Small Business Server Review: WD Sentinel DS6100 - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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The WD Sentinel DS6100 Small Business Server Setup

When you first power on the Sentinel DS6100 (you supply your own monitor, keyboard and mouse), it launches a basic setup wizard that requires minimal user input or interaction. After you specify a company name, administrator account name and a password for same, the small business server proceeds to set itself up in an unattended process that takes 20-30 minutes and involves several reboots.

WDS Sentinel DS6100 dashboard

Figure 3: Use the Dashboard to monitor the status of various hardware and software components.

Incidentally, the amount of noise and heat the Sentinel WS6100 emits while operating isn’t much more than an ordinary desktop PC, so you don’t need to locate the server away from your main workspace (although for security reasons you may still want to—you can practically walk out with this thing under your coat).

Once the initial setup is complete, you handle additional configuration tasks such as adding user accounts, creating shared folders, and activating various server features (such as backup, remote access, etc.) via a number of independent wizards.

Although many of the wizards are relatively straightforward to navigate (WD provides inks to detailed online help), the overall process of getting the server fully configured isn't a DIY affair for non-technical business owners or managers. Thus many firms will want to obtain assistance from a VAR or knowledgeable consultant to get the DS6100 operating at its full potential as smoothly as possible.

Case in point: the WS6100’s main storage ships unformatted, so you must initialize it as either a RAID or a pooled Storage Space before you can use it. But by following the setup wizards in the order they’re presented, you’ll set up shared data folders before configuring the storage, thus inadvertently creating them on the dedicated OS drive (though it’s relatively simple to relocate them later).

Once the initial server setup is complete, the DS6100 should not require excessive hands-on care and feeding. The Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Dashboard provides easy access to information about the status of server hardware and software components, and a daily (or hourly) emailed health report keeps you advised of any brewing problems.

Operating Systems Support

On the client side of things, the Sentinel DS6100 supports Windows 8, Windows 7, or Mac OS x 10.5 or later (the DS6100 supports Time Machine backups). Downloading a Connector app from the server onto each system joins it to the domain and optionally imports data and settings from existing Windows profiles to the user’s new domain profile. The Connector also includes a LaunchPad app, which provides convenient access to shared folders, remote access features, and backup settings.

WDS Launchpad app

Figure 4: A Launchpad app (available for Windows or Mac) connects computers to the WD Sentinel DS6100 and provides access to shared folders.

If you're concerned about potentially bumping up against Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials 25 user/ 50 device ceiling, there is an in-place upgrade path to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard, but it comes with caveats. You need to buy client access licenses (CALs) for each connected user or device, and you will lose some Essentials-specific features, but it may still be preferable to a more complicated migration upgrade.

While somewhat pricey on a cost-per-GB basis, the DS6100's price tag seems reasonable given the server’s considerable horsepower and features.  All things considered, the WD Sentinel DS 6100 is a small business server that punches well above its weight.

Price: $3,440 MSRP (8 TB)

Pros: Impressive hardware specs with redundant power supplies, Ethernet, and storage; pre-installed Windows Server OS doesn’t require user licenses; includes automated full backup of client computers and remote control of desktop PCs.

Cons: Expansion beyond 25 users or 50 devices results in the loss of some features; pricier than other servers with comparable storage capacity.

More small business server companies: Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer

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 December 09, 2013
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