Tactical Advice

Review: Lenovo ThinkServer TD230

The Lenovo ThinkServer TD230 offers small businesses power and adaptability for expansion.
This story appears in the June 2011 issue of BizTech Magazine.

Lenovo must have consulted some small businesses when it developed the TD230 server because it’s a perfect fit for that environment. This server holds many subtle touches that will feel right at home in any business looking for a workhorse to support its operations. Rarely does a server at this price point deliver so much power, expandability and refinement. This combination should work sufficiently for almost any SMB.

Advantages

The feature that’s hard to miss at first is the TD230’s size. Opening the case reveals plenty of room for expansion, including four PCI-E slots, a PCI slot, room for six hard drives, space for a second CPU and room for eight RAM modules.

The review unit was missing the optional hot-swap enclosure, rendering the drive access cover somewhat useless, so buyers should consider adding this accessory to ease future expansion.

Lenovo designed the TD230 to sit discreetly in a corner, under a desk or anywhere else in the office, which is perfect for businesses that don’t have a dedicated or secured server room. To call the server quiet is an understatement.

Even in a hushed office, the noise is imperceptible. The multiformat optical drive and power button are neatly hidden behind a slick magnetic-latched front door, which eliminates the chance of accidentally pressing the power button. The front door locks, securing the server in high-traffic areas, while the USB ports are secured behind the locking door, keeping unwanted devices from being plugged in.

Why It Works for IT

Lenovo’s commitment to the needs of SMBs doesn’t stop at the physical design. IT professionals will find many concessions to make their lives easier. The back of the case sports dual NIC ports, allowing for flexible network design. If the second NIC isn’t needed, it can double as a dedicated remote-management port. Just above the connection ports, the server displays a set of diagnostic lights, which simplifies hardware troubleshooting.

The internal design is as clean as the outside, with all primary functions integrated into the motherboard. This keeps costs down, and frees up room for expansion by leaving all the slots and bays open. Most servers ignore the importance of optical drives, but Lenovo bucks the trend by providing DVD+/-RW capability. An additional 5.25-inch bay is available for a tape drive or other backup device.

The clean design continues with the software configuration. The review unit came with Windows Server 2008 pre-­installed. Noticeably missing was the usual collection of unnecessary software and useless utilities. Boot times were quick, and everything worked simply and without fuss or interference.

Considering the entry price, the TD230 came equipped with a sufficiently quick 2.13-gigahertz quad-core Xeon CPU and 2 gigabytes of RAM — specs often seen in much more expensive equipment. Space to add a second CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 12 terabytes of disk space leave headroom for years of growth.

Disadvantages

Despite all the well-planned refinements, the TD230 does have a few shortcomings. The front door lock secures power, USB and optical drives, but the side hard-drive bay cover is unsecured, which leaves drives vulnerable to being easily removed.

Drives may be removed quickly even without the hot-swap option, but adding drives can be tedious and requires invasive surgery to route cables. Also missing is an updated video connector, as the TD230 includes only an aging VGA port. The TD230 is also big and will need a fair bit of space in which to operate.

Finally, the one-year warranty falls short of expectations for a device intended to host a business’s critical operations. Fortunately, Lenovo provides an array of optional service plans to compensate.

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About the Author

Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam is director of operations at Design Facilitator, creator of the web-based Client Feedback Tool, located in Raleigh, N.C.

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