So, your server is getting old, and you've been told you need a new one. You might be asking yourself, “Do I need a server for my business?” Servers are no longer the right option for every business because there are other options out there now. Do you really need to spend lots of money buying a new server for your office?
We've spoken to several prospects recently who all run small businesses. They all have a server in their office to run their IT systems. Unfortunately, the server is getting old, and they're wondering what to do next - they've been told by their current IT provider that they need to replace this old server. But who needs a server in the modern world?
Do You Need a Server Now?
Back when Jonathan, our managing director, started in IT, he used to install servers for nearly every business. There was no question of ‘do I need a server for my business?’ – it was typically either have your own server, or lose a lot of functionality. These servers:
- Ran all of the business’s IT systems
- Housed their email
- Stored the business’s central files and folders
- Installed and ran any applications that the business needed.
Over time, the IT world slowly changed. Bit by bit, first email, files and folders, and later applications became more cloud-based.
First, email evolved and became cloud-based. Today, the majority of customers use Microsoft 365 for their email, which makes perfect sense (although we occasionally still encounter some people running servers for email…).
Then, technology changed again, and it became easier and more cost-effective to move your files and folders to a cloud-based solution rather than use a server. Dropbox became very popular, and now most businesses we look after are using SharePoint or OneDrive, both of which are part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.
Today, we're in the middle of the evolution to move applications to the cloud.
When I talk about applications, I don't mean Office software like Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint - I mean business software, such as accounting software. Many people have made the move to products like Xero, which is 100% cloud-based, but some are still using products like Sage, which means you need a server in the office to run the platform. Sage does have a cloud version available, but it's not quite as good as Xero.
There are a whole host of other applications that businesses use. As you can see from our clients, at Integral IT, we support lots of accountant practices. Lots of application businesses are producing cloud-based versions of their products and new cloud-only products like Silver Finn are getting released all of the time.
Who Needs a Server?
The question of who needs a server can only really be answered in regard to what you would use it for.
If your business only uses email, files and folders, you shouldn't need a server. The cloud products available will be much more cost-effective and flexible for your business.
But what if you're one of these businesses that do have an application that sits on a server. What are your options then?
Firstly, you need to talk to your software provider. Lots of these companies do have a cloud version of their software available and if they do, you should seriously think about implementing it. It takes the responsibility and cost for hosting the software away from you and puts it into the hands of your software provider.
But, what happens if your software provider doesn't have a cloud version available or if, as we’ve seen before, the cloud version is just too expensive?
When asking ‘do I need a server for my business?’, there’s no single solution. There are benefits and downsides of servers and server alternatives – the key is to find out which option is best suited for your business.
So, do you need a server? Here are three of your options.
Option One – Installing a Physical Server
A while ago we were doing some work for a small accountant. Their internet connection wasn't very good, they predominately used Sage products and the options to upgrade the internet speed were quite expensive.
In this situation, the solution that suited their working needs and was the most cost-effective was to install a small server. You don't always have to use the most modern cloud solutions if it doesn't suit your business! If you do need a server, then that’s what you should get.
Option Two – Using a Data Centre
The second option came about from another accountancy client. They didn't want a server in their office, but they also didn't want the monthly costs of cloud services.
In this case, the best approach is to use a data centre to house your server. This means you buy the server, but you don’t have to keep it in your office. At Integral IT, we use a data centre in Leeds. It’s a purpose-built building with tight physical security, air cooling and big internet pipes for connectivity.
Option Three – Infrastructure as a Service
Your third option is the most popular today. Even if your business needs a server to run an application, you don't need to have the physical server in your office. Instead, you could use a software server in the cloud. One example of this would be Microsoft Azure.
This type of service is called Infrastructure as a Service. It means you can rent the computing power you need on a monthly basis rather than buying big expensive bits of hardware.
Maybe your office isn't the best place to install a server and, depending on your office internet connection, remote access might be slow. You might not want to have to think about physical security, power backups, air conditioning and protecting your server from theft, fire and flood.
However, using the cloud changes your business cost model - in the server days, you bought servers as an outright expense and had much lower monthly costs. Now, you don't need to buy a server, but your monthly costs will generally be higher. This approach doesn't suit every business, so it’s important to customise your approach to your business.
So, the next time you’re asking yourself, “Do I need a server for my business?”, you can keep your different options in mind. If you do need a server for your business, that’s fine, but if you don’t, there are plenty of cloud-based options out there to explore.
If you would like to discuss your options, we offer an IT consultancy service – we’ll take a look at how your IT is currently running and suggest improvements and how you can run your business’s IT more effectively. Please get in touch today and our expert team will be happy to help you out.