Friday, 13 April 2012

Configuring the server

After the hardware is all assembled, the next step is to configure the BIOS - or in this instance (because the board is one of the newer Intel boards) the UEFI firmware. Since our setup uses the two SSD's in a RAID1 configuration, part of the UEFI configuration is setting up the RAID array. We decided to use RAID1 because it offers data redundancy and guards against catastrophic hardware failure - basically, if one of the drives goes down, the server will continue to run - as long as the other drive continues to operate. We are using SSD's in the build because they are more resistant to failure, much better performing, and allow us to have very fast boot/login/shutdown times to minimize any downtime for updates (which would be performed at night when almost nobody would be on the server). SSD's also happen to be very shock tolerant. Basically the whole server could be dropped off a shelf while it's running without any data loss - and with long enough cables, without any interruption in services.

We set up the server to not configure any unnecessary components. In this case, the on board High Definition audio is not really necessary, but it takes up time in the boot sequence - which is why it was disabled. We optimized the available RAM by turning the amount of video memory for the onboard Intel HD 3000 video down to 128mb. If this server was also to be used as a media center, we would have left it at 1gb, but most servers have 8mb of video memory or less (most servers don't even have monitors hooked up to them).

Many of the other settings were left as they were, but the one other setting we changed was a special fast-boot setting that also happened to increase the security of the server many times over. This specific setting both disabled the ability to boot the server from USB keys (which would permit tampering with the server) and it also makes the server boot silently (no boot logo or messages displayed during boot) which makes BIOS tampering more difficult while allowing the server to boot much quicker.

That's all for this post, but expect more soon as we set up and configure the server. Next up: installing CentOS

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