IBM eServer xSeries
When choosing their servers, two types of business would do well to consider the IBM eServer xSeries 226: nascent companies that plan to add several employees in the near future, and medium-size businesses that already have. For them, the xSeries 226 offers more than enough hardware and software oomph--such as dual Intel Xeon processors, up to six hot-swappable SCSI hard drives, and extensive management applications--to keep a few dozen employees working efficiently. Small companies intending to stay that way can think about a less full-featured, more economical server, such as the HP ProLiant ML310 G2.
Setting up even the most basic server requires technological know-how, and the eServer xSeries is no exception to this rule. However, IBM takes some of the bite out of the process by providing extra setup assistance. First, the well-written hard-copy installation guide lends a hand with seating hardware essentials such as hard drives and memory modules; the document also helps you make sense of the multiple driver and application CDs that ship with the server. One of those discs includes the IBM ServerGuide, a useful application that walks you through the complex process of configuring the server's hardware components and installing the operating system you choose for the machine.
Another CD features IBM Director, the comprehensive management program that allows you to monitor and alter all of the systems on your network. From within the program's neatly arranged Console window, you can drill down to any cluster of computers on the network, then observe or manipulate it (or an individual system) in numerous ways, such as conducting an inventory scan; evaluating the performance of specific system components, such as processors and memory; watching for potential system failures; or updating drivers and firmware. The program's massive 424-page user guide explains each of the application's features in detail and even provides a glossary that covers important networking terms and acronyms.
Like many other SMB servers, the xSeries 226 we tested has the look of a high-end tower-style computer. Its blackish-gray case lends it a professional air that will make it appear at home in most office environments. After simply using your fingers to untwist a couple of screws, you can easily slide the side panel off, revealing plenty of expansion slots and bays inside the case. The selection includes five different varieties of PCI slots: two 33MHz, 32-bit PCI; two 100MHz, 64-bit PCI-X; one 133MHz, 64-bit PCI-X; and one PCI Express x16. Six more slots accommodate DIMM memory modules. The case also features either four SATA hard-drive bays or six hot-swappable SCSI drive bays, depending on which storage type you order. Secondary storage drives fit inside three additional bays, one of which also supports yet another hard drive. Upgrading each of these bays is quick and convenient due to their toolless installation design.