A network server is a powerful computer connected to your business computer network. It allows you to run centralised IT services, like a customer relationship management system that everyone in your company can access.
Your network server can perform a number of important tasks. For instance:
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If your business has more than ten computers, the benefits of a server may well outweigh the costs.
There are, however, some alternatives to a full-blown network server. Network attached storage (NAS) provides a central store for files in your business without the complexity of a server.
Another option is to look at online, cloud computing services. Instead of storing files and running programs on your own network server, you access them over the internet. Cloud services are often provided by web hosting companies and charged by the month.
Cloud services are a particularly good option for businesses looking for some extra flexibility. There's also no large upfront cost and much of the technical work is taken care of by the cloud service provider. Learn more about cloud computing.
There are some key considerations when choosing your network server:
Servers have special features, like high-capacity, ultra-reliable hard drives and extra network connections so they can handle many users. There are a few key features to look:
The majority of network servers are high-performance PCs, designed specifically to be used as servers.
It’s also vital to consider the software you’ll be running on your server. Just like a standard computer, every network server needs an operating system. There are a number of choices for your business – many companies choose Microsoft Windows Server 2012, because it’s based on the same Microsoft Windows platform as their other computers.
Many companies also now use a technique called server virtualisation. This makes their server more efficient by enabling it to perform several different tasks at once. Learn more about virtualisation.
A simple server can cost £300, but is only likely to provide basic services to a small network of around five computers. It takes need much more power to support extra computers, run large databases and handle a large volume of email.
High-capacity servers start from around £1,000.