Dell – PowerEdge R310 review

Small Business rack-mount server
Photo of Dell – PowerEdge R310
From £698 + VAT to £2,199 + VAT as reviewed

With a starting price of just under £700, Dell’s new PowerEdge R310 is a remarkably affordable server, well within the scope of most small business buyers. With a single processor, 32GB of memory and just four internal disks, it’s not the biggest or fastest on the market, but for many people that won’t be an issue. Indeed the only gotcha is having to pay a lot more than that tempting starting price in order to get the kind of spec most users actually need.

Designed similarly to appeal to buyers of both small business and branch office servers, the R310 is a compact rack-mount product, just 1U high. Ours came with a second redundant power supply fitted and, when powered up, proved both power efficient and a lot quieter than its predecessor, the R210. However it does have five internal fans, each with twin rotors, so still makes quite a bit of noise and, as such, is best banished to a room of its own.

The chassis is solid and well made, and the lid removes entirely for access. It’s pretty good on the inside too, with the cables all neatly routed and secured, lots of plastic ducting to keep everything cool, and underneath the socket for the CPU with six memory slots alongside.

Five different processors are listed for the R310, all quad-core Intel Xeons, with one 45Watt chip (the 1.86GHz L3426) on the list plus four 95Watt processors ranging in speed from 2.4GHz to 2.93GHz. Ours had a fairly meaty 2.66GHz X3450 in place, but price differentials here aren’t massive and you may just as well go for the fastest on offer (the 2.93GHz X3470) as it only adds £50 + VAT to the price of the one we were sent.

The review system also had 16GB of DDR3 memory, adding over £900 + VAT to the price of the 1GB base setup. More than 16GB can be fitted if you want, but only by switching to RDIMM which is a lot more expensive than the UDIMM memory fitted as standard, a full complement of 32GB adding £2,184 + VAT to that amazingly low starting price.

On the storage front there’s space for four internal hard disks and it’s tempting to save money here by choosing fixed rather than hot-swappable drive bays. Some care is needed, however, as hot-swap bays are a chassis option and can’t be changed later. Moreover, at just £42 + VAT extra, it’s hardly worth leaving out.

Ours had the hot-swap bays and came with a pair of 2.5-inch 146GB SAS drives. It also shipped with a Dell PERC H200A RAID controller, required to enable the disks to be hot-swapped. Other than that, you can specify a variety of SATA/SAS disks, up to 2TB in capacity, with support also for solid state drives. Go for those, however, and the price really will rocket, with 100GB SSDs listed at £1,410 + VAT apiece on the Dell website.

Elsewhere you get a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports as standard with, on the review system, an optional iDRAC6 Express remote management controller adding a Web-based remote console. Dell’s unique Lifecycle controller, found on all the latest PowerEdge servers, is also included on the R310, making for simple configuration without the need to go hunting around for driver disks.

And that’s about it, apart from saying that we were impressed with what the R310 had to offer and that it performed well in all our tests. It’s not the fastest kid on the server block but, suitably kitted out, will handle file and print sharing with ease as well as cope with more specialist duties such as hosting email, Web and database applications.

Most buyers will, of course, have to pay a lot more than the £698 starting price to get what they need, and an operating system isn’t included. However, as with other Dell servers, the R310 is certified for all the latest Windows Server products, including Small Business Server 2008, which can be pre-installed for £667 + VAT, to provide the finishing touch to this capable small business platform.

Company: Dell

Contact: 0844 444 4155

Although limited to just one processor, 32GB of RAM and four internal hard disks, the Dell PowerEdge R310 is, nevertheless, a capable small business server that can be configured to cope with a wide range of applications. The processor can be chosen from the quad-core Xeon family, RAM is DDR3 and the disks can be hot-swappable SAS with RAID protection. Redundant power is yet another option along with impressive remote management facilities, all in a robust and accessible 1U rack-mount package. You will have to pay extra to get the spec you need, but it's worth it.