will begin offering pricey yet fully loaded servers for small businesses, as it reasserts itself in this burgeoning market and tries to simplify management of these complex machines.
Hewlett-Packard and NEC are also offering servers which support a Microsoft software suite that provides networking and database applications for small businesses.
The Compaq ProSignia 200 Small Business Server bundles Microsoft
BackOffice Small Business Server Suite. The package includes Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0, Microsoft Internet Information Server, Microsoft Fax Server, Microsoft FrontPage 97, Modem Sharing Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and Small Business Server Console.
Analysts believe servers running Microsoft's Windows NT operating system are attractive for small businesses. Dan Kusnetzsky, an analyst at International Data Corporation, said that while NT is struggling to get into large corporations, small and medium-sized organizations have adopted the operating system because of its relative ease-of-use and because many users are asking for it, prompting resellers to gain expertise in installing and selling NT.
Compaq is one of the main hardware providers in this market segment. "Compaq is leading in the small-business market after the no-name clones," said Laurie McCabe, industry analyst at Summit Strategies. "Compaq, HP, and Dell are going to fight it out in the small-business arena."
While McCabe said small businesses would find Compaq's offering attractive, she added that it didn't constitute a huge technical leap forward. Compaq essentially has bundled the basic NT server package with a low-end server.
By contrast, HP has taken more of a lead in customizing its wares for companies without information systems departments. The HP small business server, for example, has red and green lights like a printer to help less tech-savvy workers understand the server's operations.
In the future, Compaq will likely customize its offering to tailor this market better. The company could, for example, come out with scaled-down versions of its SmartStart software package or Insight Manager, which monitors and provides detailed information on server components and subsystems, to fit the needs of small businesses.
Compaq?s ProSignia 200 server can be purchased "ready-to-run" and is capable of networking up to 25 users for the sharing of files, printers, and databases; using electronic mail; accessing the Internet; and sending and receiving faxes directly from the desktop, the company said.
The server also enables small businesses to centrally backup and protect information with tape drives.
But the setup and running of the servers, a complex and glitch-ridden undertaking for larger businesses, is never easy. Compaq?s goal is simply to mitigate the need for constant support: "Small companies need to run their businesses without the need for full-time support," said Mike Perez, vice president of Compaq's Server Products division.
The servers include tools such as the aforementioned Insight Manager, which monitors and provides detailed information on server components and subsystems, and also a program that provides installation guidance. As part of a warranty program, Compaq will replace, at no extra cost, memory and disk drives that are "degraded in performance" but have not yet failed.
The ProSignia 200 ships standard with a 233-MHz Pentium II processor, 64MB of memory, a 4.3GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, a network card, a tape drive for backup, and a 56.6-kbps modem.
A server with a ten-user Microsoft Small Business Server license is available immediately for less than $5,000. Through an arrangement with Compaq Capital, the servers are also available to commercial customers in the U.S. on a 36-month, no-money-down lease starting at $162 per month, for equipment delivered through January 31, 1998.
Separately, Hewlett-Packard (HP) said today that it will "optimize" its HP NetServer E45 systems to support Microsoft Small Business Server. Installation of the Microsoft software will be automated on the server using HP Installation Assistant, part of HP's NetServer Navigator CD-ROM.
Microsoft small business software is scheduled to be available
through the channel, the company said.
NEC, for its part, will offer build-to-order options as well as standard Express5800 servers with Microsoft Small Business Server software.
The NEC Express5800 package will be available
beginning January 1998 directly from NEC Computer Systems Division or through an authorized reseller. Specific configurations and pricing have not been announced.