By PowerBuy // 8 April 2015 // Related Categories: Tips
In the past, just about every business with more than a handful of employees had at least one server – a computer dedicated to centralised tasks, such as storing business documents so the files could be accessed by others on the office network.
These days it’s becoming increasingly feasible to use cloud services instead of servers – although that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Servers can do numerous tasks, including:
- storing and backing up files
- running email server software such as Microsoft Exchange
- sharing printers and other devices
- running centralised applications such as databases to keep track of orders, customers and other business information
- managing users and controlling which network folders and applications they can access.
In this article, we’ll provide a guide to the options available to small businesses.
Towers are similar to standard computers, except they’re even more flexible, with plenty of space for multiple hard drives and features like dual power supplies for redundancy. Multiple hard drives can be set up in a RAID (redundant array of independent disks), so a faulty drive can be replaced without losing data.
This flexibility makes towers ideal multi-purpose servers – say, for storing files, sharing printers and managing users. A tower would be a good first step for a growing small business, although you might need to add additional servers for heavily used applications such as Exchange.
Just about any modern operating system (OS), such as Windows 10, is suitable for basic file and printer sharing. However, for advanced tasks such as user management and access control, you’ll likely need a specialised server OS like Windows Server.
Businesses that need more than a handful of servers should consider rack-mount servers or blade servers. These are multi-purpose servers like towers, but with a different form factor. They’re designed to be neatly stacked in purpose-built racks to save space and make it easier for technicians to work on them.
Rack-mount servers are ideal for virtualisation, a technique that allows you to pool the computing resources of multiple servers to maximise your hardware’
Unlike multi-purpose tower and rack-mount servers, appliances are dedicated to one task – such as firewall appliances that beef up network security.
Appliances are designed to be easy to set up and manage. They’re also generally cheaper to buy than multi-purpose servers, although they often can’t be used for virtualisation.
What about the cloud?
Why bother with servers when cloud services can replace just about any on-site system or application? The cloud certainly has its attractions, but it also has potential pitfalls, as we revealed in our cloud versus servers article.
Don’t get caught up in the hype. Get the right advice and choose the right solutions for your business needs, whether they be on-site servers, cloud services or a combination of both.
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