Dell's Small Biz Server Hits the Sweet Spot

By Patricia Fusco | Posted September 25, 2003

Like Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and others, Dell has been aggressively courting small- and medium-sized businesses over the past few years. Historically, many smaller businesses were forced to buy servers and office hardware from regional resellers or business partners authorized to sell the gear in specific markets. But that makes it challenging for manufacturers to control costs and consequently, pricing.

One way to keep prices low for small businesses is to sell directly to them — something that Dell has been particularly successful at. According to research from IDC, Dell took the top slot in the first quarter of 2003 with 27 percent of the U.S. server shipments made to the SMB market; HP was second with 16 percent. Dell is expecting its new small-business server offering released this week to keep it at the head of the pack.

Dell released an upgraded version of its popular PowerEdge 400SC server in July. The small-business server comes with a Pentium 4 chipset running at 3.2GHz with an 800MHz system bus and up to 4GB of memory. And now, small businesses can order a PowerEdge 400SC server preinstalled with Windows Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition, which includes the Windows Server 2003 operating system and Exchange Server 2003 messaging software, for prices starting at $999.

Scott Siragusa, Dell SMB brand manager, said the system works particularly well for first-time server setups.

"This PowerEdge 400SC works well for first-time server setups in small offices," Siragusa said. "It allows smaller businesses to do business like larger corporations — like set up a file/print system and serve-up e-mail in-house with Microsoft Exchange. The server can even host a small website."

Microsoft put a retail price tag of $599 on the Standard Edition of its Windows Small Business Server 2003. That price is Microsoft's estimate for retail outlets; the actual price is lower to vendors like Dell and HP, which means manufacturers can offer the new software preinstalled on a server for less than $1,000.

The Standard Edition is new to Microsoft's software lineup. It is aimed at businesses with up to 10 PCs that want to enter the world of server-based computing. However, the software remains stable when connecting up to 75 PCs. Because smaller businesses often have limited IT resources, it's critical that their server solutions are easy to use and deploy.

Siragusa said the introduction of the PowerEdge 400SC with Windows Small Business Server 2003 preinstalled is all about offering smaller businesses an exceptional value.

"With the new offering, we're giving small businesses an affordable server solution with enterprise-class technology that allows them to be more competitive," Siragusa said. "Financing and leasing options are also available, making it easier than ever for small businesses to purchase new hardware as they grow."

But buying a server system can be a bit intimidating, especially for smaller businesses. Siragusa said that's why Dell provides small businesses with a single point of contact for all their hardware and software needs.

"Dell serves more than two million small and medium businesses with a dedicated team, and also offers services to help customers assess their computing environments to simplify the design, setup and management of their information systems," Siragusa said. "The single point of contact makes the process a little less intimidating for them."

Dell is also offering Windows Small Business Server 2003 across its line of PowerEdge SC and select PowerEdge tower servers. Dell anticipates offering a similar preinstalled Premium Edition of Windows Small Business Server 2003, which includes technologies from Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft SQL Server 2000, and Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA Server), later this year.

Bill Veghte, corporate vice president of the Windows Server group at Microsoft, said Windows Small Business Server 2003 enables small business customers to easily leverage advanced technology.

"Thanks to the product development work we've done with Dell, customers can purchase Windows Small Business Server 2003 pre-installed and can be up and running in as little as 15 minutes, saving them both time and money," Veghte said. "The systems can help small businesses protect information, enhance employee productivity and better serve customers."

Small business owners are searching for simpler, less expensive ways to run their businesses and to increase their return on information technology investments. By combining Dell's PowerEdge tower servers with Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server 2003, at least small businesses can rest assured that they're getting their money's worth.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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