Do you really want a server?

Posted on Posted in Business, Google for Work, Small Business

SERVER

The received wisdom for years, for the small business was: if you want to be a proper business, buy a server. Does that advice still hold true? The question really isn’t so much, about buying a server as about the services on offer. After all, a server is only there to serve up services that you, as a business need.

Way back, when, what you needed of a server was local file storage for all those Word documents, email, accounts and some line of business application that had to be installed on a ‘proper’ server. The wisdom of buying a server was that this was the only way to access the tools that you needed as a business.

The question today is, has that wisdom changed? The answer lies in the dramatic change in the business IT landscape. The internet has radically changed how business services can be offered. Today you can buy a server, install an email server, such as Exchange Server and run your business email from your own premises, or you can purchase the exact same software as a service through Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Both do the same job, but with different pros and cons.

If you run your own server you are responsible for the hardware purchase, the licensing, the maintenance of both hardware and software, backup of everything that resides on the server. You probably aren’t an expert in any of this. If you license Office 365 or Google for Work or some other cloud hosted email service you pay monthly and don’t have the upfront hardware costs. You don’t have to think about backup or disaster recovery, you don’t have to maintain hardware or upgrade software – all this is done by the providers with more resources and expertise than you ever will have locally.

The million dollar question then is: can all my services be offered through the cloud? Think through the various services that are done locally:

  • Word processing
  • Accounts
  • Email
  • Line of business application

Can all of these be handled well outside of your office? Is your connectivity up to the job?

We are still in a period of rapid change and of transition. More business people are running at least part of that business through their smart phone or a tablet, on the move, at home, in the office. As the services become more and more sophisticated and delivered more and more efficiently through the cloud the need for a real, physical server in your own office will decrease.

If you are a start up, or don’t yet have a server, my advice is: aim for the cloud, even if you have to make some adjustments to how you do business. The days of the monolithic server solution are numbered. Be at the leading edge and leverage cloud based services. They allow you, your business and your workers to be more agile and more secure.

If you already have invested in a local server solution. Don’t throw it away, but use the time until your next server refresh to investigate each service that you consume and see if there’s a cloud based alternative. Your line of business application is likely to be the most difficult to transition, but most providers are now offering cloud hosted alternatives, and will usually facilitate the move of your data to the new offering.

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s the services that matter, not the server.