Unless your business is very small, there’s a good chance you already have a server. Even if that’s true, let’s start with the basics to prepare you for any time you may need a new or replacement machine.
Most businesses use servers. Why?
A server is basically a shared computer where everyone in your organization can access shared data and resources. Common uses range from email to web hosting to a central location for files everyone uses to do their jobs. They’re so much a part of the modern business landscape that it’s hard to imagine working without them.
Said another way, a business server is more or less essential.
Getting (or replacing) a server
Like any other kind of equipment your business uses, you’re going to have to comparison shop for a new server from time to time. When that time comes, it’s infinitely better to go into it armed with a little knowledge. That’s where we can help.
This guide is meant to help you think through 6 core factors that you should take into account before purchasing a server for your business. If you can answer all 6 of the following questions, you’re ready to shop for a server.
1. What’s your budget?
We begin with the most self-evident of our tips. Determine your budget. If you don’t have any idea what you’re prepared to spend, it’s going to be that much harder to narrow the field.
And we can tell you, the field needs narrowing. Small, light servers start at just a few hundred dollars, whereas beefier, more powerful servers can cost that much per month (in the case of cloud servers) or even thousands (in the case of on-site servers).
While it’s tempting to skip to question #2, don’t avoid this one. You can only afford what you can afford. Don’t overextend yourself on a server when you might have been able to find a suitable server in your actual price range.
Start here. Decide on a budget first.
2. What will the server be doing?
Remember, a server is just a different kind of computer. Things like RAM, processing power, transfer speed and storage capacity all play critical roles. You need to know how you plan to use your server before you select one.
There are a lot of possible use cases for SMB servers, so we suggest taking a look at Newegg’s impressive server buying guide. Specifically, scroll down to “How to pick the right server for the job.” Their always-up-to-date guide includes specs to reference for different types of server tasks.
3. On-site or cloud?
On-site and cloud servers both come with their advantages and disadvantages.
On-site servers require setup, maintenance, and an access-controlled space – and (like all hardware) they have a limited lifespan. But they’re also extremely secure and in many cases easier to configure if your business is subject to regulatory requirements.
Cloud servers are convenient in that you can access them from anywhere. And they are more secure than you might expect, relatively fast and the physical security and maintenance is on someone else. But file transfer speeds will be lower from the cloud, and you’ll have to be extra careful if compliance is a concern.
4. Prefab or custom build?
Preconfigured servers come (at least partly) ready to plug and play. Be sure you read the fine print, though. They may not be completely ready to use right out of the box. And, as you might suspect, the lack of options for customizing a prefab server is a deterrent for some.
Custom servers allow you to choose exactly what you want, guaranteeing precise performance. But they also take more work to assemble and format. You’ll likely need a professional’s help if you decide to go in this direction.
5. What about security?
Cybersecurity is a major issue for all businesses, including SMBs. You can’t afford to store all your data in one place and then leave that location open to attack. So you want to give some thought to your server’s security capabilities.
If you’re rolling with a cloud server, just be sure you ask plenty of questions about what level of security you can expect from the provider. If you’re opting for an on-site server, we highly recommend working with a cybersecurity consultant to make sure everything from physical security to software-based protection is top-notch.
6. How will you maintain your server?
Finally, there’s the question of how you’ll maintain your server.
You already know that an on-site server is going to require maintenance, but a cloud server may require action on your part, too. While the cloud server provider may do some of the maintenance, don’t make the mistake of expecting them to do it all.
We know we sound like a broken record here, but you’re going to want to talk to an IT support professional to make sure your bases are covered.
Your server plays a critical role for your entire company and your customers. Make sure you give this some serious thought before running out and buying the first affordable, shiny thing you come across. And if you feel a bit lost, don’t hesitate to reach out to your managed IT services provider for help.