It makes sense to buy online from a reliable source

It makes sense to buy online from a reliable source

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

Conventional wisdom has it that if you are buying a server, you should start with first-tier vendors such as Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and NEC America Inc.

It comforts many buyers to know that they are dealing with a reputable family of server products, such as Compaq's ProLiant, Dell's PowerEdge, HP's NetServer, NEC's Express5800 and IBM's Netfinity series.

I can't argue with that logic, particularly if the servers in question meet the manufacturers' usually high standards of performance and serviceability at good prices, as all of the first-tier product lines listed do. But don't ignore the potential value of servers from vendors such as Gateway Inc. that have built solid reputations for online computer sales.

I like it when I am able to easily configure a server directly from the Web site of a manufacturer I respect. So, starting with an imaginary server budget of $3,500, I tinkered with the server configuration pages on the Web sites of all the manufacturers noted above.

I found excellent server products, along with Web sites that allow you to configure your own server fairly easily. Of the bunch, I liked Dell's Web site and its highly configurable PowerEdge 1300 single-processor server the best.

The PowerEdge 1300's base price was $1,444, so I added an 800-MHz Pentium III processor for $675 and 128M of synchronous dynamic RAM for another $144.

An Intel 440BX chip set with a 100-MHz front-side bus comes standard with the unit. Because I wanted an integrated SCSI controller in case I needed an additional controller for my SCSI hard drive, I chose a 2940 PCI SCSI Controller Card from Adaptec Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., for an additional $143. My total at that point amounted to $2,406, but I hadn't yet finished the configuration.

There's always later

I bypassed the typical 9.1G hard drive for an 18.2G Ultra2 LVD SCSI drive running at 7,200 rpm, for $135. I knew that I could add a RAID controller and extra drives later.

Dell's servers come pre-installed with network controllers, and I didn't quibble with the Intel Pro 100+ NIC that was already installed. But I did choose to pre-install Microsoft Windows 2000 Server with five client access licenses for an additional $719.

The total: $3,260.'Having come close to my imaginary $3,500 account, I stopped there because the PowerEdge already came standard with a 1.44M disk drive, 40X CD-ROM, keyboard and Microsoft mouse.

I couldn't afford one of Dell's PowerVault tape drive systems, so I gambled on doing without one for a month or so. My existing UPS will provide power and surge protection for my new server.'What I wound up with was a powerful server able to meet my imaginary needs with plenty of room to grow.

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