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When you launched your small business, it may have had two or three employees, or maybe you were the only one holding down the fort. Each person had their own computer, and if anyone needed to share a file with someone else it was a simple matter to send it via email or pass along a thumb drive.
But as a business grows, handling important files in those ways may not be the smartest way to go. If a business has more than a few employees or operates in a large facility, passing along files by hand may not be convenient, and some files are sure to be too large for email. Using a thumb drive to swap files increases the chances that computers will be infected with viruses, and there’s always the chance that sensitive files will fall into the wrong hands.
And if those files are stored on a single computer and that computer suffers a hard drive failure, the results can be disastrous.
As a business grows, its information technology needs grow as well, and eventually trying to build a business on a few computers in the office is no longer feasible. When your business reaches that point it may be time to invest in a server.
When it’s time to invest in a server
Before deciding that you’re going to migrate your business records and other information to a server, it’s important to understand exactly what a server is.
Definitions vary, but at its heart a server is a piece of computer hardware that functions as a central repository for files and other information. A server is the heart of an office local area network, or LAN. Although nearly any PC can function as a server, server hardware is designed to operate around the clock.
When it comes to a server for a small- or medium-sized businesses, they can be used for tasks including:
Secure email hosting
File sharing & storage
Hosting a website or eCommerce store
Hosting SaaS software such as customer relationship management programs, bookkeeping software, employee management software, or project management software.
Although the answer will depend on your specific needs, in general you should consider investing in a server for small business if:
You make use of accounting programs and customer relationship management software to communicate with vendors and customers
Employees need to share software tools or other resources
Several people need access to specific files
You need to control access to certain files or resources
The loss of important files could bring your business to a halt
There are many other reasons to consider investing in a server, but the bottom line is this: If you’re wasting time waiting to access certain files or information, if you don’t have enough computer storage space or if you need to simplify the management of your computer fleet, it may be time to invest in a server.
How servers improve your small business capabilities
Most newer computers include software that can be used to set up a simple LAN to support tasks such as file and software sharing. Using a dedicated server as the foundation of a company’s LAN, though, offers several benefits for SMBs.
Shared resources and remote access: The ability to share resources is the main reason to set up a server-based LAN. Doing so allows employees to have access to software and files as well as devices such as printers. In addition, it allows employees to work remotely and access files on the server as needed.
Improved performance and reliability: Servers are built for 24/7 performance, offering increased speed when accessing applications and data. Servers typically include redundant hardware and software, ensuring your operations won’t be disrupted by a computer failure. The result is increased productivity and lower costs.
Simplified IT management: The task of managing multiple computers is vastly simplified when it can be done from a central location rather than needed to physically go to each one. In some cases, IT administrators can remotely troubleshoot issues with an employee’s computer.
Increased security: Servers typically offer built-in security features such as firewalls that help prevent unauthorized access. In addition, they allow administrators to control which employees have access to certain data or files; preventing, for example, an intern from accessing company payroll records. A server also lets administrators easily update antivirus software for the entire network and regularly perform network backups.
Easy access to business information: A server allows sales staff and customer service personnel to quickly and easily access the customer and product information they need to address issues and increase sales. In addition, they provide management with the ability to view the product inventories and sales info they need for planning purposes.
Other common uses of a server for an SMB include hosting the business’ website, eCommerce platform and many other functions.
Although there are dozens, if not hundreds, of server types on the market, servers typically fall into two main categories: Cloud servers and physical machines.
A cloud server is a virtual server (rather than a physical server) built, hosted and delivered via a cloud computing environment via the internet, and can be accessed from anywhere.
Cloud servers typically operate on a subscription basis. You decide the services and the amount of storage space you need and pay a monthly fee. The company operating the server handles security and software upgrades, freeing you to focus on managing your business.
On the other hand, cloud servers have a few disadvantages compared with a physical server. If your Internet service goes down, you won’t be able to access any of your documents or programs. If your employees are lax when it comes to security, sensitive records may be available to hackers.
And although it’s unlikely, there’s always the possibility that the company operating the cloud server may go bankrupt or otherwise shut down. Should that happen, you may be cut off from your files.
A physical server, on the other hand, is an actual piece of hardware that resides at or near your business location. Physical servers can be customized to meet your specific needs and can be upgraded if those needs change.
Because your business is the only using that server, there are no security concerns stemming from other businesses sharing space on a cloud platform. In addition, even if your Internet service does go down for a few hours or days you’ll still have access to critical files.
Still, you’ll be responsible for handling any software updates or hardware upgrades that need to occur. And unlike a cloud-based server, the initial investment is likely to be higher.
Simplify operations with Lenovo Pro
When it comes to choosing a physical server, the options can be confusing. That’s why Lenovo has put together a server buying guide to assist SMBs in making the right decision.
Lenovo’s server line includes tower servers that combine robust performance and affordability in a highly reliable and whisper-quiet package that’s optimized for office environments.
If you need several servers, Lenovo’s rack servers offer maximum value in a small, organized footprint. Our rack servers are easily expandable and scalable, perfect for SMBs that are preparing for growth.
And for the added technical support every small- and medium-sized business needs, there’s Lenovo Pro.
Benefits include up to a 5% savings on ThinkPad PCs and servers, and the opportunity for additional savings as you spend. Gain early access to Lenovo’s best sales and unlock free expedited shipping. Lenovo Pro customers always receive the best available price from Lenovo.
Plus, get advice from our Small Business Specialists and enjoy 1 year of free Think Premier Support. Join for free, with no minimum spend. At Lenovo Pro, we’re always open for business!