Many companies start with a single founder, working around the clock to establish a new brand or service. If the company flourishes, the founder might start recruiting extra staff as the client roster grows. Turnover rises, expansion ensues, and suddenly a team of people are occupying a downtown office filled with computers and peripherals.
Amid the excitement of attracting new clients and extending operations, it’s easy to overlook the residual lack of IT infrastructure. Employees could be working remotely from laptops, or huddled around a broadband hub with Ethernet cables providing the only physical link between one PC and another. That’s clearly not an efficient system, yet it often develops organically, even though a network server would clearly be beneficial at an early stage.
For the uninitiated, a server is effectively a stripped-down computer dedicated to managing and processing data around the clock. It acts as a buffer between the internet and user devices, allowing workers to share resources quickly while providing impressive levels of security against viruses or spyware. Affordable to buy and simple to manage, servers are far easier to install and maintain than many people assume.
Below are some of the main reasons why your business needs a server:
- Standardized networks are easier to manage. Small companies may lack a dedicated IT manager, and larger firms won’t want six PCs with different operating systems and software suites. A server standardizes everything from internet access to file sharing, establishing a standard throughout the company. Scheduled updates and other server health maintenance can take place overnight, with no effect on productivity.
- Files can be stored and accessed centrally. One of the biggest reasons to maintain good server health involves sharing files among team members. That’s particularly useful in the age of collaborative software like Slack, and it eliminates troublesome or inefficient data siloes. Finding and accessing files becomes easier, even remotely.
- Automatic backups mean device failure doesn’t spell disaster. Computer components often break or need repairing, which could be catastrophic if data is stored on an internal hard drive. If files are stored centrally, staff can simply log on through another device and continue working. Modern servers have in-built redundancy, where content is backed up to prevent a failure of one hard drive leading to data loss.
- Economies of scale are achievable. Peripherals can be shared among multiple users, allowing an entire company to operate a central printer or scanner. Staff computers need lower specifications (and price tags) if they’re being used as dumb terminals, and site software licenses are often far cheaper than purchasing separate licenses for every machine.
- Access rights can be governed by an administrator. The new intern probably shouldn’t be able to see HR records, while the accounts director may be the only person allowed to edit profit and loss spreadsheets. A server administrator can quickly establish access rights and manage resource allocation, such as preventing junior employees from installing software that might be harmful or malicious.
- Communication is improved. Viewing other people’s electronic diaries is vital for scheduling events and meetings, while instant messaging across a network is far more efficient than sending emails around the world to a colleague at the next desk. Mobile devices are also compatible with modern servers, for added practicality.
- Viruses and malware can be repelled. Despite all the warnings, many people still don’t realize how dangerous unknown attachments or compromised websites can be. A server is effectively a gatekeeper between the World Wide Web and user terminals. Maintaining good server health reduces the risk of data theft, or computers being forced offline by malicious activity. Many antivirus suites are designed to operate centrally, resulting in greater simplicity and effectiveness.
- Future expansion becomes easier. A network with good server health should be able to support more machines than the company currently owns, so there’s scope for future growth. Settings and software installation can be managed by automated scripts, rather than requiring item-by-item installation onto every new network computer.