Dedicated Servers: Name Brand vs. White Boxes

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For enterprise IT leaders, storage requirements growth translates to additional complexity and escalating costs. For many, dedicated hosting is a reasonable solution, providing reliability, built-in disaster planning and recovery, security, and increased cost control. However, often over-looked when selecting a dedicated server for your organization, is the manufacturer of the equipment. It’s been well observed over the previous years that IT budgets were being cut and spending was held to a minimum across industries. In order to stay within the constraints of their budgets and still implement a workable solution for the business, IT leaders cut costs by utilizing generic servers. More recently, a rise in cyber security breaches and threats of data loss has caught the attention of C-Level execs, who are now putting more capital back into their respective IT departments. So, the question is what’s the difference between name brand servers and white box servers?

Reliability – Name brand servers have a higher level of reliability. White boxes generally use lower quality memory DIMMs and cheaper hard drives. White box cooling fans are also known to fail sooner and the build quality of the chassis is of a lower quality than name brand servers. This means that while the white boxes may appear to be a more cost efficient decision in the beginning, the long-term cost of ownership is greater than name brand servers.

More Advanced Features – Name brand servers offer a number of features unavailable on white boxes. For example, Dell offers DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller) for remote users to administrate the system. With a separate physical network connection, you always have access to the systems. Other system applications include diagnostic tools that communicate with components such as the RAID card, so you can monitor the health of the individual drives of the array, the fan speeds, the voltages, the power supply status, etc. With white boxes, RAID cards function haphazardly, voltage readings may only be available for certain parts, and there are half as many fans due to the driver being initially written for a very broad base of support.

Compatibility – Name brand provides a greater level of operating system compatibility. Generally, white box manufacturers will only test Windows operating system across the board on their servers and will not test Linux Operating system. Name brand manufacturers, for example, Dell, insists that both Windows and Linus operating systems are tested to ensure a higher level of compatibility.

Service – The supplying vendor will often provide a higher level of service. When new software updates become available, you will have better service from the higher end brand, as they will work with you to make sure that you have the latest versions and more often than not general availability will be faster as well.

Greater Intergenerational Support – With name brand, you can run all the same operating systems on different levels of generation hardware. This allows you to make sure that you can grow your footprint with your business while having a provider that is capable of having greater integration support.

With name brand servers, it’s clear that there are certain features and benefits that will affect the way you manage your IT infrastructure. However, along with name brand servers comes a higher cost than white box servers. Prior to purchasing either, IT leaders need to determine how important their IT infrastructure is to the success of the organization. With greater flexibility, support, compatibility, and features with name brand servers, the total cost of ownership and functionality of your IT infrastructure generally pays off in the end.

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