The leap from having a few PCs strung together on a network, to having a fully-featured server, is a tough call for many small businesses. Many never make the leap. It’s worth looking at why.
The advantages of a server are manifold – here are just a few:
- It’s highly extensible: comfortably look after 25 PCs as well as you can look after just one.
- Back up data from all your PCs safely and securely
- Store and share data effectively, reliably and seamlessly
- Run key services like email from a central repository
- Control access to information, by applying access rules to both people and files
- Minimise IT problems, with one-time-setup of anti-virus and configuration services, so that all your PCs work the same way, all the time. That minimises IT support costs, too.
So why hasn’t everyone got a server? The reasons are common to many business improvements; and not just in technology:
- Until something goes dramatically wrong, it’s something “you just don’t get round to”.
- Despite being a false economy, it feels easier to stick with what you’ve got, rather than investing in new equipment.
- And servers cost money – traditionally between £1,000 and £4,000 depending on requirements – and that’s a large amount of money for a smaller company to commit to.
Put simply, just as we often choose to run an old van into the ground rather than buy a new one, even though the petrol and maintenance costs end up being much worse in the long run; so we stick with familiar but rusty IT rather than taking in-house technology to the next level.
Naturally, Microsoft’s best-practice advice for well over a decade, based on the well-proven experience of thousands of small businesses around the world, has been to install a server as soon as possible.
The new kid on the block
Today, though, the decision isn’t necessarily so simple. There’s a new kid on the block, and he’s cooler than the Fonz. Cloud computing – using the internet to handle business-critical services – has rightly gleaned plenty of good press over the past couple of years.
Whilst cloud has been around for a long time (if you’ve had a Hotmail account for email, for example, that’s cloud computing), it’s only recently developed to a standard where businesses can affordably hand over their precious data to a third party, knowing that it will be kept safe and yet remain accessible, 24/7.
Today, Microsoft and its partners operate literally acres of cloud storage computers, with multiple degrees of backup and redundancy. Typical business services now available in the cloud include:
- Email: Exchange Online via Office 365
- Customer Relationship Management: CRM Online
- Security and IT Performance: Windows InTune
- Compliance: Microsoft Exchange Online Archiving
The advantages of cloud computing are also persuasive:
- All IT management and risk is borne by the provider instead of you- leaving you free to run your business
- There’s no capital expenditure – all you need is an internet connection – and you’ll pay extraordinarily reasonable flat rates (often less than your mobile phone bill for an all-in service) each month
- Data is stored remotely, removing the risk of on-site theft or physical damage causing you data loss
…all of which begs the question… why on earth would a small business invest in a server?
Best of both
The cloud does indeed offer a compelling argument. The price is right, and so is the service.
But what if your internet goes down?
- What if you want to transfer larger amounts of data (video, for example)?
- And what about the simple local services you never notice, but which matter so much – print management, for example?
All of these require a local solution.
The ideal would be the “best of both”: an on-premise server with access to all your favourite online services too. However, the businessperson inside you is probably doing a cost-benefit analysis as you read this very sentence. If your internet only goes down once in a blue moon, and you only occasionally need to conduct large data transfers, and your printers and files are working OK for now, well, why would you spend £2000 on a server solution? It’s worth risking the occasional aggravating crisis to keep the cash today.
But what if you could get a server for only £500? Wouldn’t that change the equation?
Introducing Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials
Microsoft is committed to Cloud computing, but also to giving businesses the resilience and best-practice IT which will allow them to deliver a consistent and superior service. Put simply, technology should become transparent and serve to drive business results.
That’s why the latest edition of Windows Small Business Server, trusted by hundreds of thousands of small businesses worldwide, includes the small but perfectly formed “Essentials” edition, at the equally small but perfectly formed price of around £500 (Estimated Retail Price).
Essentials offers businesses all the simplicity and administrative functions which a server has traditionally been designed to perform, with no unnecessary extras.
- Simple, trouble-free deployment
- Automatic daily backups and reliable disaster recovery
- Policy-driven access controls
- Remote access to documents and computers from anywhere with a browser
- Sharing of documents, calendars and email on any device – including mobiles
- Simple IT management – solving many IT problems before they become an expense
- Perfect integration with a raft of line-of-business applications when you decide to grow your business.
Yet, despite being a fully resilient and capable server for up to 25 staff (and extensible beyond that in future, too); Essentials also connects seamlessly with Office 365. Using Office 365 through the Essentials server gives your staff a single sign-on experience to Office 365 services: if they’re logged onto the office network, they’re also logged onto their Office 365 accounts. That means:
- Fewer passwords
- Plenty of saved time
- Drag-and-drop from the cloud to the server and local machines
- Better collaboration with clients, partners and other business contacts
- And easy usage even for less tech-savvy employees.
Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is now available in the UK; and if you haven’t thought about making the jump into better IT which a server delivers, perhaps now is the time. With everything a small business needs from a server at around £500, and perfect integration with cloud services, you’ll want to use every day.
Visit our SBS 2011 product page for more information.