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The Cost of Moving to Small Business Server vs. Moving to Leopard Server

- 2008.10.06 -Tip Jar

In my previous article, Ilooked at the option of replacing my Windows Small Business Server 2003with Mac OS X 10.5 Server, comparing features, ease of use, andsecurity.

In features Windows, with its full Exchange server, wins easily, butthe other two more than make up for any lost capabilities.

The one factor that I did not look at is price, which as I alreadyown SBS 2003 is not the same equation as for someone buying new. I paidfor my Dell server three years ago, and it has fully depreciated,meaning that every day that it sits in my office, it costs nothing.

Mac OS X Server (10-user-edition) costs $500 for the software, andanywhere between $600 (Macmini) to over $4,000 (decked-out Mac Pro) for the hardware. I'm leaningtoward a $3,000 configuration (plus server OS) of the Mac Pro as myserver, meaning the price difference is $3,500 more to go Mac than staywith Windows.

Cost to Upgrade

This is not an entirely fair comparison, as my Windows server isthree years old, and both the technology and my needs have moved on.For example, my Dell is powered by a Pentium D dual-core processor,which is adequate in terms of speed with my 32-bit operating system.Unfortunately, I am frequently bumping up against my 2 GB ofinstalled RAM and want to at least double it to have some breathingroom, which means I need a 64-bit operating system to properly recognize and fullyutilize 4 GB.

SBS 2003 is 32-bit only, so my only options are migrating to theregular Windows server (expensive) or upgrading to the new SBS 2008,which is 64-bit. SBS 2008, which includes 5 licenses, costs about$1,100 - or $100 more than the unlimited license version of OS XServer. The 10 user version of OS X Server is only $500, and anytime that I need more than 10 users, I can upgrade to unlimited for$500.

I currently have five users on my network, and with SBS 2008, everyuser that I add will require a $77 license, which at ten users comesout to just under $1,500 - three times the cost of Apple's 10 usersolution. (My current SBS 2003 system only can add licenses in groupsof 5, which cost $400.)

Equally expensive are the hardware costs. RAM is cheap these days,so perhaps another $100 to bump up to 4 GB or $300 to get8 GB. This cost is identical to a Mac Pro used as a server, whichalso needs a (non-Apple) RAM upgrade from its base 2 GB. The Macuses slightly more expensive RAM, but the difference is minimal.

The Pentium D is 64-bit capable, so it will run SBS 2008, but its64-bit support is not ideal. I'm no engineer, but the way I understandit, the Pentium D is a 32-bit processor that emulates 64-bit by running64-bit instructions twice, half at a time. I'm not sure how significantof a bottleneck, if any, this would be, as my slowdowns are mostlycaused by RAM. It may also be that adding a second Pentium D speeds itup enough at lower cost. I've seen Xeon 3050 series 2.16 GHz dual-coreprocessors for $200 each, which would still fall short of the currentMac Pro, but would more than triple the processing power I have now andbe fully 64-bit capable.

So the total is $3,500 for a nice Mac Pro with Leopard Server($3,000 if I go with a single quad-core CPU instead of dual quads),compared to the following to bring my 3-year-old server up-to-date with64-bit SBS 2008 and processing power equivalent to last-year's Mac Proquad.

  • $400 for two Xeon 3050 processors
  • $200 for an additional 2 GB of RAM
  • $1,100 for SBS 2008
  • Total of $1,700

That means that by spending $1,800 more than upgrading my currentserver, I get a much more powerful - not to mention brand new - Mac Proserver with the benefits of OS X and room to add five moreusers.

That isn't even looking at the cost of hard drive upgrades. I havedual 160 GB drives on a hardware RAID 1 card for the Dell, and the MacPro I configured has dual 320 GB drives (or double the storage), butwith software RAID. Hardware RAID costs $800 for the Mac Pro, whileupgrading my drive capacity to 320 GB would be far less, but still notinsignificant. I could buy two 320 GB SATA drives at about $75 each andthen make back up disks of my existing pair of 160 GB drives.

Planning for Tomorrow

Now let's look three years into the future. The Dell can handle upto 8 GB of RAM, and the pair of Xeons are about the most processorpower that this system will ever support. In contrast, the Mac Pro withits dual quads (or second quad if I start with one) can address up to32 GB of RAM. I don't need that kind of power now, but you never knowwhat the future will bring.

What I like most about the Mac Pro option is that one the very rareinstance where I have some serious horsepower-eating task, such as if Ichoose to stream video on my website or conduct client consultationsremotely over iChat, it's all built into Leopard Server, while with SBS2003 or 2008 I probably wouldn't risk trying something like that.

Chalk one up to stability and confidence.

So while the balance sheet suggests upgrading what I have now, Iwill probably make the move to Leopard Server. The good thing aboutdepreciation is that I can offset some of the cost by selling what Ialready have. Windows SBS 2003 is still selling for $600 with a 5-userlicense, so I can probably get at least that.

In my nextinstallment, I'll be looking at the workstations, an iMacor Mac mini for my legal secretary, and a new laptop for me. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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