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Frequently, questions about how to get, setup, and maintain a server for research purposes come up. Currently, the possible support by IRC-IT is unfortunately very limited. This document lists the possible options and considerations.

Table of Content

Hardware Provisioning

Depending on the requirements, the following options exist.

Virtual Machine

A Linux-based virtual machine can be provided. That virtual machine behaves like a real machine, but isn't.

Advantages:

  • costs are about zero
  • quick solution

Disadvantages:

  • resources are shared with other applications
  • Linux-only
  • no physical access to the hardware is possible

This is a service provided together with CLAMV and discussions should include the CLAMV systems manager.

At present, the virtual machines are hosted on an older, limited server. A virtual machine would be restricted to 64MB RAM. Operating system is Linux (SuSE distribution), web server is apache, databases mysql and postgres are available.

Desktop

The traditional cheap-O-solution is to have a regular desktop machine sitting beside the desk, but installed and providing services as a server machine.

Advantages:

  • low price
  • own hardware
  • separate hardware
  • full physical access

Disadvantages:

  • operational risks due to physical exposures (i.e., theft, cable breaking, coffee spilled)
  • technology is not designed for 24/7 operation, hence higher risk of failure
  • missing server performance

IRC-IT strongly recommends buying at Dell, and to absolutely include three years of business warranty. Computers break, invariably, and having someone fix it the next business at the latest can be invaluable to project success or failure. See Standard Hardware (requires login) for current systems and prices.

IRC-IT is not fixing desktop servers for research groups.

To be accessible from outside Jacobs University's network, a global name and address will have to be assigned. Please contact Service Desk for Faculty and Staff to provide this before placing the server, see #Network Access below.

Server

Buy a real server. The technical requirements should be known, based on the application.

IRC-IT strongly recommends to buy a Dell server. Again, buying support is a must. IRC-IT is not repairing servers of research groups.

Remember to provide sufficient power, and network access (contact Service Desk for Faculty and Staff before placing the server, see #Network Access below). You should also consider the higher noise level of server hardware. Mind possible physical requirements based on your applications, esp. data protection law!

Advantages:

  • full access
  • solid server technology

Disadvantages:

  • full access also means full range of failure possibilities
  • noise and heat production
  • reliable operation requires additional infrastructure, esp. uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and locked door

Software Setup

Either your application or research requirements, or your available knowledge, will guide the selection of an operating system.

IRC-IT will not install the operating system for you. First operating system installation will require physical access to the machine.

Linux Setup

This doesn't cost anything. IRC-IT is providing a mirror server for various linux distributions, esp. SuSE Linux at ftp://mirror.iu-bremen.de/ to speed up download.

Intimate Linux knowledge can often be found at Jacobs University's student body.

Microsoft Windows Setup

This requires purchasing licenses. Please note, that purchasing a desktop pc as cheap server solution does include a MS Windows desktop software license, but it does not include a MS Windows Server license. Please contact the purchasing department.

Based on required services, additional product licenses (i.e., MS SQL Server) are required.

Also mind to specify the language version required. Please note, that some applications or services require specific language versions of the operating system.

Maintenance

IRC-IT unfortunately can not maintain servers of research groups, neither hardware, nor software, nor configuration, nor user management, nor data integrity.

You are required to maintain the hardware, operating system, and all installed software on the server, as well as user management.

You also have to ensure compliance to Jacobs University's policy, esp. including the General Policy Governing the Appropriate Use of Computer Resources and Note of the President banning peer2peer software. All online IT-policies are available at Policies. A good summarization to follow is Requirements for Use of Private Computers in Jacobs University Network, which basically also applies to self-managed servers.

Technical requirements summary:

  • The operating system and all employed software must be held up-to-date.
  • A functional virus scanner must be installed and used, and the corresponding virus data must be held up-to-date.
  • Only functional and standard-compliant cabling must be used.
  • No physical force is to be used against any equipment.

Network Access

Your server should most likely be reachable at it's distinct name. It often is also required to be reachable from outside Jacobs University's network. It also needs to have a network plug.

Before setting up a server, and having settled the various options above, you have to contact Service Desk for Faculty and Staff to clarify:

  • the permanent network address of the machine
  • if that address should be reachable from outside Jacobs University
  • the network name of the machine
  • which services are running on the machine and which should be accessible from where.

Backup

Mind backup! Please perform self-reliant backup, e.g. with an additional (external) harddisk, or by regularly burning data to CD or DVD (a DVD burner and the required software is then a hardware requirement upon purchase!).

It is possible to be included in the IRC-IT university-wide backup system. Please contact Service Desk for Faculty and Staff with your requirements, esp. incl. amount of data to be saved and in which interval, and the exact operating system version you are employing, to discuss the options. In any case, you will have to regularly provide consistent data in a directory to be saved. Database connectors to backup online databases are not available.

SLA

After negotiating the various options for server hosting, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) will result fixing the role of IRC-IT in provisioning the service. For exemplary current SLAs, see All SLAs.

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