HP ProLiant ML310 G2
The HP ProLiant ML310 Generation 2 (G2) is a slightly souped-up version of HP's basic ProLiant ML110 series server. Though both are designed for small businesses, the ML310 includes more setup help and a higher price than its lower-end sibling, along with the same easy expandability and satisfying support. Unless you're a server whiz, we recommend saving yourself some setup headaches by shelling out a few more bucks for the ML310.
No matter how simple a manufacturer tries to make its server's setup process, these machines are inherently more complex--and therefore more difficult to configure--than a largely boot-and-go PC. That said, HP puts forth a generally good effort at simplifying the ProLiant ML310 G2's setup. The process begins with the company's SmartStart utility, which scans the system's hardware to ensure that all parts are in working order. The program then takes you through a series of questions that determine particular settings for the operating system, which in our case was Windows Server 2003. Your answers inform the operating system how you want to use the server--for example, whether you want the system to manage your office e-mail, Web access, FTP transfers, and more. Though SmartStart's questions were a bit easier to understand than those of the Windows Server OS, they'll still read like Greek to anyone without at least an intermediate understanding of computers and networking.
The final step in the ML310 G2's setup process involves installing HP's helpful System Insight Manager application. It provides mind-easing oversight features such as identification of all the PCs that should (and shouldn't) be on your network; advance warning of system failures; and time-saving deployment of systemwide upgrades from the server itself. The application's System Management Homepage conveniently aggregates these features in a well-organized Web-based interface. The main limitation with the ML310 is that it supports only a single processor and doesn't offer a Xeon processor configuration.