I am often asked by clients and others about the relative merits or necessity of having a server on the small business network. Here are some points to consider:
- Do your employees share files through a confusing system of shared network drives and folders that actually exist on coworkers computers? Having a central file server to manage that process would be simpler.
- Do your employees share printers across the network? Having a central print server would streamline the process.
- Do your employees get a lot of email spam? A central email server could help to filter and reduce the amount of spam they have to deal with.
- Are you having problems with web and email borne security threats? A server can centralize and manage security for all the computers on the network.
- Do you have remote workers and business travelers who need access to files and applications that are in the office? A server can streamline remote access without sacrificing security or increasing costs.
- Does your company run a line of business application that many of your employees need to access and share? These types of applications run best on a server.
- Do you have a backup strategy in place? Are you certain important data on an employee computer would not be lost in case of a disk failure? A server can provide a central data repository that is easily backed up.
- Are your employees spending too much time trying to connect to resources on the network that are hard to find?
- Do you need a reliable way to control and validate computer user access, that also makes it possible for several employees to share one or more computers?
The more “yes” answers you have, the more likely that your company could benefit from having a server on the network. The sever could be a full-fledged Windows Small Business Server, or it might just be a dedicated computer acting as a file or print server on your network. While they can be expensive to implement, depending on your needs, they can also be a fairly inexpensive addition to your business network.
For instance, you may not need an actual server class piece of hardware, you may be able to utilize a higher end desktop computer, or even a computer that is being retired from desktop use.
In the same vein, you may not need an expensive server operating system, with the attendant expense of client access licenses, either.
When looking at this investment, it is important that you discuss your actual requirements and expectations with your computer consultant, to be sure that your system is scaled to support your present and future operations. Investing in a state-of-the-art, “build it and they will come” server infrastructure that is too big and too expensive when compared to your usage patterns, can be a waste of financial resources.
As a Microsoft Small Business Specialist, this is an area of our business practice and expertise. Rather than pushing boxes, we try to match our clients needs and budgetary limitations with a server installation that provides high efficiency and represents a good value to the client. There is an informative whitepaper available from PC World, and is worth a read if you are looking into a server for the first time, or contemplating an upgrade or replacement of an existing server. And of course we we would be delighted to consult with you about your particular computer environment and the solution that would make the most sense for your company.Share