What’s a Server, and Why Does My Small Business Need One?

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We’re glad you asked. Servers are, at heart, places to store and access data. They facilitate data exchanges, the basis for nearly all Information Technology (IT). It’s highly likely your business already uses a server of some kind, even if you don’t realize it (the video to the right can help shed some light there).

So why do you need one? Servers are a vital part of any company’s growth strategy. After all, your business depends on lots of factors for its success. Some of those assets are internal, like stocking the right products and hiring the best people. You also depend on external services, such as those supplied by public utilities and corporate partnerships.

But where does a server fall on that scale of investment? To answer, here’s a little story to illustrate how a business’s choices in this area can affect its growth and success.

The owner of Tiny Biz Inc. has a great business idea, but only a personal residence to launch it from. Products, office supplies, and equipment have to be stored with friends and family initially (including Great Aunt Sally in Ottawa).

  • The IT angle: when free online options for things like email are used, the data is stored on servers outside of your business’s control, potentially in another state or even another country.
  • The Down Side: a leak in Aunt Sally’s attic could damage shipments to current customer; a breakdown in technology will prevent new customers from making purchases in the first place. Also, while in both cases the space might be free, it’s limited and will eventually run out.
  • The Bottom Line: depending on free storage, be it physical or virtual, leaves a business open to losses without any quick means of recovery.

Sales pick up, the team expands, and eventually the time comes for Tiny Biz to get serious and move to a commercial property. The proud owner and staff hold a grand opening to celebrate their success.

  • The IT angle: moving a server under the supervision of IT experts (or renting one from them) means the business now has the perks of server ownership without the overhead of upkeep.
  • The Down Side: a good storefront rental, just like good server management, can be a substantial expense, and in an imperfect world even the best of the best may have occasional problems. Just like a good landlord, though, a good IT server choice shows its true value when disaster strikes.
  • The Bottom Line: sound storage investment ensures that the work of emergency recovery is someone else’s problem.

We know, we know: the economy is a tough place to compete right now. As a small business you have to think about the bottom line. Maybe you still feel that an investment in enterprise-level IT isn’t the same (or as necessary) as other business expenses. Well, here’s a partial list of the advantages a good server provides:

  • Automatic backup of business data and simple recovery features.
  • Automatic management of your organization’s Internet domain name.
  • Extensive email management and archiving.
  • Quality file organization and access, with the ability to share internal documents and coordinate calendars no matter where you are.

Any of these items sound vital to your business? Then you’ll need to plan and budget accordingly, moving from the “barely getting by” phase of business operations to a true server solution. Just imagine what risks you might run if you left property security up to chance, or simply went with the absolute cheapest option out there.

Unfortunately, this mindset is how a lot of businesses view their server assets; namely, the absolute cheapest option available. It’s not until an emergency occurs that a business generally realizes the value servers, and a team to manage them, provide. According to a study by CA Technologies and Coleman Parkes Research, IT downtime and recovery lead to a collective $26.5 billion in lost revenue for one year, averaging $159,331 per business.

The saddest part of this whole situation? Servers aren’t that expensive in the first place, even for the smallest companies. Microsoft Small Business Server specifically crafts models for businesses with fewer than 25 employees (although they have ones for larger businesses too!), and cloud storage and visualization are also increasingly affordable options.

Of course, getting these servers set up and running smoothly can be a daunting proposition even for a company that considers itself tech savvy. As a recent Microsoft study found, 60% of small businesses admit to not having the means to carry out a technology upgrade (with 52% not being able to afford adequate employee training). You probably want to reach out for some help, and fortunately, you can do that with a local partner in your area: Cii is an example of a company that offers quality local server maintenance.

Servers are an investment that can really provide value to businesses of all sizes, and are important for overall growth and expansion. We’d love to help your business get a better handle on this important resource: just contact us to get started. You can also check out more facts and figures over at Microsoft’s Small Business server portal, including cases studies of how servers have helped businesses like yours succeed.

No matter what you decide, a server is really just another tool meant to help you focus on your real priority: growing your business.

UPDATE 2/23/17:
Thanks to advances in technology, cloud options like hosted email and hosted infrastructure are secure, affordable options for businesses of all sizes. Many companies can enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level IT servers and infrastructure with a simplified cloud solution. If you’re interested in a cloud service, or looking to upgrade from a server, check out our Cloud Desktop IT solution.