King of Servers’ Albie Attias explains how to begin the process of buying a server, why it’s so important if you’re looking to expand and what you need to consider.
The digital era is a great time to be part of a micro business, as opportunities created by the internet mean even the smallest company can compete with their larger counterparts on an even playing field.
This fact, coupled with recent improvements to the economy, has resulted in numerous opportunities for expansion among micro businesses across the UK but with expansion comes new obstacles, and a failure to adapt IT policy alongside this growth is something that could hold businesses back considerably.
Buying a server is the logical next step for businesses operating a few PCs that are looking to expand and I’ll help guide you through this process.
What’s the big deal?
In short, buying a server will serve the following purposes:
Providing a robust central store for business-critical data
Holding data more securely
Enhancing the availability of data and the time your business can spend online
Running applications like print, file, email, database, web and more
Ensuring all staff are working on the latest version of a document
Centralising and automating backup processes to safeguard against data loss
Providing remote workers with access to company files thus promoting flexible working practices
Facilitating system management and maintenance
The benefits offered to micro businesses taking the plunge and buying a server are clear, but knowing how to start the buying process itself can be tricky. A server need not cost much more than a desktop PC, or be much more complex, which provides some good news for firms worried about the complexity of such a change.
The purchase itself
Once a decision has been made regarding the necessary actions to support expansion, the next step is to identify the right server for your business needs. Believe me, there is a lot of choice out there, so doing your research is essential. A great starting point for this is to take a look in the mirror, not literally but look at where your business is currently, and what you need from a server.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How many applications do you run now? What sort of applications are they? Are they off-the-shelf like Microsoft Office, or more specialised?
How many users and desktops do you have?
How much data do you need to store?
Do you need to have large files, for example to support video material?
What space and power resources do you have?
While it is fairly detailed, this list is by no means exhaustive. And remember, making a large IT purchase means more than simply looking at your current situation forward thinking is essential, so consider what your needs may be in one year, or three years down the line. On top of this, don’t avoid the elephant in the room, have a good think about how much you are willing to spend.
Overall, the answers you give here will tell you a lot about the kind of server your business requires. And while business owners are constantly thinking about how they can get the most value for money, and this goes for IT purchases too. However, with money on your mind, don’t always opt for the cheapest product out there, as you could end up spending more money in no time at all.
It is best to decide on a server that can be upgraded, so it will easily grow along with you. As a crude rule of thumb, we estimate that, for every extra employee you have, you will need another 200GB of storage space and more if there is heavy multimedia involved.
Different types of server
Once the initial decisions have been made, it’s time to think about the nitty gritty. Broadly speaking, servers come in the following categories:
Rack servers This option is typically better for running multiple servers, making the equipment easier to access and cluster
Tower servers A better choice if your business has just a couple of servers. This option is flexible, and good for smaller offices
Blade servers Essential for those firms where space is set at a premium. They are stripped down servers, but still powerful – and great for saving space and power, and cooling resource
When your decision has been made, you can take a closer look at issues such as RAM (random access memory), processors (of which there are usually two, each with several cores), RAID (redundant array of independent disks) support for storage servers, external expendability, and several more. If the thought of this is complicated enough, speaking to a good reseller is vital here.
don’t overlook the OS
A crucial element of the server buying process is consideration of the operating system. Micro businesses are not restricted to the operating system that is already running on your PCs, but it may make life easier if you stick to it. In terms of picking the best, each type have their strengths and weaknesses.
Windows Server 2012 more hardware options, scaled down for smaller businesses and relatively inexpensive compared to Mac
Mac OS Server this is easy to set up, maintain and secure, allows sharing of files with Windows machines, but is fairly costly
Linux this option is widely used in servers due to its reliability and strong security. It is fast, compatible and well worth considering.
Whichever operating system you decide on, it is always worth taking advantage of training provided by your vendor or reseller.
Although daunting to begin with, the server buying process need not be complicated. With the right amount of initial research, you will find yourself in a great position to make good decisions that could pave the way for expansion. The present climate and emerging internet trends mean now is a great time for micro businesses, and with the right IT equipment, things can only go from strength to strength.
Albie Attias is the managing director of IT retailer King of Servers.