The new Dell PowerEdge 830 server straddles the line between bare-bones servers, such as Dell's own PowerEdge SC430, and fully loaded machines, such as Gateway's 9510. The PowerEdge 830 offers a broad range of components that serve everyone from budget-minded small businesses to medium-size companies: Celeron D, Pentium 4, or dual-core Pentium D processors; slower SATA or scorching SCSI hard drives; and more. Every PowerEdge 830 ships with Dell's handy OpenManage program, which helps companies keep tabs on the systems attached to the server. The only reason for small to medium-size businesses not to consider this generally well-rounded server is if they need the power of dual processors; in that case, they can consider buying a slightly more full-featured system, such as the IBM eServer xSeries 226.
Businesses that will choose the midrange PowerEdge 830 have probably been around a while, meaning they likely have someone on staff with technical know-how. Though these people should be able to set up the server, they can still fall back on Dell's OpenManage Server Assistant software for help. The application guides you through essential steps in the setup process, prompting you for information on your company's network and how you plan to implement the server. It also steers you through the maze of installing whatever operating system you've picked for the system and assists with advanced capabilities, such as choosing a level of RAID protection for your SCSI hard drives (if you've configured the server with them). While the OpenManage Server Assistant software could stand a more comprehensive user guide, it's a general, helpful way to get through the sometimes-painful steps involved in setting up a server.
Unlike the PowerEdge SC430, the PowerEdge 830 offers management software beyond the OpenManage Server Assistant. The PowerEdge 830 comes equipped with the complete OpenManage suite, which features several individual programs for observing and upgrading the systems on your network. Those programs include Server Administrator, which monitors the health of network systems, lets you perform system upgrades, and alerts you in advance of impending system failures; Array Manager, which helps specifically with storage-device management; and IT Assistant, which keeps an inventory of devices on the network and also provides further fault-monitoring capabilities. Dell goes above and beyond the usual standard of documentation by shipping the PowerEdge 830 with dozens of comprehensive user guides pertaining to each OpenManage application.
Like most midrange servers, the PowerEdge 830 offers a largish tower-style case that makes it look like an oversize PC. You can conveniently crack open the case without tools by swinging open the door that covers the front bezel, using your fingers to untwist a setscrew that lies underneath, then sliding off the side panel. The inside of the case contains a moderate number of expansion bays and slots, starting with four ECC DIMM memory slots. The PowerEdge 830 can also accommodate up to four SATA or hot-swappable SCSI hard drives; one extra 5.25-inch media drive, such as a DVD-ROM/CD-RW; and a 3.5-inch floppy drive. Finally, it provides six I/O slots--one 32-bit PCI, two 64-bit PCI-X, and three PCI Express.
The ample selection of components available for the PowerEdge 830 allows you to configure the server to fit your company's needs. That selection consists of Intel Celeron D, Pentium 4, and new dual-core Pentium D processors running from 2.53GHz to 3.6GHz; between 256MB and 8GB of ECC DDR2 RAM; 80GB to 250GB SATA hard drives spinning at 7,200rpm; 73GB to 300GB SCSI hard drives at 10,000rpm or 36GB and 73GB SCSI hard drives at 15,000rpm; optional RAID controllers with varying levels of support; optical storage drives in three flavors--CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and DVD-ROM/CD-RW; onboard Gigabit Ethernet; the Intel E7230 chipset; and multiple server operating systems, including Novell NetWare, SuSE, and Red Hat Linux and Microsoft Small Business Server 2003. CNET's server buying guide can point you toward the appropriate parts for your business.
The $3,352 price of our PowerEdge 830 evaluation system (as of August 2005) provokes a slight case of sticker shock, but the system is also fairly well stocked. Its component arsenal includes a 3GHz Pentium D processor, 1GB of memory, four 160GB SATA hard drives, a RAID 5 controller, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, and a three-year warranty. While this configuration should offer enough power and storage to accommodate a small office for a while, larger businesses that need more of both should build their systems with a faster processor, more memory, and faster, larger SCSI hard drives.
The PowerEdge 830 ships with a long three-year warranty that includes convenient next-business-day onsite support. However, its phone-support policy may be inconvenient for some companies, since you can call only Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in your local time zone.