Setting up a computer server

As your small business grows, the time will come when you’ll need to install a computer server or upgrade your existing unit to handle the number of terminals, printers and other technical wizardry you now use.


As your small business grows, the time will come when you’ll need to install a computer server or upgrade your existing unit to handle the number of terminals, printers and other technical wizardry you now use.

As your small business grows, the time will come when you’ll need to install a computer server or upgrade your existing unit to handle the number of terminals, printers and other technical wizardry you now use. It can revolutionise the way your business runs, making it more efficient and thus profitable, but unless you’re an IT expert you’ll need to navigate the IT minefield carefully because choosing the wrong system can spell disaster.

At the heart of most start-up businesses is one computer, upon which all vital company information is stored and easily accessed. But as a small business grows from a one-man band to a firm employing staff, more PCs will be needed and this brings its own problems. For instance, transferring documents from one unit to the other involves saving to disks or emailing back and forth, and you can’t access important information when you’re on the road. That’s where installing a server and creating a network with multiple computers can make a difference.

It’s a huge transition for any small business owner and will change the way you work dramatically, enabling you to back up files, share documents between staff or even enable mobile employees to connect remotely. But servers require an IT department to manage them, right? Not necessarily. A new crop of systems from IBM, HP, and others have hit the market recently, specifically designed to be easy enough for non-experts to set up and manage – and to be easy on your budget, too.

Knowing IT, knowing you
But how do you know what kind of server you need? Unless you’re an IT genius it can be difficult to know. Should you get a single CPU or two? One hard drive or two? It would be nice if there were a mathematical formula into which you could put the number of clients and types of applications and it would spit out a specific server configuration that would meet your needs. Sadly, there isn’t, so you will need to answer a series of questions about your needs before you go server shopping.

How important is your server to your business?
If your business would go down in flames five minutes after your server crashes, reliability is probably top of your list of server criteria. The more stress you’re putting on a system, in terms of users and applications, the more likely it is the system will fail. Thinking about how you will use the server and how vital it is to your business will determine how much memory and functionality your server needs to have in order to easily do what you ask of it. Most small businesses use servers for two reasons; to store files that can be accessed by multiple users and to share internet connection across the company. Make sure when you go shopping for a server that you tell the vendor how many people will be accessing the server, how often and for what reason. As Tim Jenkins from HP puts it, ‘Ten people checking their email every once in a while is a very different thing than ten people streaming video over the network all day long.’

What is your budget?
This is probably the deciding factor when buying a server. While low-end servers are often advertised at extremely low prices, those advertised prices don’t get you much in the way of real functionality. In many cases, you’ll have to upgrade those base configurations considerably to get a server worth the name and the trouble. How much you are willing to upgrade and how high you can go towards the top of the product range available in the first place will largely depend on how much money you want to spend. As a general rule it’s like buying a house; get as much as your budget allows and as much as your expected growth rate requires.

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