In modern business surely the cloud is all you need? Or is it? Perhaps you need to ask yourself, does your business need a server instead?
Servers play a crucial role in any commercial setup. As your business grows, it can become harder to manage the various aspects of your business. A server provides you with a central place where resources can be stored, organised and shared, from data to printers and other hardware devices.
What is a server?
A server is quite simply a more powerful computer than your average desktop or laptop. It needs to be because it’s handling much heavier duties than the average PC. Not only is it storing and sharing data across your business, it needs to be capable of running multi-user applications in parallel.
Your server will sit between the router and the rest of your network, which enables it to not simply serve the needs of those in the office, but also give your workforce secure access to key resources, whether they are on the road or working from another location.
The benefits of a server
Keeping everything centralised gives you more control over how your business – including its data – is handled. It’s easier to keep track of files and helps prevent data fragmentation, which happens when people work on separate, multiple copies of the same file. Servers also simplify the process of sharing tools, devices, settings and files – particularly if you’re spread over multiple locations.
Servers are designed for remote administration, so configuration and troubleshooting can often be handled without having to physically access the server or an employee’s computer. And speaking of employees, servers excel in multi-user setups, whereby each person has their own customised access to your business’s resources, ensuring they have what they need and no access to what they don’t. Multi-user setups are also handy if you need to share desks or office space – users simply sign into a computer to access their personalised setup, including apps and data.
Servers can also introduce savings throughout your business and you can start by switching employees to lower-powered – and more affordable – ‘thin clients’ like ASUS’s Chromebox CN62. Because the server handles most of the heavy lifting, client computers also have longer shelf lives than typical desktop PCs or laptop, which require upgrading every few years.
Servers are also hugely flexible. As your business grows, they can be reconfigured to add extra functionality, such as customer relationship management software or a centralised email platform.
What type of server should I get?
Servers can be cloud-based or physical. Physical servers are housed on your premises – for a list of reasons why they’re a better choice than cloud servers, see our blog here.
If you’re just starting out with a small business, then a tower server such as ASUS’s TS100-E9-PI4 is a solid choice. This is a self-contained server with everything housed in a single tower case, which requires no dedicated server room and can even be stashed under a desk if space is tight. Tower servers are particularly suited to smaller businesses with fewer than 25 clients or workstations.
The other principal type is a rack server. This is a more flexible – but more complicated – setup, whereby you stack multiple servers together in special racks, enabling you to build customised setups with different servers handling specific tasks if required. Rack servers are easy to upgrade and expand as circumstances demand.
The racks also accommodate all other required hardware, from storage to security and network appliances. Rack servers will usually require their own dedicated room and are best for larger businesses or those with a focus on information technology.
For more information to help you decide if your business needs a server, including GDPR checklists and cloud technology, see our servers section.