Small Business Server Review: HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8 - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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Small Business Server Storage Features

The MicroServer Gen 8’s storage bays are not hot-pluggable, meaning that you need to shut down the server before you can add or replace a hard drive.  What’s a bit more disappointing is that while the server offers built-in support for RAID 0, 1 and 10 (striping, mirroring, and striping plus mirroring, respectively), it offers none for RAID 5.

HP MicroServer Gen8 small business server

Figure 3: The server’s easy-to-remove cover provides access to internal components (including the internal drive bay lock).

The upshot of this is that data redundancy will cost 50 percent of your raw drive capacity rather than the 25 percent you’d lose with RAID 5 in a four-drive setup. Put another way, filling all four bays with 3 TB drives will net you only 6 TB of usable storage. You can add RAID 5 capability to the MicroServer Gen8 by installing an upgraded controller in the PCIe slot, though it costs as much as the server does.    

Simplified Monitoring and Management

Regardless of which version you choose, what sets the MicroServer Gen 8 apart from others of its ilk are features that streamline server deployment and maintenance, features that were heretofore found only on HP’s larger and more expensive servers.

Case in point:  iLO, HP’s dedicated interface for remote control and management. With it you can power the server on or off and monitor the status of virtually all server components. The MicroServer Gen8 includes a basic iLO license which omits features such as a remote console and the ability to mount virtual media (e.g. ISO files). Most small businesses probably won’t need these features, but if you do, you can add them by upgrading to an iLO Essentials license ($153 for three years).   

Next there’s Intelligent Provisioning, which greatly simplifies setting up the MicroServer Gen8 and its operating system. Upon powering up the server, we hit F10 to launch Intelligent Provisioning, and within a few clicks the server updated itself to the most recent firmware, which had been downloaded from HP’s website.

Then, we were able to automate the server OS installation (in our case, Windows Server 2012 Essentials) by specifying parameters in advance—including IP addresses and acceptance of the EULA—without having to feed the server DVDs containing hardware drivers or other software.

The HP PS1810-8G managed 8-port Gigabit switch

Figure 4: The HP PS1810-8G managed 8-port Gigabit switch shares a footprint with the MicroServer Gen8 so youu can stack it on top or beneath the server.

Although it’s sold separately from the MicroServer Gen8, its worth mentioning HP’s PS1810-8G, an 8-port, managed Gigabit Ethernet switch (switches connect servers to the PCs on a network). The PS1810-8G's footprint equals that of the MicroServer Gen8, so you can stack it on top or underneath. Plus it can auto-discover the MicroServer Gen8 (or any other HP Gen8 server) so you can monitor and manage both switch and server from one place. It can also receive its power from an upstream switch via PoE. The switch sells for about $150 from CDW.

Bottom Line

We would prefer the MicroServer Gen8 with built-in RAID 5 and perhaps a CPU with more oomph than a Pentium, such as a Xeon or even a Core i3. HP sells Core and Xeon-equipped MicroServers in other parts of the world, but not in North America yet. 

However, considering the server’s low starting price, broad OS support, and the iLO and Intelligent Provisioning, we think many small businesses will find the tradeoff worthwhile, making the HP MicroServer Gen8 a serious contender.  

Price: $449 to $929, depending on model

Pros: inexpensive, compact, and quiet; includes integrated remote management and automated OS setup; support for multiple operating systems

Cons: hard drives not hot-pluggable; no RAID 5 support

Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.

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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This article was originally published on January 13, 2014
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