Is your business expanding quickly and your computing needs diversifying? Do you realise the need to acquire a server to handle your business operations, but don’t know where to begin? If that is the case, then here is a guide to help you understand the different options available out there and how to go ahead with making that important decision. With so many different varieties and specifications to choose from, the process of selection can get a little complicated and puzzling. This guide aims at deconstructing those complications and assist you to take the right decision in choosing the ideal server for your small business.
The Utility of Servers for SMEs
A small business server performs a range of tasks to simplify things for you at work. These servers can be used to actively secure email hosting, hosting a website or ecommerce store or SaaS apps like invoice management, customer relationship management, employee management, planning or collaboration software. They are capable of supporting multiple virtual servers and storing back-up of business data. A single server can be utilized by multiple employees to store documents and collaborate on them. Some servers also provide virtual desktops to employees.
A powerful server is competent enough to support all these functions and more, simultaneously. However, there are many kinds of servers with varied specifications that can be chosen to perform specific tasks according to your requirements.
Understand your requirements
Price: One of the major concerns of small businesses is managing their budget. With limited funds, SMEs must find the best suited products and services for their business needs. Therefore, the affordability of the server is one of the important criteria for selection.
Operations: The second parameter for selection must be understanding your company’s day-to-day operational needs. Are you purchasing a server for file sharing or for data backup? Are you going to use your server primarily for email services? Will your company’s employees need remote access to the server? Do you need a server to manage high-traffic websites or ecommerce stores? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself to help you identify your primary business requirements.
Operating System: Majority of servers either use Linux or Microsoft Windows Server as their operating system. Linux is built specifically for multi-user server environment and is known for its consistent performance, security and flexibility. With Linux, you don’t need a graphical user interface (GUI) and all commands can be executed via command prompt. CentOS, Ubuntu Server, Slackware, Debian and Gentoo are some of the examples of Linux server operating systems.
However, if you are more comfortable with Windows and prefer managing your server with a GUI rather than a command line, then you must opt for a Windows server. Windows server is the only choice if you need to run Microsoft software such as Active Directory, SharePoint or MS SQL.
Scalability: Next, you need to assess your storage needs. As your business grows, you might have to bring more employees on board. This would require you to add users and data, especially large data such as videos, images and database records. You may have to run many systems and applications that will consume your storage capacity. In such cases, it’s a wise decision to opt for a server with scalability.
Space: Before purchasing a server, businesses must also consider how much physical space they have available for keeping the server. For optimal functioning of servers, air-flow and temperature regulation are necessary factors that need to be taken into account. Therefore, small businesses must consider the dimensions and type of the server that would be suitable for their workplace.
Different Types of Servers
There are several categories of servers discussed here to help you get a clear idea of what you need in your server.
Dedicated and Cloud-Based
A dedicated server is a physical server that is similar to desktop computers, but with a reliable and powerful server-grade hardware. These servers are customisable and are used by a single business. They range from moderate to immensely powerful machines with multiple processors and hundreds of gigabytes of memory. These powerful dedicated servers are capable of supporting high-traffic websites and ecommerce platforms, massive databases, big data analytics and applications with numerous simultaneous users. So, if you are running a website based small business attracting high-traffic or users, then this is an ideal choice of server for you.
Cloud servers are off-site virtual servers running in cloud computing environment on enterprise-grade server hardware. These servers exhibit similar functionality to physical servers but are accessible remotely from a cloud service provider. They are primarily Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based and can be deployed instantly through a web-based control panel. The biggest advantage with cloud servers is that they are quickly scalable, for accommodating changing demands. So, if you lack space to install a physical server at your office, you can consider leasing a cloud-based server.
Which Physical Shape?
There are three blanket physical forms under which all servers can be classified-
Tower: Resembling a regular desktop computer, a tower server is built in an upright cabinet that stands alone. Tower servers are popular options for businesses due to their reliable features and scalability. Every individual tower server is independent and unlimited servers can be added to the existing network to expand its capacity. A major drawback of these servers is that they take up a lot of physical space as compared to the other types of servers.
Rackmount: These servers are installed on a downright horizontal rack. A chassis that is a few feet high, can hold many servers stacked on top of each other in slots. These servers can serve as a data centre or collectively host, execute and manage an enterprise application. If you have space constraints in your office, you can consider rackmount units which can be consolidated into smaller space.
Blade: These servers are even more space-efficient than rackmount servers. A blade server is a closely-packed self-contained server consisting of core processing components that fit into a chassis with other blade servers. These servers can be utilised for several tasks such as database and application hosting, file sharing, SSL encryption of web communication and hosting virtual server platforms. They are highly resilient, efficient and scalable.
Virtualise according to your needs
Virtualisation is a branch of server technology where a single server can create multiple servers by using a software known as hypervisor. Hypervisor creates several virtual machines, by simply cloning the existing one and splits the processor power, memory and storage capacity of the physical server between them. Each of these virtual servers act like a unique physical device that can run its own operating system. This provides a lot of flexibility when assigning server resources and is more energy and cost efficient. Therefore, make sure that the server you select, supports virtualisation and the underlying hardware of processor and storage of your chosen server can keep up with additional virtual servers.
Choosing the right server for your business is crucial. It can either improve your productivity at work or become a troublesome investment, if you select the wrong one. We hope that the above information will guide you to make the right decision after carefully weighing all your options.
– Swati Sinha