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Buying a Server for a Small Medium Business

Over the past decade, SMB companies have been advised to move all their IT systems to the cloud, but this is not always the best advice as there can be valid reasons for leaving your systems to run on premise.

Poor connectivity to the internet is one good example of why companies are not able to migrate everything to the cloud.

If systems such as email, ERP or file and print services need to run on physical servers within your building then it’s important that you identify the right Server, and configuration for your needs.

To assist you in your Server selection process, the Team at www.ITQuickQuotes.ie have put together a Server Selection checklist based on our many years of experience within the SMB market.

Form factor

SMB Servers will usually come in Tower form and will have multiple bays for adding disk storage.

There will also be room to install and configure a RAID controller to improve redundancy and performance.

Some units have “options” that allow you to alter the configuration for example the Lenovo ThinkServer TS460 comes with a 4-bay LFF cage as standard with the option of an 8-bay SFF cage.

Storage Interface and type

What interface for connecting hard drives to the motherboard will you need?
The standard SATA interface used in most computers is fine for SMB companies unless a higher performance level is required and then you will need to consider SAS.


Servers should typically come with a SATA connection but have an option to upgrade to SAS via a PCI card.

To improve performance even further you can purchase SSD drives but these are more expensive.

Be aware that Servers do not always come with any Hard Disks.

RAID

Unless you are operating with a single hard drive RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is  important for Business Critical Servers.

RAID types:

RAID 0, stripes data across numerous drives to improve performance, if one drive fails all the data is lost

RAID 1, mirrors or puts the same data on two drives, if one drive fails there is still a mirror and usable copy of the data on the other

RAID 5, requires at least three drives. This stripes the data and adds parity data so that any one drive can fail without the loss of information – you will need to replace the faulty drive quickly so it can be rebuilt and join the system again.

Due to the importance of RAID most SMB servers will include RAID but with limited options – typically 0, 1 and 10 – but will offer an option to upgrade to a RAID controller. 

Swappable Hard Disks

If you purchase an entry level SMB Server with hard disks pre-installed, chances are they are fixed and so cannot be removed until the Server is powered down.

Hot-swap drives are installed as part of a RAID setup that enables redundancy which ensures that no data is lost if a failure occurs and these disks can be removed while the Server is running.

Processor and memory – How much power is needed?

Entry-level SMB servers will usually ship with conventional processors, such an Intel Core i3 or i5, which will suffice for many SMB’s with basic needs.

If more powerful processing power is needed, then the Intel Xeon range offer better multi-threaded performance and reliability.

AMD are another manufacturer who offer business-grade processors with its Opteron families.

RAM usually comes between 8GB and 64GB in entry-level SMB servers.

Be aware when purchasing extra memory that the modules need to be compatible with your processor and motherboard.

Expansion options

It’s always useful to have expansion space in a Server in case you want to change the configuration at a later stage. PCI Slots can be used to install any options needed for things like SAS drives or RAID. Even having extra USB ports can help when adding external devices for things like back-up drives.

Operating system

It’s important to know that Servers are sold without an Operating System and this will increase your investment considerably.

Which Server is best for you?

So, which server best suits your needs? While we strongly recommend you do your research, we can help by suggesting the following option.

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Product Review: Lenovo ThinkServer TS150

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