5 Signs Your Business Needs a Server
#1. You’re starting to really grow
In the early days of any business, when it’s just two or three employees, managing your computers and IT is pretty simple. When software updates are needed, or you’re considering switching to a different anti-virus solution, you can simply gather ‘round the meeting table (kitchen table?), and make it happen. It’s the same thing when it comes to sharing files; passing around a USB key with an updated presentation file only takes a few minutes when there’s just a few of you.
But a funny thing happens when two or three becomes five or six, or even eight to ten: Doing these tasks isn’t just a little harder, it’s a lot harder, and significantly more time consuming. You’ve probably already noticed that the time spent on just maintaining your people’s PCs has increased considerably.
A dedicated server can simplify many, if not all, of the tasks associated with managing a larger fleet of computers. It can be used to push out software updates to every computer on your network, and can do so whether those computers are physically on your premises or not. Better yet, once the server has been set to issue the updates, there’s no more action needed – the updates happen when users log on to the network, whether that’s at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m.
Likewise, the days of using sneakernet with USB keys, or the only slightly preferable peer-to-peer networking, are suddenly over… your server is now a central repository of all shared resources. Your people will thank you for this aspect of file serving, as there’s nothing more aggravating than realizing you’re working on an out-of-date version of a Word doc, or spreadsheet.
#2. Your people need access to secure email and company-owned storage
Working in the cloud has a lot of advantages, but no matter which cloud solution provider you choose, your data is not under your direct control. As stories of massive security breaches – even on mammoth platforms like Facebook – become the norm, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re genuinely comfortable with your company’s data residing on a set of servers that you don’t control. It’s not just about security. As your number of employees grows, your cloud costs will continue to grow too. What started out as an affordable way to give a few people e-mail and calendar access might soon become a monthly outlay that eats into other operating expenses. A dedicated small business server can address issues of data sovereignty and control, as well as expense.
Some businesses act as vendors to larger businesses, and these clients often have stringent requirements for how and where company data is kept. With a server on-premise, you can verify the integrity and location of the data in question.
Running an email platform on a server, like Microsoft Exchange, gives you control over the number of emails accounts, the storage capacity of those accounts, and enables advanced shared resource features. Should your ISP’s internet connection ever go down, your people can still access the entirety of your company’s data, whether it’s email, shared files, or a database.
With a dedicated server, ongoing monthly expenses are very low for the services it powers. One-time costs for hardware, and licenses for software, may be a higher up-front cost but these can also be depreciated as capital expenses, which some businesses may see as preferable to a monthly operating expense. “A physical server located in your office can pay for itself in a matter of months,” says ZDNet’s David Gewirtz.
#3. You need constant, fast access to your data
A small business server is ideal for hosting high-demand, and high-bandwidth services like databases. If your business relies on multiple machines being able to access a central repository, like a point-of-sale (POS) system, an on-premise server is vital. Not only is the connection to server stable (because it’s on the same network as the client machines), you won’t be facing expenses tied to the size of the repository, the amount of data being written or read, or the compute time – all of which are standard fees when using cloud services.
Your own server is also a no-brainer if your business uses a lot of video. Video files are amongst the largest digital assets a business will deal with, especially if those files were shot in 4K. Unpredictable network connection speeds can make working with video files in the cloud time-consuming if not impossible. Dedicated servers can be upgraded to your specifications, with a CPU, RAM, and hard drive capacity that handle those big files with ease. Transferring them between the server and your laptops, or desktops, using the latest gigabit Ethernet network speeds, will be ultra-fast.
#4. You’re relying on your router to keep you safe
If you’re still relying on the Wi-Fi modem/router provided by your ISP to keep your network secure from prying eyes and malware, you’re taking an unnecessary risk. These devices are designed to provide fast and reliable access to the internet, but they are not going to offer you a customizable, enterprise-grade level of security. In fact, a recent study by the American Consumer Institute has shown that 83 percent of Wi-Fi routers sold in the U.S. are vulnerable to cyber-attack.
A dedicated small business server can also act as your network’s first line of defense, if you install and configure firewall software. A properly configured firewall is a secure gateway, monitoring all incoming and outgoing traffic for signs of malicious activity. It halts any traffic it doesn’t recognize as trusted, and can even block events like denial of service attacks (DOS). While it’s true that your Wi-Fi router likely comes with some kind of built-in firewall feature, once you’ve bought it, it’s rare for the manufacturer to keep that software up-to-date, and patched for the latest vulnerabilities, beyond the first year or two. Third-party server-based firewall software on the other hand, can be kept up to date indefinitely.
#5. You don’t really have a back-up plan
If your people aren’t routinely backing up their laptops or desktops, you risk not only losing valuable data, you also risk having that person sit idle while attempts are made to recover their machine, or wait for a replacement. Even if you’ve given your staff explicit instructions on how and when to back-up to the cloud, or an external hard drive, they may not always do so. With a small business server, you can automate the back-ups of all of your computers to a central hub, and then back-up your server for extra peace of mind. Having that data readily available on-site, instead of in the cloud, will dramatically reduce the time and effort needed to get that out-of-commission machine back up and running.