Servers store data and applications that many different people in your business share and use. A typical small office with a number of desktop PCs will have one or more servers connected by a network.
Difference between a network server and a desktop PC
A small server might look similar to a high-end desktop computer, but the machines are designed for very different tasks:
- A desktop PC is designed for one person, with a simple operating system that runs single-user applications such as a word processor or a web browser.
- A server runs a specialised operating system designed to support multiple users. It is capable of running multi-user applications such as shared calendar and programs, databases, customer relationship management software, enterprise resource planning, etc.
Think of a server as a shared resource and a repository for your business information. Given its central role, its specification needs to be much greater than the typical desktop computer.
Choose the right specification for your network server
The disk storage capacity of your server needs to be large enough to keep all the current data for your business. Servers can require terabytes of storage, especially if you need to keep or share a high volume of large files, eg graphics, images, video and audio files.
Your server must be capable of rapid repair since a breakdown will halt most of your IT functions. Servers are often built so that key components such as disks and power supplies can be quickly changed. Servers that are more expensive will have redundant components, so that if one fails another will take over automatically.
A lot of data flows in and out of your server. All this data needs to pass through a special connector card to your local area network. This card, called a network interface card, needs to be fast enough to handle the flow of data. It is common to use network cards with a transfer speed of 1Gb/s or greater.
Where to store your network server
Location is a major consideration. Servers are normally kept in a secure, temperature and humidity-controlled location, often alongside your networking equipment. It is important to prevent casual access to your server because of the risk of damage to your business information, as well as physical damage from dust and other contaminants. See more on server security.
A server maintenance contract is a wise investment, especially if you have limited in-house IT expertise. You can find information about maintenance contracts on leading hardware supplier websites. A web search for 'server maintenance' will find other possible sources.