Dell PowerEdge R210 II: Sweet, low-end server

Dell's new and improved 1U, single-socket R210 server pinches pennies and power consumption

The Dell PowerEdge R210 II "ultra-compact rack server" is like the Chrysler PT Cruiser: a little bit of styling for a minimal budget. The original Dell R210 earned a reputation as a bang-for-your-buck server for companies that need remote management capabilities on a shoestring budget. The R210 II follows in its footsteps and walks another mile. Low total cost of ownership, compact size, ease-of-use, and flexibility make the R210 II a great alternative to rivals such as the HP ProLiant DL120 and the IBM System x3250.

Aimed at small and midsize businesses, the R210 II is best suited for data protection, remote access, intranet setup, or as a secure file server. Built-in redundant hard drives are an option, and of course the R210 II can be ordered in various processor, memory, and storage configurations to suit your needs. The price is right. The configuration we tested -- Intel Xeon 3.10GHz, 8GB of RAM, 1TB 7.2K SAS drive -- goes for just $1,711.

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The low total cost of ownership includes minimal energy use as well as features that reduce the time taken to administer and run the unit. Our team tested the server over a 54-hour period and found that it consumed 1.84 kilowatts of energy. (Note that it was not running heavy, processor-intensive tasks -- which it should not be if it is being used for its intended purposes.) That comes to around 0.82 kilowatt a day, and with a conservative estimate of 25 cents per kilowatt hour, that's around $75 a year or a little over $6 a month.

The server operates most efficiently at 90 percent utilization, and it offers efficiency advantages over a desktop or tower system. This is due to the engineering that has created superior cooling through the rack design. The R210 II is also vastly quieter than the original model, which sounded like a lawnmower through a closed window. The R210 II sounds more like a personal fan on the lowest setting -- a huge improvement.

Dell PowerEdge R210 II: Made for remote management
The R210 II server is easy to use and manage. It comes standard with the Dell baseboard management controller (BMC), and it can be upgraded to include a lifecycle controller known as iDRAC6, which adds Web-based monitoring and management capabilities. The BMC enables administrators to discover, configure, and manage the server remotely or via a local GUI or command-line interface. In addition to supporting asset tracking, automatic alerting, manual remote restart, and power control, the BMC can use Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) to query platform status, review hardware logs, define alerts on monitored events, or issue other requests from the remote console.

If you don't want the hassle of operating the server yourself, you can pay Dell around $80 a year to do it for you. Proactive Systems Management is a remote support service through which Dell monitors and manages your server's health, performing many of the same functions provided through the BMC. Dell techs are able to see a snapshot of the server's console screen (updated every 30 seconds). Proactive Systems Management also delivers important data to administrators, including the server model, power state, operating system, and configuration details. The last 10 recently logged events in the server's system event log are also provided to help debug tech issues.

Our R210 II came with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation and an Intel Xeon "Sandy Bridge" CPU (Model E3-1220). This processor has four cores but only one thread per core.

The R210 II can handle up to 32GB of memory. It has two drive bays (supporting 4TB of maximum internal storage), two Gigabit Ethernet NICs, a DVD-ROM drive, and a Matrox G200eW video card with 8MB of video memory. There is a VGA port in the front and back. In addition, there are two USB ports in the front, two USB ports in the back, and one eSATA port in the back. The system will support Windows Small Business Server 2011, Windows Server 2008, and several versions of Red Hat and Novell Suse Linux. We tested only with Windows Server 2008 Foundation.

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