Buying a server is not that hard – on one hand. You analyze the basic specs (hard disk (type and size), memory, processor options, software and some other things and that’s about all you’ve got to do. However, the problem comes when you need to integrate that server into your existing network, setup backup, migrate applications to it or other things. Maybe you even want to consider moving your web site or other online application from a 3rd party host to its own server.
Calling your local solution provider is what you might think to do, however, Dell is committed to helping small businesses do even these “higher end” chores on their own with advanced server management tools and Microsoft’s Small Business Server
For starters Dell is adding a ton of management software to make managing the server easier overall. Dell also has a feature rich web site, which EDUCATES small businesses about servers.
This web site really helps a small business owner understand how important a server is for their business. Laurie McCabe of AMI Partners said that her research shows that many small businesses still do not have proper network and so the market is ripe for them to purchase servers and network their businesses.
Dell’s server networking basic web site has a series of videos giving an overview of basic server information (benefits, hardware, software) and another overview of step by step tutorials for setting up hardware, software, email and sharing.
As part of this commitment Dell today announced five server models engineered to deliver increased performance, reduced complexity and business-ready solutions for businesses of all sizes. Dell’s press announcement continues – the Dell PowerEdge 1900, 860 and 840 and Dell PowerEdge SC1430 and SC440 servers are designed to help small businesses grow and large businesses that need remote office support. These servers — combined with the availability of Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) R2, Dell OpenManage systems management software and Dell services — reduce complexity and simplify IT operations, allowing customers more time to manage and grow their business.
Dell’s enhanced management offerings provide a wide selection of deployment, monitoring and support tools for Dell servers. Dell Server Assistant ships with every PowerEdge server as a bootable, stand-alone CD-ROM, providing the tools to set up and configure the PowerEdge system components and software.
Resellers who are simply box pushers have no role to play in working with Dell.
Frank Muehleman, vice president of Dell’s U.S. Small Business Group told me that ideally Dell’s solution is simple enough for small businesses to get up and running on their own. If they need more help Dell’s own custom services can help. If the small business owner prefers to work with a local solution provider they have that option, Frank explained.
Although I applaud Dell’s efforts to make their servers simple with management tools and tutorials, I don’t think setting up a network, server, firewall and other hardware/software is as simple as Dell would like to make it. For a small business person that has an in houses IT person setting up a network is relatively easy to do. But if Dell is targeting this setup process for the “average” small business owner who is NOT technically adept it’s MUCH BETTER for them to invest the time for a local solution provider to do the initial server setup and on going maintenance.
Beyond just the server setup, ensuring proper security settings is so critical and a professional should help here as well.
At the end of the day, I think Dell’s message of “do it yourself” server setup is noble, but could be misleading small businesses who try to setup their own network only to get frustrated and have to end up call Dell and/or a local solution provider in the end.
What about other vendors?
HP, Gateway, Lenovo and others all have server management tools (many private label tools from Altiris) and can add Microsoft Small Business Server to their servers. Also they all can provide either direct and/or local solution provider support if the small business owner needs help.
Quite ironically, HP announced today that it’s created an online site with Microsoft for Best Buy For Business employees to achieve the Microsoft Small Business Specialist certification.
Developed, hosted and managed by HP, the Best Buy For Business Certifications Portal is an effort to provide small business customers with high-quality business solutions.
As the first retailer to earn status as a Microsoft Gold Partner, Best Buy combines brick-and-mortar access through select Best Buy stores and a direct reseller channel to bring selection and knowledgeable advice to small business owners and operators. Serving as a site for educating employees, the HP-hosted portal helps Best Buy For Business bring together skills development and learning components from various sources and locations.
If you are looking to work with a local consultant you’ll probably be better working with HP. HP sells direct and via retail channels but is VERY much focused on the channel and is in fact a major support of SMBNation where 600 small business consultants gather each year.
Dell, is clearly focused on direct sales and support. If you are a “do it yourselfer”, if you go to home depot to buy your own floor tiles and put them in – Dell’s the vendor for you.
It of course is NOT this cut and dry as either vendor could work with local solution providers and/or with a do-it-yourselfer, but I think their stated positions show their mindset towards consultants vs self-help small business owners.