Architecture Recommendations

Small but growing church currently has 1 physical Small Business 2011 server. This server is the DC, hosts the file share, and hosts 1 financial application. The server is old, the file share is almost out of space, and the OS needs to be upgraded.

My thoughts are a virtual environment looking like:
2 – DCs
1 – File Server/appliance
1 – App Server
Monitoring and backups

In my head I picture the architecture and capability of a VxRail setup but at the Microsoft Non-Profit price :joy:
Maybe VMware vSphere Essentials Plus, 3 used servers, and some kind of NAS/SAN? I’m guess this is about $20K.

What would you recommend?

I would honestly not get into the used-server + cheap SAN game for any reason, especially for something that simple. If you can’t make cloud-first work (try really, really, really hard), AzureAD, OneDrive (maybe Azure File Shares for some stuff that can’t move), move the account package to Azure (or replace it with something modern) and save yourself a lot of complexity and cost.


So would you keep one DC on-site with one in the cloud or something different?

I think what @codatory is saying is to get out of the business of having a managed Active Directory infrastructure entirely unless you have a really, really good reason to keep doing that. If you are not already set up, get everyone going on Office 365 with E3 licenses, move your file share to Sharepoint Online or Teams, move your accounting package to Azure (use the non-profit credit to cover this cost). You can join Windows 10 computers to AzureAD and use Intune for management instead of on-prem AD with Group Policy.

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I agree with @codatory, if you can move cloud first, that is ideal.

If you do need to keep equipment onsite I’d recommend purchasing a new server. I’m personally partial to Dell PowerEdge servers. I rarely have issues with these guys.

Also, if you can find a vendor who sells a similar solution for less, I’ve found that Dell will usually match the pricing. I’ve used Candoris as a VAR a few times and have liked what I’ve gotten from them thus far.

For storage I’d recommend using a NAS rather than a SAN unless you really need the added complexity.

In addition, I’d recommend using Microsoft Hyper-V over VMWare. While they have similar featuresets and VMWare has been in the game longer, as a nonprofit you can use Hyper-V for almost nothing!

Three servers is good, I’d set up two as Virtual Hosts and the third as a file server. :slight_smile:

I disagree somewhat with others in that an on-site server is still pretty handy as intune has a ways to go to catch up to AD, some LOB stuff realistically needs on-prem, WSUS can be helpful, printers aren’t made for intune, some churches are located in rural areas with lousy internet, Radius for WiFi, etc. That being said, for a small church you are over engineering and over budgeting… a lot! Most small churches would only need server essentials linked to Azure AD/O365 and a backup/DR plan (Veeam, Cloudberry, Datto, etc.). Factoring growth, I’d need to see their stats, but I doubt they will outgrow that within the replacement cycle of a microserver/T30 (also, remember that growth curves are not linear as they nearly always decrease quite a bit with church size). Even with a couple thousand members you are usually still in small office territory unless the church has overstaffed.

For $20k over 3 years, a lot of those challenges can be overcome. But, yeah, if you can’t then don’t. But if you need that kind of availability for a file share and accounting package, a couple Internet lines, SDWAN and Azure are a much better option.

You might want to just get one good Dell server with plenty of RAM to handle AD, File and Hyper-V Server. Raid 1 for OS and Raid 5/6 for Fileshare. Then link Office365 to your AD to start getting the staff to move their files to OneDrive (1TB each free) or Sharepoint (1 TB shared + 30GB@user) sharing the same credentials. You might be able to keep your existing server by upgrading it to Window Server 2016 after migration then use it as the secondary DC.

If you really want to good separate NAS at a lower price point, I would recommend getting a Synology. An on-premise NAS is good for large files for video and photo editing needs. And good to archive older sermons. Do consider CAT6A in the future if you are planning new cables.