Times, they are a changing. Like many of you, my job description and the tools I use keep evolving. The days where every business had to have a server, that expensive mystery box in the corner that everyone except the IT guy was afraid of, well, those days are gone. Tools have changed.

The introduction of the cloud and cloud services have greatly reduced the roles that were once hosted onsite. Couple that with the dropping hardware costs, and the purchase price of a server for what you might need is significantly less than it once was. We have even told clients that they do not need an onsite server. How do you know when it is time to look into getting your first server? There are several factors to consider:

  1. Employees – How many employees/workstations do you have on your network? If you have employees, it could benefit you to have a server. One of the jobs of a server is to play the role of “traffic cop.” This gives permissions for users to access resources, including their computer, from a central location. It also makes managing the workstations that are connected to the server possible.
  2. Storage – One Drive, Drop Box, and Google Drive have all made cloud storage available and shareable. So why would anyone need local storage? Do you use QuickBooks locally? QuickBooks doesn’t share well in a cloud scenario. Everyone needs to be looking at the same file (not different versions of the same file). Plus QuickBooks working across the internet (not talking about the hosted version) on your computer… well, to be blunt, it is horrible. Click and … wait … wait … wait. QuickBooks is a chatty program that talks back and forth a lot, sending files back and forth constantly as you are working in it. The lag will make it pretty much unusable. I am not just picking on QuickBooks, there are many other apps that operate the same way and since many small businesses use it, it makes a good relatable example. QuickBooks installed on a server would give all users the shared company file without the extended lag experience.
  3. Software – If you have some industry specific software it may require that you install it on a server, or might need external resources like SQL (which require installation on a Server Operating System/OS). You may find yourself updating software, and the new update/upgrade you are looking at requires it to be installed on a server. Another scenario is that you started out with a hosted version of software, but are ready to bring it in house. Why would you consider this? When you look at the pricing per seat of the software that you are using, compared to if you hosted it yourself, you may find that the cost savings would more than pay for the new server, and upkeep of that server when compared to a 3-5-year contract.

These are just a few of the reasons you might find yourself looking to purchase or upgrade your server. If you have purchased servers in the past, and have nightmare images of migrations, expense, and downtime, I won’t say that they are completely things of the past, but are more the exception than the rule anymore. Most of the migrations that we have done have been pretty seamless to the end users. The hardware costs have dropped considerably, just as the amount of time it takes to get the migration completed has been reduced as well.

If you find yourself saying yes to any of the scenarios above, maybe it is time to consider the benefits a server could bring to you. I would suggest asking your trusted IT consultant their opinion. If you do not have a trusted IT consultant, I would suggest reaching out to a couple and get their opinions. Most will give you a free consult, with suggestions and recommendations. From there it is up to you to decide what is best for your business.