You use servers every day. You might not know it, but you do. Do you know where most of your information comes from and where it goes? Do you know how that information is stored, processed, or what a device or system is? What about if your business suddenly needed additional resources to grow in order to meet targets — where would you find that valuable equipment, and how would you bring it online quickly enough?
What Is A Server?
A server is a computer that’s set up to provide services and data to other computers over a network. It can be a physical or virtual machine which is built specifically for the primary purpose of handling requests from clients and serving them responses. In theory, whenever computers share resources with client machines they are considered servers. There are many types of servers, including web servers, mail servers, and virtual servers.
Physical Vs. Virtual Servers
A physical server is just a computer that is used to run server software. This server can be configured with any number of hardware components to suit your needs. You might use a physical server with a single processor and 8GB of RAM, or you might need a machine with multiple processors and much more RAM. A physical server also includes hard drive space, which can be configured as needed.
Virtual servers can be created through a process called virtualization, which allows multiple virtual servers to exist on one physical server at the same time. Each of these virtual servers can act completely independently of each other and have their own operating system and applications — just as if they were separate, physical computers.
Why Use Virtual Servers?
Virtual servers have some advantages over physical servers. The first is the cost savings from not needing to purchase additional hardware components for each new virtual machine that you create; however, this benefit often isn't realized until you're managing five or more servers in your environment (although it does depend on your circumstances).
The downside of a virtual server is that it shares resources with other virtual servers. So if one of these other servers requires more resources, it can affect the performance of your virtual server.
In-House Vs. Cloud Server
One of the first decisions you need to make when choosing to get a server is whether it will be physically located in-house at your office or cloud-based.
In-house servers require an upfront hardware investment and will also need a rack and server room space to be stored in. Additionally, you will need an IT support team that knows how to maintain and fix any issues that may arise. On the upside, this is a physical server that is only accessible to you and your company. Physical servers may also cost less in the long run depending on the type of business needs you have.
Cloud solutions can be more expensive than an in-house server, but the benefits of being in the cloud can far outweigh the costs for some businesses. For example, an online business that is reliant on web-based transactions will consider uptime an extremely important factor; therefore, they will likely be willing to pay more for a cloud-based solution that can guarantee a certain level of uptime. Other businesses not as dependent on uptime may be more suited to an in-house set up.
What Can A Server Do For A Small To Medium Sized Business?
Here are some of the major reasons that SMBs invest in servers when their business really starts to thrive and grow:
- Storing files. While you could store all your company’s files on a cloud service, the risk of an internet outage or the cloud provider experiencing technical difficulties means keeping some files locally on a server is still a good idea.
- Hosting custom domain email. Using an email domain specific to your business, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, can enhance your company’s professional image and add a layer of security.
- Hosting their website. Servers are usually required for businesses that need more than basic web hosting; for example, if you want to sell products online through your website, you’ll need an eCommerce platform like Magento that runs on a server.
- Controlling which users have permission to access which resources within your company’s IT environment. You may want some employees to have permission only to view files, while others should be able to edit them — servers can help make this possible.
- Accessing the company network remotely through a virtual private network (VPN). This allows your employees to access the business network when they are outside the office, such as at home or on the go.
The benefits of a server for your business can be enormous. It gives you centralized access to your files, which can be a great foundation for collaboration within your team or by outsourcing. It also gives you centralized security and redundancy.