Toshiba tops the all-in-one heap

Many compliments and few complaints for the Magnia SG30 Wireless Mobility Server

As all-in-one servers go, Toshiba’s Magnia SG30 Wireless Mobility Server is the best I’ve seen in years. The company wrapped standard server functions in an attractive chassis built like a tank and provides a company portal easy enough for non-technical managers to update. Backup protections you won’t find elsewhere include a second hard disk to shadow the primary disk and the ability to save files to any server on the LAN or Internet.

People sometimes forget Toshiba has been making computers — especially laptops — for a long time. Since all-in-one servers tend to use smaller custom cases, experience in laptop design helps. The unit includes three PC Card slots and two USB 1.1 ports (for external hard disks, etc) as well as a 32-character LCD information screen.

Installation followed the normal route for all-in-one servers: Plug it into the network, let the client software provide utilities to control and configure the server, and make the new server the center of your network. All went fine. Unlike the Tritton ASAP we tested last week, the Toshiba server doesn’t act as the broadband router, but it does provide firewall and remote connection services through a dedicated WAN-only Ethernet connection.

Like the Procom Technologies Taurus and the EmergeCore IT-100 we tested earlier this year (see editorial links below), the Toshiba includes 802.11b wireless support via a PC Card. The unit we tested had 40G bytes of storage (32G bytes available after making room for system needs), 256M bytes of RAM and a Celeron 1.2-GHz Intel processor.

The main administration screen, reached by a browser, includes reports, system, network, intranet and services submenus. Toshiba did a great job with the intranet utility pages, offering easy ways to change the look of your internal site, the welcome message, and add documents and news items. Clients can use the included Web-based applications for digital photos, music and video monitoring (with some extra equipment for video).

There’s no function for making the intranet site public, but you could copy the directories from the server to an external Web host easily. This is slightly less convenient, but more secure. The e-mail server provides POP3 services that aren’t directly visible on the Internet either, hiding it from hackers. With one button-click and your ISP's e-mail forwarding information, the Toshiba can fetch the messages from your external e-mail server and distribute them to internal users. This means all internal mail stays local and will not go out to the Internet and back.Magnia SG30 Wireless Mobility Server

Data security, specifically backup, got plenty of attention. The unit we tested had two 40G-byte disk drives, the second one configured to take a snapshot of the first every morning at 2 a.m. You can store backups anywhere on the LAN or to an FTP server for easy off-site storage, and encrypt the backed-up files for added security.

Remote-access options include an unlimited number of VPN tunnels (depending on traffic load and server capacity), Point-to-Point Protocol, and even dial-up if you add a PC Card modem to one of the slots. Browser-based management is performed from a client on the network, but only one user can log on to the administration screens.

One detail I particularly liked: When administrators click on Advanced buttons, the system sometimes warns them the choices might be complicated. Toshiba gets kudos for allowing qualified (or brave) administrators to drill down into more advanced topics.

Nitpicks? Not many. Supporting Macintosh systems requires you to configure the Mac to use Ethernet rather than AppleTalk. Although quiet, the small fan outlet in the back felt like a blow dryer because the air flow is so concentrated. The only printer connection is via USB port; a print server would be nice, as would having a printed (not just electronic) copy of the 358-page manual.

The Magnia SG30 costs $1,499 - $1,599 with wireless. The Magnia 25, which uses a slower (566-MHz) Celeron processor, costs $899 or $999 with wireless.

Learn more about this topic

Toshiba Magnia

Tritton does convergence right

Network World, 11/24/03

Procom server appliance ups the ante

Network World, 08/18/03

EmergeCore IT-100: IT in a box?

Network World, 07/07/03

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