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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

As you may well know, IT is the backbone of virtually all businesses around the world. Without the power of Information Technology, things would take a whole lot longer to do and we simply wouldn’t be as efficient as we are now thanks to the wonderful world of computers!

One of the things that businesses need to do is store important files in a central location. Whilst it is perfectly possible to embrace the cloud and use cloud-based storage, this can sometimes end up proving rather costly for small businesses that need to store a lot of data, and there is also the question of what would happen if the Internet stopped working temporarily.

In that particular scenario, things could prove slightly disastrous if two groups of remote workers were working with the same set of data; the wrong data could technically be updated, resulting in a lot of chaos for all parties concerned!

Therefore, an alternative and more-reliable solution for small businesses, especially those that are concerned about who sees their data, is to have a file server on-site. Servers are just basically powerful computers that offer a lot of storage space for users, and come in many shapes, sizes and flavours.
Now, you might be thinking that servers would possibly cost a small fortune but the good news is that these days, file servers don’t really cost a lot more than standard desktop computers.

They can be bought in a really small form factor, such as a small desktop system, or they can be purchased in ‘blade’ format, which is suitable for those who want to have an array of servers that they can install in a racking system, in a dedicated ‘server room’, for example.

The importance of having a server

You might be wondering why you should go to the expense of buying a computer that is simply going to be dedicated to storing files; after all, that’s what all computers do, right?

And external USB hard drives mean that you can easily save or copy across data from each workstation, so why should you go out and buy a server?

Here are some of the benefits of having a file server located on-site:

- It’s a central storage point - instead of users having to store files on their individual computers, they can store all of their important documents and images on the server. The benefit of doing this is other people can also access those same files, should they be stored in a public folder on the server; 

- Files can be backed up - if a user stores files on their own computer and the hard drive failed, for example, it can be costly to try and recover the data. But if their files are stored on the server, those files can be backed up along with everyone else’s on a regular basis, resulting in a potential catastrophe being averted; 

- It can be left alone - once a server has been configured, it can just be left to do its work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The great thing about servers these days is that they can be remotely monitoring. In other words, you can remotely connect to the server’s admin console from the comfort of your own workstation, without having to physically go up to the server in order to monitor or maintain it; 

- Remote access can be set up - if you have employees that work from remote sites or even from home, and they have a decent broadband Internet connection where they are, they can remotely and securely connect to your firm’s file server and use it as if they were using their computer from the same location! This is also beneficial for those who travel around the world a lot, as it means they can still be as productive as office-based employees are.

Preparing for your new file server

Before you go out and buy a new file server for your small business, you firstly need to make sure that you have the space and appropriate power and network points for it. If you don’t, it’ll be easier to get this done before you get your server.

You also need to ensure that the server will be installed somewhere that is safe and secure, so you can forget about putting it at the end of someone’s desk, for example!

Once you have got it’s new home ready, you now need to start server shopping! There is a plethora of websites that you can buy file servers from, such as http://www.uk.insight.com/category/computers/servers, but before you do go and start spending your firm’s money, there are a few considerations that you need to take on board; they are as follows:

1. Storage Capacity

The server you buy has to have enough storage capacity for your needs, and it also needs to have enough expansion space for you to install extra hard drives in the future. As a rough guide to the total amount of storage space you need right now, consider 200GB as a storage allocation per employee.

2. Operating System

There is a number of different operating system options available for file servers, so you should determine which would work best for your particular environment. If you all use Windows-based systems, go for a server that runs the Windows Small Business Server operating system.

Mainly Mac users? A server running OS X Server would be the best fit for your environment. Some people decide to go with a Linux-based setup, such as Ubuntu, but regardless of what operating system you choose, make sure that you have the knowledge and skills to set it up and maintain it (or hire someone that can).

3. Backup

It is vitally essential that you have a backup plan in place for your server! You can either use the software that comes bundled with your server operating system, or you could use a third-party software package such as Symantec Backup Exec.

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