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Review: Dell PowerEdge T310 Tower Server

PowerEdge-T310Another day, another server to review. This time I’m looking at a tower server that is likely more of a small business powerhouse. This time, I would be replacing another Dell server that was long on years and short on reliability. While reviewing the PowerEdge T310 server, I’ll let you know what I liked, what wasn’t so great and provide any suggestions I have for Dell for general improvements.

As shipped, here are the specifications of the server:CPU:

Intel Xeon Processor X3440
(8M Cache, 2.53 GHz)
Physical Drives: 3 x 1 TB SATA
RAM: 8 GB RDIMM
RAID Configuration: RAID 5
No Operating System (Server 2003 Planned)

The Good
– Based on what I was doing – I wanted to use Windows Server 2003 R2. I checked the Drivers page for the server and found driver support for 2003 – so, naturally I expect the install CD to include support for 2003 Server, and it did.
– The build CD worked as expected, including this kind of thing with a server saves allot of time looking for controller drivers for setup.
– The T310 was tasked with running an older version of SQL Server (2000 SP4) and the speed of the DBMS was noticeably faster on this server. I was more than mildly impressed with how nice the T310 performed across the board.

Annoyances
– The system build CD was included, but the system didn’t boot to it immediately. because there was no OS, I had to change the boot order or select the CD
– There were two virtual disks setup in the BIOS – one 64 GB and one of 1.7 TB – the 64 GB (Boot) was the second drive.. I wanted to do this the other way around and had to swap the virtual disks in the BIOS.
– At times the server was quite loud. The back case fan seem to be the main culprit for the noise, but I would think Dell had found a way to keep this kind of noise under control.

Ideas
– Once thing I thought would be cool is if Dell created some kind of short link to the Driver and Downloads page for ever machine. What about just http://dell.com/%SERVICECODE% – this could really speed the process of setting up a machine and making sure all drivers and BIOS updates are setup.
– Another thing I’m not fond of is that the build CD requires a very specific version of operating system – right down to the service pack. If you want Server 2003 x64 – you’ll need the R2, SP2 CD, there is no flexibility there. Though the CDs aren’t hard to get – more options or compatibility with a wider range of Operating System versions would be helpful.

Final Thoughts
The PowerEdge T310 is definitely a capable and powerful server for the Small Business looking to replace a production server with more power and reliability. Despite some annoyances, I found the server to be a smooth setup process and, once configured, runs well enough to handle an office of up to 30 users without issue.