When starting a business, you barely have employees, but as the business grows, of course, you will start taking in more employees, and soon after, you will need a server, which will allow you to run your office network and business rather efficiently. However, with so many choices to go through, and super important decisions to make, you might be wondering where to even start. But the truth is, setting up a server for your small business doesn’t have to be as difficult. In fact, we are going to tell you everything that you need to know about setting up a server for a small business; what is it that you need. We will also give you a step-by-step process, on how you could set up the servers. But first:
What is a server?
In very simple terms, a server is basically a super-powerful computer program that gives other computers in the same network access to services, programs, storage space, or information. These other computers are often referred to as ‘clients’, and what a server seeks to do is to offset the burdens off the clients. The servers also do help in prioritising resources, and when it comes to data sharing and storage, they provide a safer framework to do so.
What are business servers used for?
There are a number of areas in which the servers would be of great benefit to small businesses across the UK. They include:
- Secure email hosting
- Cloud storage
- File sharing
- Hosting a website or eCommerce store
- Hosting SaaS apps including invoice management, customer relationship management, employment management, or planning and collaboration software.
- Backing-up business data
- Supporting multiple virtual servers
- Providing virtual desktops to employees
- Storing as well as collaboration on documents
How to choose a server for your business
When choosing a server for your business, there is a procedure that you will need to follow that’s as follows:
Determine the specs of the server ideal for your business – when selecting a business server, you got to determine your RAM, processor, and hard drive requirements first, as doing this will ensure that you choose the most ideal server for your specific business. To determine this, you can either choose to do the research yourself or book a consultation with a server expert.
Determine the server’s location – when it comes to the server’s location, small businesses usually have two main options; either set up the server in their offices or host them in the cloud. One thing that you should keep in mind is that there are pros and cons to each approach, so you need to make sure that you choose wisely. Look at the pros for each method, as well as the cons, and determine the method that will work for your small business.
Determine what your budget is – now, whenever you are setting up a small business server, the cost is a very important consideration that should be on top of your mind. Whether you want to buy or rent the servers, you will need to do a cost-benefit analysis, to determine what you can afford, and most importantly, what’s beneficial to your business.
Determine the type of the server you want – there are two main types of small business servers; Hybrid and Dedicated servers. A hybrid server is one that’s shared by a few users, where each one has its own separate OS environment. A Dedicated server is a single physical server that’s dedicated to one business. It’s best known for its high performance as well as its mission-critical applications.
Order your server – once you’ve established the cost, needs, and type of the server you want, then you can order it. If you decide to have a physical server, then you will need to ensure that you get all the components as well, including RAM and the hard drives. But if you decide to get a server hosted in a data centre, all you just need to do is to select a server that meets your needs, and then leave the rest to the data centre experts.
Cloud-based server VS on-premise servers
Cloud-based servers – these servers are well-suited to small businesses as they are limited in terms of space and IT resources. While these servers may not be as fast or efficient as dedicated servers, many small businesses are likely to find cloud-based servers as ‘fast-enough’ for their uses. Also, the fact that they are cheaper makes them a super attractive option to many small businesses in the UK. Also, with cloud servers, power supply and network connections aren’t interrupted even when there is a power outage or server issue.
On-premise servers – this is a server that you set up in your office. Even though it comes with a higher upfront cost, it might become easy to operate in the long run, especially as your business grows. Also, with an on-premise server, businesses will have greater control over how it is set up, as well as how it is integrated with the business’s cybersecurity solutions. However though, the cost of maintaining the servers, including the cost of replacing hardware and power usage will be entirely paid by the business.
How to set up a server for a small business
Here is a step by step process on how you can set up a small business server:
- Select the server hardware – as you may know, servers do perform multiple tasks, but the truth is, a server is best utilised when it performs a specific task. The reason for this is that the hardware and features you select in a server depend on the tasks the server will be performing. You may decide to get a file server, web server, database server, mail server, print server, application server, or domain server. Remember that each type of these servers do come with its own hardware and features, which determines the capabilities. This is the very first process of setting up your servers. Be careful when choosing the one that meets your business needs.
- After selecting the server hardware, the next step will be to select its operating system. Now, small business servers do require specialised and robust operating systems that are designed to support as many users as possible, and to do so simultaneously. The main operating systems for small business servers include;
- Linux Ubuntu Server
- Windows Servers Essentials
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux
One thing that you should keep in mind is that a server’s operating system directly impacts its cost as well as its usability, which is why you need to be cautious when selecting one. Here are a few factors you need to consider when doing so:
- User-friendliness – when choosing an operating system for your server, the ease of installation, configuration, as well as its use are crucial factors that you must consider, especially given that you may not have a dedicated IT staff. Now, looking at Windows server operating systems, they are very popular among Windows users as they feel like Windows OS for your PC. As for Linux systems, they are a bit complex, and you might need to hire an expert to install, operate and maintain them.
- Support – Linus operating system being an open-source system might take a lot of time when it comes to resolving any issues. But as for Windows Server OS, you will always receive multi-channel customer support from Microsoft whenever issues arise. See, given that small businesses don’t have a dedicated IT staff, having quality and timely support is very crucial, which makes Windows Server operating system the best option.
- Customisation – in terms of customisation, Linux systems will give you more customisation options compared to Windows operating system.
- Cost – you must consider the cost of running the server operating systems when selecting a server for your business. Also, the overall cost of IT operations, which includes technical expertise and time needed to operate and maintain the server must also be put into consideration.
- Select the server’s location – if you choose an on-premise small business server, it is recommended to have a specific room to house the server. Having it separate from the rest of the office is very ideal, given that it’s very noisy, and would disrupt normal office operations. It is also advisable to have it in a separate room for security reasons. Having control of the physical access of the servers will most certainly mitigate many data security risks. Remember, the room that you choose to house the server must have air-conditioning systems installed as heat can damage the server’s hardware. There shouldn’t be any windows and it should be large enough that you can access both the front and the back of the server. Also, rather than setting the server on a desk or a table, it is advisable that you invest in a rack-mount, as that will help when it comes to ensuring the hardware is both secure and organised, not to mention providing better scalability. There is also the issue of cable management, which is mostly overlooked, but crucial nevertheless. So, you have to make sure that the cables are well organised in the specific room housing your server. After all, servicing and maintenance work would only be possible when the cables are well organised and labeled. Maybe you can invest in a patch panel, allowing you to organise your cables properly.
- Server configuration – before you get to configure the server, you have to install the operating system first. Doing this is as simple as installing an OS on your PC or MAC from your USB, DVD, or even virtual media. But if the server comes with an operating already pre-installed, then you can move right into its configuration. Now, here are a few configurations for small business servers:
- The very first thing you need to do is to set up a strong password for the server.
- Add a local admin account to your computers and then connect them to the server.
- Configure the network settings if you need to.
- You can also set the server as the domain controller so that every computer on your network can join, thereby allowing the server to authenticate user credentials.
- You also need to set up remote access and sharing options.
- You must also set a server backup, of course, following the business’s data backup strategy.
- Lastly, you got to configure the firewall so as to protect the server from attacks or intrusion.
- Securing the server – given that servers are the most crucial pieces of hardware in a small business, as it is the heart of all your business operations such as data swapping, data management, provisioning services to clients, they are an attractive target for hackers. This means that you must take the security of the server very seriously. The unfortunate thing is that servers can be attacked from all corners, especially the ones that directly connect to the internet as they are targeted by malware. But that doesn’t mean that servers not connected to the internet are spared. On the contrary, they are always vulnerable to lateral network intrusion. Other attack methods include; phishing emails, drive-by attacks, Trojans, DDoS, and unsecured open pots.
To improve the security of your servers, here are a few recommendations:
- You have to limit access to the server by establishing physical and virtual access controls
- Set-up a firewall
- Install an antivirus and anti-malware software
- Carry out data encryption
- Activate intrusion detection as well as prevention systems
- Always make sure that you back-up critical data
- Regularly monitor server health as well as traffic anomalies
- Perform network security audits regularly
How much does a server cost for a small business
The cost of a server for your small business depends on whether you are renting or buying. Now, when it comes to renting a server, it will cost you around 100 pounds per month for the cheaper servers, while the most expensive ones may cost you around 200 pounds. When buying a server, the cheaper one might cost around 500 pounds, while an expensive one will cost you around 2000 pounds to acquire. Remember that this cost doesn’t include maintenance, server room costs, security, as well as labour costs. So, you really need to be prepared!
For every small business out there, it will reach a time when a server will be needed, be it for data security, growth, business requirement, or compliance. As we have seen, setting up a small business server is not complicated, however, selecting one that fits your business needs is not that easy, especially considering the endless array of choices available. You need to be careful and choose wisely! Luckily, with the recommendations above, you should have an easier time getting and setting up a business server.