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Dell PowerEdge 830 – UK Exclusive! Review

Verdict

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Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £2033.00

Introducing Dell’s range of performance pedestal servers, the latest PowerEdge 830 is aimed at a wide range of applications including remote offices and workgroups, or small businesses looking for their first server but with a bit more power on tap. It brings in support for Intel’s Pentium D processor which offers the bonus of dual-core processing but at a similar price to standard Pentium 4 based systems.


As we’ve come to expect from Dell the 830 is very well built. Its solid steel chassis looks up to the job of small office duties and physical security is better than most as the front panel can be key locked which also blocks access to the side panel thumbscrew. Removing the side panel reveals a reasonably tidy interior although it’s not as clean as Armari’s DC945G Server. The loose IDE and power cables do increase internal clutter but we found access to all key components was generally unimpeded.


The 3GHz Pentium D processor sits near the top of the Dell motherboard and is surmounted by one of the tallest passive heatsinks we’ve yet seen. This in turn is covered by an easily removable plastic shroud that directs air over the memory modules and processor heatsink. All cooling is handled by a large fan at the rear but the shroud makes sure that air is drawn through the front panel and over the hard disks first. Another advantage is that once the variable speed fan has settled down after initial power up, noise levels are low enough to allow this system to sit unobtrusively on the desktop.


For your money you get a pair of fast 512MB PC2-4200 memory modules and the motherboard supports up to 8GB. Expansion is further helped by a pair of 133MHz PCI-X and a single 32-bit PCI slot plus x1 and x8 PCI Express slots. Storage is well catered for with a triplet of 74GB Maxtor SATA/150 hard disks in residence, while the drive cage has room for one more. The motherboard does offer a quad of embedded SATA interfaces but RAID is on the menu in the shape of Dell’s CERC 1.5 six-channel PCI controller card and the three drives came configured as a RAID-5 fault tolerant array. A nice touch is that spare SATA and power cables are already in position and ready to receive the extra drive.

For server management Dell delivers an outstanding package that offers both local and remote administrative access. First up is the bundled OpenManage software suite which comprises Dell’s Server Administrator, IT Assistant and Array Manager utilities. They are easy enough to load as you can install the components for a server that is to be managed or those that will turn a system into a management console. The browser-based Server Administrator looks after local management and offers plenty of tools for monitoring all the motherboard sensors. You can keep an eye on processors, fans, memory and hard disks and tie in hardware faults to an extensive alerting system so warnings can be linked to network broadcasts, running an application and sending emails.


The IT Assistant is aimed at Dell-centric networks as it is designed to remotely monitor and manage all manner of Dell systems including servers, workstations and notebooks that have the relevant agent software installed. It scans the network, builds a list of all discovered systems and provides basic inventories. It offers many features found in Server Administrator as you can also remotely monitor critical components and link problems with alerts. The motherboard also sports as standard an IPMI 1.5 compliant BMC (baseboard management controller) although the mode of access is not as good as you have to use a command prompt and control the server using basic text commands. However, you can recycle power, turn the server on and off and remotely flash the server’s status LED on the front panel.


Even so, this isn’t needed here as Dell has included its DRAC 4/P remote management PCI card which comes with its own processor, graphics controller and 10/100Mbit/sec Ethernet port and also provides direct access to the server over the network irrespective of its condition. The card is configured first from its BIOS menu where you provide basic IP address details and create lists of authorised users and passwords. You can then connect to the server over a secure browser session, view the card’s properties and remotely control the server and its power.


Another valuable feature of this system is that the price quoted to us by Dell includes its top level Gold support package. If you really can’t afford to lose your server for more than a few hours then this will make a difference as it provides three years of full 24/7 on-site support with a four hour response time.


”’Verdict”’


Small businesses looking for their first purpose built server will always have Dell on their shopping list as a contender. It’s easy to see why as this manufacturer has consistently offered a solid range of systems at highly competitive prices. The PowerEdge 830 delivers a fine specification for the price which includes plenty of RAID protected storage and a wealth of remote server management and monitoring facilities.



Dell’s Server Administrator provides plenty of operational information and a good fault alerting system.

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The DRAC 4/P PCI card adds an extra dimension to remote server management.

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A very boring interface but the IPMI controller provides full remote access to server power.

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A pile of storage for the price which can also be remotely managed and configured.

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