Review: All-in-one server offers 12 hard drives

Storage is literally a growing concern for most IT departments and the ability to consolidate data storage through a network while maintaining speed and performance is a primary goal. The challenge faced by most companies is one of managing many servers that store shared data across the network and are accessed by groups of users. Conceivably each server varies in terms of its years of existence and degradation.

Virtualization is an option but has a significant learning curve for IT professionals. For departments that are already resource thin or need to quickly introduce a storage solution, an out-of-the box device is a logical option.

We recently tested one of HP storage servers to see how easy it was to set up and get running and assess how effective it was as a complete storage device. We put the Hewlett-Packard Co.’s “All-in-One” StorageWorks AiO 1200 system through its paces during the past number of months.

The system is available with 12 hard drives, either SATA or SAS, for a maximum of 9 TB in a 2U form factor. We placed twelve 250GB SATA hard drives in the unit for a total of 3 terabytes. Using the RAID interface that comes with the HP server, we were able to easily stripe and mirror the drives in a RAID 1 configuration to have 1.5 TB mirrored. The primary function of this system is as a storage solution for a small- or medium-sized business. The server comes with HP’s wizard-based management software for administering storage and consolidating data from other servers running various applications, such as an Exchange or SQL, for backup or disaster recovery.

We intended to use the server first and foremost as a storage repository for files, but also to tried to use the tools available with the server to schedule regular backups on the network. Ideally, the HP AiO would not only replace our older file servers, but also replace our old tape backup system. Our objective was to see if the AiO might be used as a disaster recovery solution and set to backup remote folders from other servers at a pre-scheduled overnight time.

First-time server installation is assisted by HP’s StorageWorks bootable DVD-ROM. The DVD has pre-installed Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition. It makes for easy work to install the OS, loading drivers and utilities, and configure Windows. It also automatically installs HP’s Web Services, allowing the server to be remotely accessed for general monitoring. It offers excellent browser-based management and monitoring tools, which allows the user to access various Windows and HP controls.

The beauty of HP’s management console is that it integrates the main server controls of the Windows OS and combines these with pertinent functionality that an administrator needs out of a storage solution. This console makes for a great way to access everything through a nice and simple interface. These integrated systems are specifically designed for IT professionals who have no storage expertise and it delivers everything you need to launch a storage solution without having to consult with external specialists. After setting up the RAID, the bootable DVD installed Windows with all the default settings and upon completion, HP’s management console loaded upon the first launch of Windows.

Initially we had an issue getting the StorageWorks to boot as the hard drives were not being recognized. HP support was helpful and assisted me through a series of tasks, which included opening up the box and inspecting the build. The problem turned out to be a loose memory module on the HP Smart Array RAID card. After correcting this issue, everything booted exactly as the instructions suggested they would. HP’s “turn-key-style” approach is effective here, and although it’s a highly optimistic overstatement to suggest as HP does that setup time is 30 minutes, we did have the entire system up and running within a few days.

This AiO storage server seems most effective when used to backup SQL databases on the network or Exchange Servers. The All-in-One management software has built-in capabilities, in the Storage Hosting section, to dynamically locate and backup SQL databases in order to consolidate the storage of databases on the network. The AiO 1200 also worked well when configured to automatically backup Exchange folders on the network if you need that level of redundancy.

The management console has a component that can search a network for Exchange folders and dynamically back them up. The AiO 1200 didn’t do as well when used to backup various folders of data on a regularly scheduled basis. We were hoping that the server would backup a copy of our network folders every night, through a scheduled task that replaced an old tape backup solution. Unfortunately, there’s no scheduler built into the console that can be set to backup predetermined folders. So the AiO could not be used to replace our company’s tape backup system. A word of advice: HP should consider adding a scheduling component to its management console to make it a complete storage/backup solution. Although the AiO 1200 is a powerful storage solution, it needs better backup/recovery function.


– Easy to configure

– Straightforward and simple operational management

– Excellent storage device

– Powerful system

– Cost effective


– No automated backup/recovery feature

– Needs a backup agent –like software to make fetching data across a network a snap

– Windows Storage Server 2003 doesn’t bring much extra to the table

– A good small business unit but might not suit massive storage needs

Bottom line

All in all, if you’re looking to use Windows Storage Server 2003, or if your company has standardized on a Windows platform then this solution is a good choice for consolidating files or having a backup of SQL or Exchange servers.

Vince De Castro is the IT Director for IT World Canada.

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