor. I got a server for home because they are cheap and good, and local.

    I used to work for a small web company. We built servers from scratch (tigerdirect). I told the CTO that my servers were going to be built by someone who actually tests the software on the hardware. Guess what? My cheap $2,000 system beat the pants off of the other servers people put together because the hardware was actually compatible. Sure, it cost about 10% more, but it was faster, mo
  • Personally I (Score:3, Interesting)

    by macdaddy (38372) * on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:35AM (#11302484) Homepage Journal
    don't do much in the way of reviewing. I buy a helluva lot of gear though. I find the best deals at Pricewatch [pricewatch.com] and Froogle [google.com], of course and I check new resellers at ResellerRatings.com [resellerratings.com]. I also have a handful of companies I buy from regularly. For example I buy a lot of gear from Newegg, and I do mean a lot. I'll pay a few bucks extra (they usually aren't the cheapest around but they are usually pretty close) just to deal with a company I'm familiar with and who I know ships pretty quickly. I buy from:

    Newegg [newegg.com]

    8anet [8anet.com], also known as AcmeMicro [acmemicro.com]

    Racks And Stands [racksandstands.com]

    Sybercom [sybercom.com]

    TechOnWeb [techonweb.com]

    Amazon [amazon.com] (I buy a lot through Amazon because I get a referal kickback for links from my website which is nice)

    AccuPC [accupc.com]

    There are a lot more I'm sure but I can't think of all of them off the top of my head. Oh, I have bought from Monarch Computers [monarchcomputer.com] also. There are some companies I won't buy from eve again. The main one that comes to mind is Computer Giants [computergiants.com]. Those folks tried to scam me once on a Maxtor hard drive that went DOA in the first couple of days of testing. Like all the people posting complaints about them on ResellerRatings [resellerratings.com] they tried to con me into paying return shipping to send the DOA drive back. They also said I'd have to pay one of their people to test the drive and confirm it was DOA. Otherwise I'd have to pay to have it sent back to me. Most people find that the drives are OEM or used and that they are selling them as new retail. Yeah, they're a bunch of asshats. That's why merchant review sites are so essential to buying on the Internet. You can't walk into an Internet store, get in a manager's face, and demand your money back for the lemon they sold you when you buy something online. You have to rely on other people's experiences to weed out the crooks. Fortunately for me Maxtor was exceptionally nice about the whole thing and took care of replacing out DOA drive with a brand new replacement. Nice folks @ Maxtor.

    Anyhow, I don't always buy the lowest price on Pricewatch and Froogle. I'll buy from a company I know it's going to try and screw me even if I have to pay a little more. I always check eBay before placing an order too. Take for example one of my recent eBay purchases. I priced rack-mount patch cable organizer (wire routing gear) on Froogle. I found a decent model by APC for $25/each. I just happened to search ebay before buying and low and hehold I found Leviton cable organizers for $4.99/each. Each! Ha! Needless to say I bought 4 instead of 1. They are also built extremely well. Always check eBay before buying something online. You may find it for half the price (or less!).

  • supermicro (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phek (791955) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:22AM (#11302640)
    For the past couple years, I've been building servers for my company, and it's really turned into more of a pain than that money is worth (not to mention we've probably lost more money than we saved due to some downtime). My company is really stingy with money (less so now than they were before), and wouldnt give me the money I needed to buy any prebuilt systems, so I would piece together machines. In the end this turned out not to be the best idea due to a few factors.
    1) Shipping problems would always come up where they wouldn't send out items until like a week after I bought them.
    2) I recieved quite a few parts that were DOA
    3) Putting some of the 1U's together was a huge pain, especially trying to find 1U cpu fans for the faster processors
    4) hardware would fail, and due to it being about a year and a half since I built the machine, and hardware changing so rapidly recently, It would be hard to find a local store with replacement parts.
    I think out of the 9 rackmount servers I built, I've had 5 motherboards fail, 6 sticks of ram, and a power supply (not counting the stuff that was DOA). Most of the failed hardware I would say happened within the first week of the server being online, so I dont know if that should be considered DOA too, but i'm not including it. Anyways I've recently been buying Supermicro [supermicro.com] servers and couldn't be happier. All the machines I've got from them, and that my friend who recommended them has got from them have been running great, and they're much cheaper than IBM or any other big manufacturer (though if I had the funds I'd rather buy IBM). Anyways, before I quit building my own machines I found a great place to buy rackmount cases which is rackmountmaster [rackmountmaster.com]. All the cases I've got from them are laid out great, have good air ventelation, and aren't rediculously priced like so many other rackmount manufacturers.

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