Servers have a myriad of features that will be a part of your purchasing decision. Before you go out and buy one, here are a few features to consider:
- Operating system (OS): Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 is a full-featured operating system, which, as it includes Windows, a database and Exchange, offers almost anything a small business could want. If budget is a consideration, Linux can become a cheaper-to-acquire alternative. And if storage is your server's primary role, a specialist OS like Microsoft Storage Server could be a better choice.
- Storage: The more disks a server can hold, the more data it can hold. Some servers support different types of drives, but may not be able to house the fastest, newest or largest drives currently available. It is also worth checking to see if the server can house a tape drive or other backup option. Lastly, check if the server has an optical drive. Without it, you'll need to be able to load software remotely, a trick that needs good IT administration skills.
- RAM capacity: The amount of memory a server can hold varies. 2GB is the bare minimum, while 8GB gives you plenty of room to grow. Insist on SDRAM as it offers the high performance a server needs. DDR-2 or DDR-3 SDRAM are desirable.
- CPU sockets: Servers can often cope with more than one CPU, which make a spare CPU socket a lovely expansion option. Check which kinds of CPU the server can handle, too, so you can take advantage of today's and tomorrow's fastest designs. Quad-core processors are today's leaders and are needed for intense operations. A small business file and print server can get away with much less.
- Bus speed: A computer's bus determines how fast it can process data and shuffle it among the computer's various components. Matching bus speed to the speed of items like RAM is an important way to make your server perform its best.
Lastly, you should also consider acquiring an uninterruptible power supply (UPS)--a device that keeps your server running if electricity supply is cut for any reason. UPSes are available in a very wide range of configurations and can keep your server operating for a few minutes or a few days. They have the very useful function of making sure that if the power goes out, your server can keep going so you have the chance to switch to another server in another location.
If you are a one-server operation, a UPS lets you shut down your server gracefully, rather than endure the risk of damage to a server's disks that happen if they are suddenly deprived of power.