Review: The FileEngine FE1025

Savvy businesspeople know that in order to calculate the cost of technology you need to consider not just the purchase price, but also the ongoing money and time spent on maintenance and updates. That’s why many small organizations with limited IT budgets and know-how approach the purchase of a much-needed server with some reluctance.

The FileEngine from Server Partners aims to remedy this problem by minimizing the cost and the complexity of server ownership and operation for small firms. This specialized, streamlined file server puts a decided emphasis on the things most small businesses care most about — namely, data storage, sharing and protection.

Hardware Features

A quick glance at the FileEngine suggests it’s something other than a garden-variety small business server. Aside from the aluminum case and bright red paint job, there’s a four-line LCD display with a quartet of accompanying buttons on the unit’s front bezel.

Our evaluation unit was an entry-level FE1025 model, powered by a Pentium 4 CPU, 256 MB of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, dual-layer DVD-RW drive, and pair of swappable 160 GB hard drives in a RAID 1 mirror configuration.  While the FileEngine’s processor and memory specs seem unimpressive, they’re more than sufficient to run the FileEngine’s, Novell SuSE Enterprise Linux operating system.

FileEngine handles data storage, sharing and protection while minimizing the cost and complexity of owning a server.

But you really don’t need to know or care what the server’s underlying operating system (OS) is, because to maximize reliability and make administration as painless as possible, most of the FileEngine’s operations take place invisibly, with only a few of key tasks left exposed to the customer.

For example, the FileEngine ships without the usual input/output peripherals like a keyboard, monitor and mouse. Instead, you use the LCD control panel to perform basic operations like initiating manual backups to DVD and performing a diagnostic to verify the FileEngine’s network connectivity.

Server Administration

The FileEngine ships with features such as user accounts, group memberships, and shared folders already pre-configured. These and other customer-specific configuration details are specified in advance when a FileEngine order is placed, either directly by the customer or a reseller.

A Windows utility called the FileEngine Administration Tool (FEAT) lets you add, edit or delete user, group, or folder information once the FileEngine’s up and running. The FEAT utility is easy to use and only capable of the aforementioned basic administrative tasks, which keeps critical server settings from being inadvertently modified.

Use of the FEAT, as well as operation of the FileEngine’s front-panel controls (via a PIN code), is reserved for what Server Partners calls the Key Operator, a specially trained person, typically the small business owner or his or her designee.

The FileEngine supports either Windows or Mac clients, and one of the nice things about the SuSE Linux OS is unlike Windows server, it doesn’t require client licenses, so adding users is easy and doesn’t cost extra.

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