Do you rely on used/commodity branch servers?

Linux servers
Networking Equipment
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Came across a recent article that suggested cutting costs by relying on "obsolete PCs" and other remainders, booted up with Linux, for powering branch servers. I've definitely been there and done that for temporary or non-critical setups, but with all the complex needs - from remote management, pushing out changes, ensuring security, etc. etc. - it just seems like this strategy is penny-wise and pound foolish.
What do you think? Are commodity servers a no brainer to save money while helping out the environment a bit, or are they a no-no in the modern medium-to-enterprise sector? If you do think it's the way to go, any additions to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols's list of useful apps?

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I would say that it you need the remote server to be reliable and be online then no. Spend a few thousand bucks and get a new server with a support contract so that if the hardware at the remote office fails the vendor can send someone to fix it. This will also get you things like lights out management so that you can power the server on and off if you need to.


It’s like insurance, one day you will regret not having it. I would spend the money on quality hardware with redundant components even for a small remote branch. If the remote branch needs multiple “services”, you can utilize VMware Server to provide multiple virtual servers on a single reliable platform.

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  • jinteik
    to me it is just not smart. The other day use a cheap way out by using a older version of pc to setup as an FTP server and they have their full configuration on it. next thing they know, the hard disk crash and that it. everything was gone and they didnt even have a backup or image to what they had was a down time for them. not only that, after bring up another hard disk, they were left to wonder what they still had to configure as there was no configuration scrip too.. it is actually better to get a server to get things done as there is more safety using a real server rather than a pc server. reliability and performance is important for medium to enterprise environment and and with some warranty that comes with the hardware, it to me it will be great as anything goes wrong, we can just give the vendor a call to fix our problem.
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  • HendryB
    There is nothing wrong with used/commodity hardware (computer) but I would make darn sure you have new/fresh disks because of MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure). A disk is guaranteed to fail but it is always a question of when. Memory shouldn't fail if not subjected to power spikes and there is nothing wrong with using a 386 to power a linux server doing low level tasks like DNS or LDAP. PLUS, you can get a lot of mileage out of that old computer. So there ya' go.
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  • The unsung perils of Linux love and penny pinching - Enterprise IT Watch Blog
    [...] Trust my e-mail security and firewall to a device that I may or may not be able to access, that may or may not fail at a moment’s notice, and that my users may or may not be trying to load up solitaire on? No, thank you. But I decided to poll the community for their thoughts, and as usual there were several thoughtful replies. [...]
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