Does your small business network need a server?

Most if not all small business owners are looking for a way to increase productivity, prevent costly computer and network problems, and cut costs. In the age of technology, businesses that rely heavily on computer use will find that a server and help to minimize network issues therefore cutting cost and increasing productivity. How do you know if a server is the right choice for your business? This article will help you make an informed decision.

Welcome to the 21st century…an age in which everyone seems to use computers in one way or another, every single day!

In the United States, nearly every business uses computers – from startups to established businesses. As a small business grows, so does the need to hire more people. Expansion usually requires adding devices to the company network. As more computers, PDAs, workstations and other devices are added, you may reach the point where you organizations infrastructure seems “cluttered” and unorganized.

Once you decide that your network needs more organization, it may be time to purchase a “server,” which is a machine that “serves” data to and from the computers on your network. A server is a single computer (or computers) that act as the master administrator, or router; of your company’s computer needs. The server ensures harmony between the shared applications and data for your employees.

Did you know that when you add a second computer to your business’s network, you have created a “peer to peer” network? In a peer to peer network, two machines perform computing functions in a decentralized environment. With this type network, there’s a lack of cohesion as your employees share files through a confusing network of shared folders and drives, existing on each computer! Many times, when a company uses applications that need to be accessed and shared by its employees, these programs don’t function as intended. Allowing more than one person to access shared programs on a peer to peer network can become an utter disaster!

Another big hurdle experienced by companies with multiple computers but no server(s), is the catastrophic event of DATA LOSS. Imagine backing up every single computer in your office, everyday to prevent data loss – very expensive and time consuming. With a server, you only need to perform backups of the servers data, thus lowering the operating cost of your business, and making the process of keeping and restoring your data, less painful and efficient.

Software or data that has a dependence on multiple user coordination is stored on the server and dispensed by the server to the other computers, which then become networked together thanks to the server. Regardless of your company’s physical location, your computer(s) can communicate with the “main office”, as well as with your individual employees, when you have a server in place.

Your computers now become more secure from threats, since you can install anti-virus software onto your server, therefore protecting the data that flows to and from the computers on your network.

How do you know it’s time for a server in your small business? Here are a few scenarios that can help you determine if a server is right for your business:

*Your employees share printers on your network.

(A central “print server” would streamline the process of printing)

*Large amounts of spam email constantly appear in your employees’ inboxes.

(A central “email server” could help reduce the amount of spam email received)

*The latest security exploits and viruses threaten your network repeatedly.

(A central “security server” will address many of the threats prior to hitting your network)

*You have employees that travel and/or work remotely that need to access important files.

(A server can streamline the process of file sharing while remaining as secure as possible)

* Your business needs a way to filter certain websites from being accessed during work hours.

(A server can act as the “master” filter in which the networked computers will rely on)

*You have more than 5 computers in your office

(A server is generally recommended, when there are five or more computers in your network)

*Your company has a website and you prefer to host your own server(s) instead of a hosting company.

(A web server would work fine for a company without “huge” amounts of traffic)

There are many more points to consider when deciding if a server is best for you, so if you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, it may be a good time to take a look at your company’s infrastructure, and weigh the pros and cons of having a server in your business environment.

Now the questions that I’m sure you have brewing would be regarding the cost! What would you have to pay to purchase a server? Depending on your company’s infrastructure and business needs, a server can cost anywhere between several hundred dollars, and several thousand dollars. For instance; you own a small company that has six employees, six computers, and very small bandwidth requirements. In that case, a regular “workstation” can be configured as a server. Now, consider a company has twenty employees and twenty computers with a need for high processing power and bandwidth; that company could expect to pay at least $2,000.00 and up to $6,000.00, for a server that meets business needs.

A possibly good choice for your company’s needs would be Microsoft Small Business Server.

We recommend either purchasing a server with the software already installed, or having your IT

professional provide what is called a “network audit”, to see what kind of server would best suit your company’s needs. As I stated earlier, you may find that your company only requires a dedicated computer acting as a print or file server on your network!

Hopefully this article has helped you to understand what a server is, and how it can help you manage your business in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible…now get back to work!