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Do I Need a Dedicated Server? Six Reasons You Do

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In a small business, the standard peer-to-peer networking model used in homes very small offices eventually becomes insufficient once user demands—such as access to shared storage drives and printers—increase beyond its capabilities. How might you know if you need a server in your network? If any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you, it is time to think about deploying dedicated server hardware.

But First, What is a Dedicated Server?

In a peer-to-peer network, the router facilitates connections between computers, and no server monitors the connections. Introduce a dedicated server to the network, and the computers will communicate with the server instead of directly with each other. A dedicated server accepts and fulfills the requests of client computers on the network. The requests can include access to a specific file, a printer, or access to the Internet. When introduced into a network, the client computers communicate with the server rather than other computers.

You Need a Dedicated Server When…

Managing e-mail for an increasing number of people. Many small businesses start out using free cloud-hosted e-mail services such as Gmail™ or Yahoo!® Mail. While they get the job done for offices with few points of contact (1-5 seats), manageability decreases as the number of seats increase. Users can share e-mail accounts, but your sales team will clamor for individual in-boxes shortly.

Implement a dedicated server running Microsoft Exchange to meet those e-mail needs and more. An Exchange server eliminates your reliance on Web-based e-mail clients and allows you to easily add in-boxes for an ever-growing office. Also, say goodbye to imposed e-mail file size and capacity limits—you can set your own now.

Multiple users need to access the same data. Even small businesses need a centralized data storage location. When a business is very small, cloud storage services or network attached storage devices suffice, but those solutions have limitations. Internet can go out, thus disrupting access to the cloud. NAS storage devices lack the feature set flexibility of servers and typically cannot be upgraded to meet increasing performance demands. A dedicated storage server is a type of server equipped with a large storage capacity and the software to manage data.

You Start to Use Applications that Require a Secure Database. A database stores information that can be accessed and updated by programs. For instance, if you have multiple POS stations or employee time clocks, the database houses the files containing information about inventory, order history, and punch-in times. Planning on implementing QuickBooks? A database stores your essential information securely, limiting access. Storing important data on an unsecure storage solution such as a USB drive introduces risk into your systems.

Managing shared resources across the workspace. Some examples of shared resources include printers, optical disc drives, and programs. Servers can take over the print sharing duties of a router and also allow for the use of older unsupported printers. In a peer-to-peer network, one common problem with sharing a connected resource is drive mapping. Storage drives are assigned letters when connected, such as C: for the primary hard drive, D:, E:, and etc. for additional drives. While a drive connected to one computer can be shared with the network, it may have a different drive letter for the other computers. A server can assign a drive letter shared by every client computer.

Centralized control over network security management. In a peer-to-peer network configuration, installing security software on every machine offers excellent protection. In an environment of 10+ seats, going to every computer and running an installer takes up quite a bit of time. A single Windows Server security application makes network-wide security management much easier. From a single machine, you can run virus scans, manage spam filters, and install programs across the network.

One computer to do the job of multiple systems. A server can assume the functions of some devices, such as the router, the NAS device, backup storage drive, and firewall. With a server, you can virtualize the functions of multiple devices to run simultaneously on the same machine. Some server tasks barely tax the hardware so running multiple physical systems can be a waste of space and energy when a single server can suffice.

If you experience the scenarios above, consider a dedicated server. For a first server, consider a tower system as they can pack plenty of hardware into a compact form factor. Once you outgrow the needs of a single tower, you may want to invest in rackmount server hardware and it allows for increased expansion.

Additional Resources:

Is your SMB still utilizing a peer-to-peer network? If so, let us know in the comments why you haven’t yet introduced a server into your network.

Do I Need a Dedicated Server? 6 Reasons You Do - HardBoiled
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Do I Need a Dedicated Server? 6 Reasons You Do - HardBoiled
Not sure if you need a dedicated server? We have a list of scenarios that would be better addressed by introducing server hardware into the network.
Wallace Chu

Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

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