Small business servers – Essential Guide

Small business servers, both server hardware and server software, is designed to help any small business planning to grow its operations.

Small business servers, both server hardware and server software, is designed to help any small business planning to grow its operations. Business servers can assist in handling communications, database functions or hosting business applications for multiple users.


What is a server?


A server is a computer that delivers information and software to other computers that are linked to it by a network. It also provides centralised data management, backup, and additional processing power and storage.

In some cases, servers are used to run specific applications that require more processing power or computing resources in order to run efficiently. Large, processor intensive financial trading, document management or imaging software might be an example of this.

As a result, some organisations may choose to run dedicated server boxes for different applications, for example the ones listed above, plus database management systems (DBMS) or communications platforms, which regularly require their own machines.

Servers tend to differ from desktop PCs in running a dedicated server operating system, or network operating system. They typically have more memory and more powerful processers, as well as advanced networking and storage facilities.

Servers also tend to be built with reduced downtime in mind, because they are responsible for keeping the desktops, and the business itself up and running.


What does a server do?


As well as running larger server applications, a server can deliver information to other computers that are linked to it either through cables or wirelessly through a router.

As a result, servers tend to be used to centralise data management and file sharing, as well as managing shared resources such as printers and storage devices. They can also be used to manage things like user identities, logins to the network and access priorities. 

Servers are also used for backup operations, such as automated client backup, as well as remote access to files and applications. In this capacity, they can act as gatekeepers to important company information.

They might also run additional security suites to secure the network through firewalls, intrusion detection, user access management, and software updates.

How is server software different from desktop software?


Small business servers need to supply information and resources to multiple users. So their operating systems and applications are designed differently to desktop software.

Server software might allow users to share, for example, productivity or business applications, as well as e-mail applications, Internet connectivity, data backup, and office equipment such as printers and scanners.

The Windows Small Business Server 2008 operating system is an example of a server platform that is written to do these things.


What is an application server?


An application server is basically a server that runs a specific application platform from the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM or any of the other application vendors that sell server-specific software.


What are the benefits of having an application server?


One benefit of using application servers is that by centralising your business logic on an individual server, or on a small number of server machines (called a cluster), you can guarantee you will have the right updates and upgrades to the application for all users.

In other words, you won’t have old versions of the application accessing or changing data in an older, incompatible manner.

Also, any changes to the application configuration or settings can be done centrally, saving a lot of hassle.

You only need to secure a central server, rather than many potentially insecure clients, and this means that you can protect your database information better.

Your IT system can stand to perform better, as large server applications with a heavy workload are run on dedicated machines, keeping network traffic to a minimum.

It may also be easier for third party services firms to maintain an application that resides on a single server, and software licensing also becomes clearer cut.


How about virtualisation?


Virtualisation platforms from the likes of VMWare and Microsoft allow businesses to lower their hardware and computing costs by running multiple server or desktop applications on a single physical machine, or fewer servers than before.

Virtualised applications share the existing physical computing resources of their servers, such as processing and storage.

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