Your business is growing and so is your staff – great work! You're evolving beyond two or three devices. Now comes the time to purchase equipment and software, and then to figure out how to manage it all.
Many small businesses will boost their productivity and become more efficient by using a server.
Servers store, manage, and deliver data to the workstations on a network. Typically, they are more powerful than an average workstation, providing enhanced security and easy integration with backup/recovery tools. Several Dell PowerEdge servers, starting with the T140, are suited for companies migrating from peer-to-peer networks.
Here are five reasons why a small business should consider investing in a server.
1. Defense against viruses and other threats. When computers are networked together, there's a considerable risk that the entire network could become infected by a corrupt file that originates from just one machine. In a "client/server" setup, a central server provides data to several clients, which are the computers on the network. Security is controlled centrally from the server, so not only does every user have the latest updates and patches, but software and virus scans may be deployed and initiated on every computer on the network. In addition, as your company grows, you'll want to have rules outlining who has permissions to view and edit certain data. Having a server enables access control.
2. Protection against losing data during a disaster. Servers are an integral part of a disaster recovery plan, because they use redundant disk drives and power supplies. They are designed to run during hardware or power failures, featuring "hot-swappable" components that can be replaced while the server is running. Because the system doesn't need to be shut down to make the replacement or repair—as would be required in a peer-to-peer network--no time is lost.
There are also redundant server setups available that can fail the entire server over in case it goes offline or is otherwise corrupted.
3. Compliance with industry requirements such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA. Compliance requires the ability to deploy and enforce policies across a network of computers. If you want to process, store, or transmit credit card data, you'll need to be PCI compliant. The ability to update and patch systems regularly is sixth of the 12 PCI DSS requirements; requirement 6.2 requires merchants to "install critical patches within a month of release" to maintain compliance. Having a server will help your business stay updated in a timely manner.
If you have healthcare clients, you'll need a HIPAA server, which follows specific compliance guidelines that are designed to prevent protected health information (PHI) data breaches. HIPAA server requirements include: complete data encryption, encryption key management, unique user IDs, dedicated infrastructure, server backups, secure data disposal, and audit logs.
4. Key business software requires processing power and storage space. Heavy-duty software, including accounting programs, customer relationship management tools, and human resources systems, shouldn't be stored on individual PCs. Using the cloud for software deployment isn't always an ideal solution, either. For instance, Dropbox and Google Drive can store files, but you can't host applications on them for multi-user access.
To select the best server to suit your purpose, make a list of the applications/software you plan to run on the server. Think about how many users need concurrent access to each application, now and in the near future. Build in a buffer (industry experts recommend 20%) to account for upswings in usage.
For a helpful tool that suggests 'right-sized' server equipment, look no further than Dell Technologies' Live Optics. The application monitors your environment and delivers insights for optimal usage and growth.
5. Secure remote access is critical to continued growth. During the pandemic, flexibility was key to the survival of many small organizations. Productive work-from-home strategies require more than employees with computers. You need to offer remote access to the company's network, such as via a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN routes all your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, hiding not only your data but also your IP address, so your identity and location are kept secret. They protect all traffic, some of which may contain proprietary data. When employees work remotely without a VPN, they are connecting to the company's internal network using the public internet, which exposes the employees' traffic to potential security breaches.
As your business grows, it needs a centralized data storage location. Where you may have depended on cloud email or storage to start, it can become unwieldy and costly. A server helps organize the IT management of your company by managing user permissions, software, and security. If you have more than a handful of computers, a server can help you save time, maximize productivity, prevent security breaches, and recover if disaster strikes. It's a solid investment offering much to gain and little to lose.