How to Plan for Running Your Own Servers

Despite the hype about the cloud, there are good reasons and important considerations for running your own server in your office.

The public cloud won't meet the needs of every business. And even for organizations that use cloud services, there are many reasons why servers located in your own office, otherwise known as on-premises servers, may be preferable. These could include legal restrictions as to where you can store your data, security, performance, and cost. 

But wait. The concerns about having an on-premises server include security, performance, and cost, too. Those lists are similar, and that's because the issues are complex and having your own server is always a balancing act. Ultimately, you need to look at each aspect and see where the benefits are for your specific implementation.

But first, think about why you want your own server. For many companies, a central server provides a location for important documents that need to be accessible to several employees. This file sharing process is an important function of servers, and it can do a lot to improve productivity. Plus, by having only one copy of a document, you eliminate the problem of having multiple versions floating around the office. In addition, servers can provide a means of reliable backup for your organization. And of course, a server can provide a means for centralized printing. 

Key Considerations

  • Legal restrictions – If your organization is a government contractor, or it handles healthcare data or some types of financial information, you have legal restrictions that control how sensitive data is used and protected. In many cases, there are serious penalties if you violate the requirements. Off-site services (including cloud services) may be off-limits, unless you can prove that they provide adequate protection. Keeping such data on-site may be the only thing that makes sense.

  • Security – If your server can be in a secure location in your office, then you have control over who has access to it. But that sense of security can be deceiving. For example, being in a locked room won't protect your server from a flood or a fire, and it doesn't provide for data security or from leaks due to employee actions, whether intentional or not.

  • Performance – A server on a well-designed internal network will almost always exhibit less latency than one in the cloud, meaning that data can be retrieved more quickly from a local server. However, a poorly designed internal network can slow performance down. 

  • Cost – If your needs are simple, buying a server doesn't need to cost a lot. After all, servers are just PCs usually beefed up for reliability. This means that their power supplies are usually more robust, they likely will have better cooling, more memory, and support for more network ports, but they probably won't have a fancy video card or sound system (if they have a sound card at all). They also may not come with an operating system, allowing you to pick whatever software will best meet your needs. 

Beyond the Server

There's more to having a server in your office than just setting it up and plugging it in. You have to protect it, maintain it, and keep it updated. And of course, there's the inevitable need for tech support.

  • Staff – Someone has to be in charge of the server operation. You or another  person will need to be comfortable operating and maintaining the hardware and the software on the server, and managing the backups. Admin tasks include adding and removing users, helping with forgotten passwords, and monitoring the operating environment to make sure nothing bad happens to the server. Modern servers and server software are highly reliable, and in most cases, they use software you're already familiar with. If you're not comfortable handling this, though, whomever you have helping with your office PCs can likely also help with the server.

  • Space – You probably aren't going to have a full-blown data center for your servers, but you do need a place for them to live, such as an office or a closet with ventilation. Exactly how big depends on a number of factors, including how many servers there will be. If it's in a tower format, you'll need a sturdy table for the server and its UPS.

  • Support equipment – You will need to have uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for your server. A good example of such a UPS is the Dell EMC SmartUPS 1500 SmartConnect, which has enough capacity to supply your server through short power outages, the ability to shut it down safely for longer outages, and the ability to monitor it remotely. You will also need a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for the server. 

  • Air conditioning – Today's servers are a lot like PCs, and will operate just fine in a normal office environment. If your server location suffers from extremes in temperature, you should find a spot with air conditioning. 

While we mentioned Microsoft Windows above, the choice of network operating system is really up to you, and what works best for your business. Likewise, your choice of security software and hardware are important issues that we'll look at in another article. Right now, you've got enough to start getting your server up and running. 

You can learn more about entry-level servers by visiting Dell's PowerEdge Server site.  Dell Technologies Advisors can help you to tackle your toughest IT challenges so you can focus on growing your business. Call at 1-855-404-4427 or Chat Now