In the dingly Dell

Next time you fly out of Heathrow airport, look down (if you have a window seat) at Windsor Castle. A microcosm of the UK we now live in is spread out before you – with one sweep of the eye you can take in a Royal residence dating back to the 12th century, Europe’s biggest city, the world’s busiest airport (by number of international passengers per year) and a patch of countryside that’s so ‘remote’ that a business situated therein has to rely on satellite broadband in order to get connected to the Net.

In the dingly Dell

No, I’m not joking about that last one. I invited myself to visit these chaps after pursuing a few server purchases through eBay. After making my third or fourth purchase, I thought it only polite to take a look at their operation and followed my satnav to a postcode from which I couldn’t see a single streetlamp, although above me, heading dead in line with the country lane I’d been following, was the one-airliner-per-minute stream out of Heathrow. By some bizarre trick of topography, the little farmhouse industrial development where they had their server refurbishment operation lay in a trough of inaccessibility, well beyond the two-mile(ish) limit for DSL connection from their nearest telephone exchange and with no easily visible line-of-sight dwellings that might have helped out with a wireless aerial boosted by a punched-through Pringles tube. (That shiny internal lining to the tube does tremendous things for reception and transmission over longer distances, it seems.)

Ironically enough, I was there to investigate the condition of some servers that this vendor was entirely happy to ship for me to Munich. Rather than take a smallish chance over condition, specification and packaging, I figured the price break on these machines was good enough to warrant paying them a visit: you can see what I was comparing my prices with by taking a look at www.tpc.org. The Dell 6650 may be a year or two out of date in physical chassis terms, but there’s no harm at all in taking it apart, stuffing in some of the top-of-the range Xeons and taking advantage of an architecture that’s powerful enough to sit in the heart of 280 SCSI disks, six front-end processors and 57,000 users (go and look at that page).

I’m sure Dell will regard this recommendation as some kind of backhanded compliment. On the one hand, I once again find myself recommending Dell equipment. I like Dell servers a lot – one has been running continuously in the basement computer room here since mid-2000, so nobody can accuse me of arbitrary or shallow decisions. But I simply can’t abide the process of dealing with Dell the company. Its approach to selling is so single-mindedly focused on the salesman that any slightly novel requirement meets with a brick wall of unannounced restrictions, extra charges or simply blank incomprehension. So when I needed three servers of a decently flexible starting specification to be delivered within three weeks to Munich, I went back to my successful eBay vendor and pursued matters. No problem, he said, come and take a look and we can arrange shipping to Munich for £127.

Now here was a pause for all kinds of thought. While dealing with lots of different small business networks, I’ve found that the cost of shipping computers from place to place is a major influence on the way the IT service sector is prepared to do business – not because it costs £127 to move 250kg of Dell’s finest steel across Europe, but rather the opposite. Only a few weeks earlier this summer, at another client, we’d been debating the pros and cons of making a trip to Aberdeen to rescue some dead and dying PCs, because (to cut a long story short) it was looking like at least £450 a piece via any of the Big Four courier companies to ship these machines back to base, and that was just one way, not return.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos