As your business grows, you may soon get to a point where you need to buy a server for it. This is because the computers in the business can function as stand-alone workstations for only so long. You soon get to a point where you have to share computing resources: files, applications and so on. And once you get to this point where you have to share computing resources, it becomes necessary to have a server. It is on the server that the resources to be shared would be placed. Then all the workstations can be able to access those resources from there.
In this article, we will look at the process of buying a server for a small business. We will begin by examining the needs-assessment exercise you need to carry out, before venturing out to buy a server for a small business. Then we will deal with the questions of how to identify the right type of server hardware and the right type of server software. We will go further, and deal with the question of how to identify the right supplier and finally, how to get the best deal when buying a server for a small business.
Carrying out a needs assessment exercise
Before venturing out to buy a server for a small business, you need to undertake a needs-assessment exercise. The results from this exercise will then guide you when selecting an ideal server for your business. When we make reference to a ‘server’ in this context, we are simply referring to the computer that makes it possible for you to share computing resources in your business. It may, for instance, be a computer on which files are stored, and from where all other computers in the business can access them. It may alternatively be a computer on which applications are kept, and from where all other computers can access and run them (under the client-server computing model).
Therefore, when carrying out the needs assessment exercise, you have to start by trying to identify the specific types of computing resources you will be seeking to share. Then the most ideal server for you will be one that is capable of serving those needs well.
The ultimate goal in this needs-assessment exercise is to avoid ending up either buying a superfluous server, or one that is inadequate. A superfluous server is one that has more capacity than you will ever need. An inadequate server is one whose capacity is far lower than your needs. If you carry out your needs assessment exercise in the right manner, you will get to avoid both extremes.
While carrying out the needs assessment exercise, you also have to look at the future needs — given your business’ growth trajectory. The idea here is to ensure that you buy a server that has good capacity to handle your present needs, and one that also has capacity to handle your future needs. You need to avoid ending up in a situation where you have to buy another server too soon. This is why you need to buy a server that will be able to, at least, handle your near-future needs.
Identifying the right type of server hardware
As we have already noted, in the small business computing context, a ‘server’ is simply a computer that serves as a central repository. It is the computer where the resources that need to be shared by all computers within the business are stored. The resources in question may be data files or applications. So it becomes clear that a server needs to be a reasonably powerful computer.
While trying to identify the right type of server in terms of hardware, you have to consider what exactly you need it for. Let’s assume, for instance, that you need a server where you can store data files so that the data files can then be accessed by all computers in the business. In that case, the most important feature to look for would be storage capability: the size of the hard-disk and the speeds with which data can be fetched from or stored into the hard disk. If, on the other hand, you need a server from where you can run applications, the most important feature to look at here would be processing power. You’d have to pay special attention to things like the machine’s processing/CPU speed, the machine’s RAM size… and so on.
Identifying the right type of server software
Besides buying the computer that is to act as your server, you also need to buy a server operating system to power it. This may be something along the lines of Windows, Linux or Apple’s Macintosh Operating system.
Sometimes, if what you are trying to set up is a very simple client-server system (with, say, just three or five computers), you may find that your ordinary operating system — the one you use for day to day computing needs — could be adequate. This is because the ordinary operating systems come with modules that make them capable of sharing resources over networks. This effectively means that they can act as server operating systems in small settings. But if your needs are slightly more complex, you will need to buy a specialized server operating system: such as Microsoft’s MS Server.
Your computing needs will guide you in identifying the right type of server software. You will need server software that is easily compatible with other programs used in your business, especially the ones that you will be seeking to share through the server. The most ideal server software will be that which is versatile, adequately powerful and affordable.
Identifying the right supplier
While trying to identify the right supplier, you will need to look at several things. Firstly, you will (obviously) need to look at the supplier’s ability to deliver the exact type of server hardware and software you need. Secondly, you will need to look at the pricing: and opt for the supplier who will give you the best possible pricing deal. Thirdly, you will need to look at the types of warranties available, and opt for the supplier who will give you best warranty deal.
Getting the best deal when buying a server for a small business
There are several things you can do, to get the best deal when buying a server for a small business. If, for instance, you buy both the server software and server hardware from the same supplier, you may get a better pricing deal than what you’d get if you were buying the hardware and software separately.
It helps to get quotes from several suppliers. Then you can compare the prices, so as to ensure that you buy your server hardware and software from the vendor who offers you the best possible deal.
Sometimes all you need to do is bargain, so as to get the best possible deal. If the vendor quotes a certain price, you can attempt to ask for a lower price. In the process, you may end up getting a very good discount, which you’d otherwise have missed out on.