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July 27th, 2008

End of an era

For a good few years now, the house server has been a little Shuttle box, running Microsoft's Small Business Server. It's done a decent enough job, especially for a machine originally bought to be a small Media Center PC. Lately, though, it's started showing its age. We wanted to hook up an eSATA card to give it a nice fast backup - but it didn't have PCI Express slots, and the Shuttle form factor seriously limited any future hardware expansion. The final straw came when we decided to run Exchange 2007 to get all the good new mobile device management tools, but it wasn't a 64-bit machine.

A few months back I bought a cheap little HP server, ready to migrate to a whole new multi-core 64-bit future.



It was a bit of a barebones rig, so I threw in more memory (taking it up to 2GB of RAM - and I've since ordered another 4GB), and another couple of SATA drives, to a grand total of more than 1TB of storage. Things paused for a bit for a while, due to work and travel. When I got a magazine commission to write about the upgrade process for a network just like mine, I knew the time had come to finally do the deed - and retire the old server in favour of the new hardware sat next to it on our Ikea server rack.

The result has been a busy few days, while I migrated things over. Moving from SBS 2003 to Windows Server 2008 isn't trivial (though the actual mail server side of things is relatively straightforward, just involving lots of waiting while mailboxes replicated from one server to the next). I also took the opportunity to move us from a self-generated set of SSL certificates to a reasonably priced multi-named set that came from a trusted third party (a task that involved ccomley at Wizards tweaking the sandm.co.uk DNS settings). Things were made a little simpler by the decision to retire the old server at the end of the process. SBS works well when it controls the a network - it's just (like most dictators) unhappy about giving up power. Once you learn the appropriate incantations the forest moves and the fortress falls.

So now the revolution is over, and the network chez SandM has a new master. It's goodbye to Iocaine, and (in an accidental Pink Floyd reference that resulted from our Princess Bride server nomenclature) it's welcome to TheMachine.

It's a good move - we end up with HTML email on our phones, and the ability to wipe them remotely. We also get a much faster server, with much more disk space and plenty of memory - and thanks to the eSATA card I fitted, full server backups that take less than 30 minutes.

Now what do we do with the old box? After, all, it still works just fine...