There are plenty of servers aimed at small businesses — and plenty of SMEs still using a beefy desktop PC as a server instead. Dell thinks that's because the average server is too complex to set up and manage.
"When the server shows up it looks different, the boot looks different and you have seven CDs and the operating manual goes on for ever", says Aamir Paul, Director of Dell's Advanced Systems group. According to Paul, small businesses often feel they need a partner to come in, or they need to hire a specialist, or that the server is designed for someone else.
Dell's new 11G PowerEdge servers are meant to be more approachable. The £509 PowerEdge T110 is a Xeon 3400 tower system the size of a desktop PC, and it's the first small-business model with Dell's new Lifecycle Controller 1.2. This puts the drivers for all the server operating systems that Dell supports in flash memory on the motherboard, making setup much simpler.
The £619 PowerEdge R210 puts similar features in a 1U chassis, so you could double-stack it or buy a half-size rack — good for a small business with a small office. The R210 has the lowest power consumption of any PowerEdge server, according to Dell.
These aren't the cheapest servers a small business could buy, but the price is low for the set of features included and Lifecycle Controller looks to simplify setup and maintenance significantly. They're not the only servers with eSATA ports either, but Dell's suggestion that this will simplify porting data from desktops and workstations to a business's first server is well made — too many server solutions expect the business to have a server to migrate from in the first place. Dell is also including UPS options, which is sensible, as many businesses buying a first server won't have considered power issues.
Even the promise of being able to get up to 4TB of data online in fifteen minutes isn't enough to make the £1,970 price tag for the matching PowerVault NX300 Windows Storage server 2008 NAS a bargain. However, it does include single-instance storage and data deduplication, which isn't as common in devices aimed at small businesses. The mix of simplicity and features makes these servers better thought-out products than many entry-level products.