A Review of the Acer AC100 Micro Server for Small Business

Back in April we covered Acer’s launching of its AC100 Micro Server for small business. And this month, we got to take it for a test drive to see how well this small business server actually serves small business. We won’t be coy. The system configuration we tested costs $1,399, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better small business server in that price range.

Acer AC100 Small Business Server Configuration

The Acer AC100 Micro Server sports a cube-shape form factor that houses four, 3.5-inch hot-swappable drive bays behind its lockable front panel. The black server — with blue lights and a rather simple, but cool looking orange accent strip on the front — won’t be out of place in an office setting.

The AC100 is a true business class server that offers a choice of three different CPUs: an Intel Pentium, a Core i3 or a Xeon E3. Plus, the server supports a maximum of 16GB of un-buffered DDR3 ECC memory. An integrated VGA port lets you attach a monitor directly to the system, which simplifies troubleshooting.

Acer AC100 Micro Small Business Server

The Acer AC100 Micro Server for Small Business

Rounding out this package: 6 USB ports (two on the front, four on the back), one PCIe x8 slot, Gigabit Ethernet and a solitary eSATA connector; all powered by an energy-efficient, 200W 80 PLUS power supply. The AC100 supports a variety of Windows- and Linux-based operating systems and supports a maximum of 8TB of storage. Intel software RAID provides redundant data protection, offering support for RAID 0, 1, 10 and 5. This optional functionality comes pre-configured by Acer.

You can change the RAID configuration later if you like, upgrading from say a RAID 1 array to a RAID 5 array, but that would force you to wipe the server and reinstall the OS. It should also be noted that you can purchase the AC100  with the operating system (Model AC100s) or without (Model AC100).

This distinction is important because the AC100 provides RAID support for both the Windows and Linux operating systems, whereas the AC100s, which comes with Windows preloaded, provides RAID support only for Windows operating systems, so be sure to plan appropriately.

Testing the Acer AC100 Small Business Server

We evaluated the AC100s model equipped with an Intel E3-1260L 4-core 2.4 GHz processor, paired with 8GB of memory and two 1TB hard drives. These came pre-configured in a RAID 1 array, running the Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials OS. This OS is great choice for small businesses with fewer than 25 users and no dedicated IT personal.

Built on many Windows 2008 server technologies, the SBS 2011 Essentials operating system includes a drastically simplified interface for managing users, shared folders, and day-to-day maintenance. Smart configuration wizards make carrying out even complex functions easy.

The OS includes robust remote access capabilities, allowing employees to access business information from virtually anywhere via an elegant browser-based interface. SBS 2011 also provides users with superior workstation protection, thanks to impressive automated backup capabilities.

As far as the hardware goes, the AC100 performed tremendously. It sat on our desk throughout the evaluation, and during that time it made virtually no noise and produced almost no heat. The easily accessible hard drives make adding capacity quick and easy, and USB ports are conveniently located on the front of the machine.

The lockable front panel secures the power button and hard drives and prevents accidental removal or shutdown. Due to its size, and for added security, the AC100 comes equipped with a Kensington lock slot to help deter theft.

The AC100 disappoints us in three ways. The system lacks USB 3.0 ports and, while we appreciate the form-factor restrictions, the power supply should be easier to replace in case of a failure. Lastly, we’d like the option to upgrade to hardware RAID. It’s just a more reliable solution for a business-class product.

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