How Do I Choose the Right Server for My Small Business? How does a Server benefit me?

How Do I Choose the Right Server for My Small Business? How does a Server benefit me?

image1

It is important to ask yourself these three important questions when looking for a server for your small business:

  1. What type of software application program(s) will I use the server for?
  2. Can I use a file server or Cloud storage to save my QuickBooks or CRM files?
  3. How much does a server cost if I were to purchase one or subscribe to a Cloud Server service?

Let’s talk about the software application programs first.

What type of software application program does your business use?

If you are not familiar with our approach here at eSudo, you know that we try to be transparent in all that we do. We share everything we know about IT with our customers and prospects, because we believe it helps business owners or IT managers make the most informed decisions possible. This approach also helps us better understand how to serve our customers in a more complete and thorough way.

With this in mind, here are three things you should consider when deciding a server type for your business.

  1. Why do you need a server in the first place?
  2. What software application program(s) does your business need to run?
  3. Why can’t you use a file server (Cloud storage server) as an application server?

According to Wikipedia, “a server is a piece of computer hardware or software (computer program) that provides functionality for other programs or devices, called "clients". This architecture is called the client–server model. Servers can provide various functionalities, often called "services", such as sharing data or resources among multiple clients, or performing computation for a client. A single server can serve multiple clients, and a single client can use multiple servers. A client process may run on the same device or may connect over a network to a server on a different device. Typical servers are database servers, file servers, mail servers, print servers, web servers, game servers, and application servers.”

image2

  1. Why do you need a server? How does a server help small business owner?

    The software application programs listed above are used to create the content or information (“data”) you use to run day-to-day operations. For example, you can create a PowerPoint presentation or write a proposal in Microsoft Word or create an invoice in QuickBooks. Once you have created the file or document, you can then save it on your local computer disk drive, however if you want to share the files or allow employees or team members to work on the document at the same time, you will need a server to manage multi-user access to the file and data. There are different types of servers depending on what type of files you use. A server has redundant disk drives and other software components that allows it to store more data than a desktop or laptop, share the data with multi-users or computers, and stay on 24x7x365 (24 hours a day, seven (7) days a week, and 365 days a year). Therefore, it is important to select the right server for your business because it plays an important part of your operations.

  2. What software program does most small business use in their accounting firm, law firm, construction company, or insurance brokerage firm?

    Most businesses with employees have a standard software application program they use to run their operations. It may not be the same for your business, however the type of software programs used by most small businesses include:

    • Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher
    • Email – Exchange Server with Outlook or MacMail, Google Apps (G-suite) with G-mail and Thunderbird or MacMail client
    • Document Sharing Format - Adobe Acrobat
    • Accounting – QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Xero, and Sage
    • CRM (customer relationship management) – Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho CRM, ACT!
  3. Three main type of servers that are used daily and why you need them for business:

    Please Note: there are other types of servers, such as print server, web server or database server. To remain on-topic for the scope of this article, we will only focus on the types of servers listed below...

    • File Server - most businesses use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Acrobat to create files. These files are usually a static file type; they do not need to be accessed by multiple users at one time. Documents with a static file type can be stored on a Cloud File Storage Solution like OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, Dropbox, Egnyte. Or, the static file type can reside on a physical Windows File Server, or on a NAS storage device as a local file in the office.
    • Email Server - businesses might be using Microsoft Exchange email server with Outlook or MacMail or IMAP/POP3 email systems. Most businesses have already migrated their email server to the Cloud, using Microsoft Office 365 Exchange online or Google Apps (Workspace or Gmail).
    • Application Server – this server type is less known but many businesses with accounting software or CRM programs have been using an application server. For example, CPAs, Law Firms, or construction companies use industry specific software or line-of-business applications, such as QuickBooks, Timeslip, or On-Screen Takeoff software. These software applications use a database file system which are dynamic and allow concurrent users to edit and work at the same time. This type of software will need to run on a dedicated application server in your office or in the Cloud.

    Some of these applications have been migrated to the Cloud by the vendor e.g., QuickBooks Desktop Cloud version is QuickBooks Online, however some legacy applications cannot run on the Cloud or the Cloud version of the application does not have the full feature-set of the desktop version. In the case of QuickBooks, the online version does not have an industry-specific edition that includes inventory, reporting and workflow. Also, the online version speed may not be as fast as the desktop version. Future versions of QuickBooks Online will be adding more features to match the desktop version.

    For these reasons, having a dedicated application server may be necessary if your business needs some of the industry specific features of the software. An application server can be installed onsite (on-premises), in the Cloud using Microsoft Azure Cloud, or in a Private data center using a virtual server. Example of application server include Windows Server 2012R2, 2016 - 2019, or Linux Server using Red Hat, Debian or Ubuntu.

Business owners have been asking themselves why they need an application server in the office or in the Cloud if they can use online Cloud storage to save their data files and documents.

Click Here to Schedule a FREE 1-on-1 Consultation to review on-site server or Cloud-based server options

Why can’t I use Cloud-base file storage like OneDrive, Dropbox, G-drive to share QuickBooks Desktop company files?

This is a commonly asked question, so we want to explain the differences between File Server or Cloud-based Storage vs. Application server.

QuickBooks uses a file type called relational database so it can handle concurrent transactions or support multiple open files at the same time because more than one person needs to access the same company data file(s) at the same time using Multi-User Mode.

A Cloud storage server such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive or other online storage, in general, cannot support QuickBooks Desktop company files because they are not designed to handle the dynamic locking and permissions of database files.

When QuickBooks database files are stored on OneDrive, Dropbox or Cloud-base file storage, it causes file corruption and permission issues because it allows two or more people to edit the same file. Sometimes this overwrites each other’s work, sometimes file corruption. As a result, downtime and data loss can occur.

A Cloud file storage works well for sharing static file such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Acrobat because the files get loaded onto your local computer memory when the document is opened. This file is usually edited by one person working on the document at a single time.

Besides QuickBooks, other applications such as Microsoft Dynamics, Timeslip, On-Screen TakeOff, CRM, or ERP that use dynamic databases will not work on a Cloud-base file storage.

The good news is that you can install an onsite application server using your own hardware or choose from a Cloud Application Server running on Windows Server, Linux on Microsoft Azure, Amazon, or on a server maintained in a private data center.

How much does a dedicated application server cost - installed onsite in the office or using a Cloud application server solution?

To determine the cost between an onsite physical server vs. a Cloud-based application server, two questions you might want to consider are:

  1. What is your current network environment today?
  2. Do you want to maintain and support your own application server or use a hosted solution (Cloud Server as a service)?

What is your current network environment?

  1. Is this the first server for your business?
    Most small businesses may not have an existing server or if this is their first server, they can consider getting a general all-purpose server if they have less than 15 people. The general all-purpose server will allow you to install and run applications such as QuickBooks and provide management roles such as User Account Login, and Access Permission Control. Microsoft Windows Server 2016 or 2019 are typical examples of a general all-purpose server. They can be configured as a Windows Domain Controller for permission roles along with running a single application role such as QuickBooks database manager.
  2. What is the application requirements for the server?
    The software vendor will specify what type of server hardware and software requirements are needed such as memory, disk space, number of users, CPU (processor), and operating system are needed to support their product. Certain software programs can only be installed as stand-alone or a dedicated server and cannot be installed on a Windows Domain Controller as mentioned above. This means a general all-purpose server will not work for this type of application database system. For example, if you have a CRM software application that uses a database such as MS SQL, it will need to be installed on a dedicated application server.
  3. Other considerations for the type of server – many other requirements for selecting the right server include hard drive disk speed, data security, and network speed and topology. These items need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and are beyond the scope of this article.

Onsite Application Server vs. Cloud Application Server

Most businesses have a choice to decide if they want to purchase an onsite physical server or subscribe to a service for a Cloud-based server.

The concept is similar to deciding if you are going to purchase or lease a vehicle. In a nutshell, leasing makes it easier to get into a new vehicle for less money and you can change the vehicle type easily, such as upgrading from car to truck or to van if your business requirements change. Buying on the other hand, will free you from restrictions involved in leasing, such as mileage caps and how long you want to keep the vehicle for. However, when you buy a vehicle, your limitations are clearly understood. You cannot upgrade or change the vehicle type from car, truck, or van and you will need to spend more money up-front to make the purchase.

Whether you lease or purchase a vehicle, you will still need to perform basic maintenance to keep the vehicle running. Examples include oil change, filling up the car with gasoline or charging the electric vehicle, putting air in the tires, or replacing the tires at the end of their life cycle.

To help answer the question whether your business should use a Cloud server or purchase an onsite server for your business, here is how we can help you decide:

Do you want to be in the hardware maintenance business?

Most physical servers have a shelf-life of 4-5 years because the hardware needs to be replaced due to end-of-life support or the new application version will not work on the current physical server. If you do not want to be in the business of replacing server hardware or providing ongoing maintenance for it, a Cloud-based hosted server option would be a better fit for you.

Does your office have a proper server room, battery backup, and air conditioning?

Does your office have a dedicated room to keep the server secure behind a locked door? Do you have an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) battery backup in the event of a power outage? Does your office have air conditioning to keep the server cool or provide proper ventilation? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is not recommended to keep the application server in your office.

Do you need the flexibility to scale-up or down for employee staff members?

If your business needs to scale up when you hire more employees, having an onsite server may require you to purchase hardware and install the software program again if the current configuration cannot handle user capacity. For example, if your physical server does not have disk space or the CPU processor is too slow to support new application requirements, you will need to replace it.

On the other hand, if you have a Cloud-based server, you can quickly request hardware/software upgrades to meet your new system requirements. The server infrastructure is scalable to grow and shrink with your needs and in some cases, can be done within hours. So, this also works in reverse, if you need to downsize when you let go of employees, a Cloud-based server solution allows you to reduce your hardware/software requirements. This gives you cost flexibility that you would not otherwise have in an onsite server solution.

How much does an onsite application server cost?

For a small business between 10-20 employees, you can purchase a Windows Server 2019 from Dell. This is the cost to purchase a new tower chassis server for your office.

  • Windows Server 2019 Essentials Software
  • Dual Virtual Processors (2 vCPU)
  • 16 GB Memory
  • 4 TB Redundant Storage
  • Dual Redundant Power Supply
  • UPS Battery Backup

Hardware and Software: $2,800 (estimated starting cost). You can also purchase hardware from HP, Lenovo or Supermicro.

Deployment Services: $1,500 (estimated starting cost)

This is only an example of the typical cost and may vary depending on your network and business requirements.

How much does a Cloud Application Server cost?

For a small business between 10-20 employees, you can purchase a monthly lease or a subscription of a Windows Server 2019 from Microsoft Azure.

  • Windows Server 2019 Enterprise Software
  • Dual Virtual Processor (2 vCPU)
  • 14 GB Memory
  • 4 TB Redundant Storage
  • Dual Redundant Power Supply
  • Battery Backup with Generator
  • Controlled Security, Air Conditioning, and Ventilation

Hardware and Software: $450 per month (estimated starting cost). You can also lease Cloud Server from Amazon AWS, or a private data center provider, like Hurricane Electric or Rack Space.

Deployment Services: $1,400 (estimated starting cost)

This is only an example of the typical cost and may vary depending on your network and business requirements.

Based on our extensive experience, eSudo can remove the worry and hassle of selecting the right server type (onsite or Cloud) with proven results! Whether you have 5 or 100+ users, we have the experience to meet your organization’s unique deployment needs.

  • Experienced Support Team in the USA
    We are a local IT company with experienced and certified computer engineers (Microsoft, HP, Dell) who know what they are doing and can get it right the first time.
  • Responsiveness
    A live person will answer your call, and emergency response time is one hour or less guaranteed. We use the most current remote support technology which lets us securely login to your computers remotely to address many issues without the need to wait for a technician to go onsite. If you need onsite support, we are available to help in the wider Bay Area.
  • Proven Methodology
    The last thing anyone wants is a surprise, so go with the team that has done it before, from setting up your onsite office server or migrating you to an application server in the Cloud.

Call 408-216-5800 or sign up for a free migration assessment.

Click Here to Schedule a FREE 1-on-1 Consultation with an eSudo Engineer