Does My Small Business Really Need a Server?
I consulted with a little company last week. Their server had stopped powering on a couple weeks ago. There were a few things they could not do, but nothing that has been causing a significant impact. That got me thinking? For you, what exactly does a server do with everything going to the cloud?
Many businesses start out as a single user or possibly two and even if there are plans to grow the business, most often one does not want to invest the funds in technology whenever there isn’t any immediate need to do so. Let us face it, once you’re one user, a server’s advantages don’t outweigh the costs of buying and maintaining one.
But, there’s a place where you’ve got a couple of computers to manage, different employees who should have chosen access to files and maybe applications or databases. Now, the advantages of a server could be realized.
What does a server do?
In tiny businesses, it is common to refer to that thing in the corner for a server without knowing what it really does. Servers can do many things. 1 server will handle many different services and other times it’s much better to have separate servers for different applications or uses.
A frequently used term is file and print server. In this case access controls and files to files and those folders via shares and permissions. The same goes with printers. Rather than having to try and figure out which printer to access or how to install it, then users can simply click add printer and the host presents them with a listing of printers and the required drivers, without having to await an administrator to install a printer in their opinion.
Remote server very often perform critical networking functions like DHCP (obtaining an IP address so your computer can talk to other computers and servers) and DNS (411 for turning memorable names into IP addresses). It is likely to setup VPN solutions to permit secure access to resources.
Servers can be used to host a variety of programs, from fiscal programs like QuickBooks to communications applications like Exchange (email, calendars) or chat apps.
In most businesses with Windows based computers, Microsoft Active Directory will operate on a server. AD is what determines if it’s possible to login to a computer (the one you normally use or a different one) and what accessibility to provide you. There are a number of safety attributes which provide centralized management and better security. Altering a security setting on one computer is 1 thing, but can be quite burdensome, if you have multiple, keeping up with compliance requirements. With the threat of malware and crypto-ware, it’s vital to maintain systems locked down as you can.
Among the best practices to help stop viruses and other malware is to keep systems up to date. Windows Server Update Services provides the ability to centrally manage the updates to be set up in addition to audit the compliance level of those computers.
So, do I actually need a server?
If you have more than a couple of computers, managing the user account and safety will be problem some at a certain point. A password not recorded and will probably get changed and hours will be spent troubleshooting the problem or worse, reconstructed or the machine will have to be restored from a backup and data will probably be lost. This lost earnings based on the computer it was and also might easily cost your organization tens of thousands of dollars in support hours that are billable.
Even if everything you use is in the cloud, there’s likely a business case for having some local file storage or shared software. With Dropbox or even Google Drive, QuickBooks, found in several businesses, can not be employed for instance, at least not for multi-user access. And, don’t forget those upgrades. You’ll need some way to handle updates and you also likely know that you can not rely upon a set and forget mindset they will automatically put in without anything being done by you.
Compliance with business requirements such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA typically requires the ability to deploy and enforce policies across your network of computers. The cost savings will cover the investment in a server installation while it might be possible to alter settings on each computer.
When we started out at In Motionwe didn’t have a server when it was only two people but once we hired a third employee, we spent in a server. As they’re built with redundancy across places servers will be more costly than a normal computer, but they don’t need to bankrupt your company. Schedule some time to speak with your CIO. You can find a free business consultation with a CIO experienced in providing solutions, if you do not have a CIO.