Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Choose the Right Server For Your Business

By: Ben Greenwood

Businesses, if they are doing well, will eventually expand to the point where a small group of networked computers will no longer be enough to handle all the data you have or provide the customer service levels your clients have come to expect. It is at this point centralising data on to one server, accessible by everyone at varying levels, needs to be considered - but which server and which software running on it should a business choose?

A server will basically act as a database for all the data a company has, from address books through stock levels to sales records and a whole lot more. For growing companies this can amount to a lot of data, thertefore choosing the right server is important. It has to be big enough to handle the amount of data now and in the future and it has to be fast enough to serve that data to users when it is required.

It is also important to run the right server software to handle the requests put upon it and to be able to do what is required in the future as the business itself evolves - this will reduce ongoing IT maintenance costs.

There are several types of server available and different kinds of software too. For hardware, a small server which is only slightly more powerful than a desktop computer may be enough, depnding on the size of the business. However, for larger or faster growing companies athat require an application server it will have to be more powerful. A server with large amounts of RAM and hard disk space would be better, with a multi-core for handling lots of requests rapidly. For the largest of companies running an intranet, the most expensive servers will be needed, with lots of processors, RAM and hard disk space.

It's also worth thinking about security and redundancy too. A business' hardware needs to be secure from hackers and also safe from any network outage, preventing loss of data. This could include multiple network interfaces, hot-swappable RAID solutions, hot-swappable power supplies and other redundant systems. It is best to consult specialists in the field of IT sservices to determine which would suit a particular business.

In terms of software, the most common is probably Windows, as the majority of desktop cmputers run a Windows operating system and the ease of integration with a Windows server is clear. Windows server software offers built in security, web capabilities and the ability to centralise several server functions into one machine. There are, hoever, alternatives. Sun Microsystems have similar software, for example, offering much the same range of options. In addition, however, it allows for a wider range of applications from different developers to be run on it. Something worth thinking about for businesses using lots of different apps.

Open source server software is also an option, the most widely known being Linux. The advantage of Linux is that its underlying code can be modified, developed and expanded and it can be used on a wide range of server hardware. Developers and highly skilled technical people tend to prefer this, and it is backed up by a large community of Linux developers for support.

Whichever route a company decides to go down, unless they decide to employ network support staff then it will need to employ the services of an IT support company to install set up and maintain this new IT infrastructure. These specialists provide professional consulting to help a business decide on what hardware and software it requires and to carry out the process of setting up, running and maintaining it. Companies should choose an IT services provider that offers 24-hour support and / or on-site hardware support, so that downtime is reduced to a minimum.