The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Server for Your Business
Servers are at the core of any company’s IT infrastructure and choosing the right servers for a business can be a complex experience. The wrong decisions could lead to purchasing IT equipment not fit for purpose, or servers that are too powerful for actual business needs, ultimately wasting time and money.
Especially for smaller or expanding businesses, it can seem daunting with there being so many server types, components, and networking options out there. But with the right support and information, there are ways to smooth the process. When building or expanding your IT infrastructure, there are some key elements you can consider first that will allow you to choose the best options for your business needs.
Step 1 ) Understand server requirements
Servers are vital to business performance as they provide a variety of services and allow colleagues to perform crucial tasks.
Typical tasks can include (but are not limited to):
- Hosting business emails and databases
- Sharing and storing files
- Providing remote desktop connections
- Hosting websites and applications
- Performing system and data backups
The first step to building your IT infrastructure is understanding exactly what tasks need to be run on the server. Assess the above points and create a list of, not just current, but also future priorities. For example, if the company is expecting to double in the next 2 years, make sure this is taken into account. Management should know the company’s long-term business goals, so spending time with them to understand expansion goals is key to saving time down the line. Adding new servers to an in-house data centre can also get expensive very quickly.
This will lead to establishing how much storage (hard drives), memory (server RAM) and power (kWh) your server needs to consist of. Online resources or an IT specialist can help you identify minimum system requirements based on the level of tasks that need to be carried out now and in the future. These findings will result in a clear roadmap for your business and will give insight into the best server for your requirements.
Step 2 ) Consider server location and maintenance
Another key consideration when choosing the right server for your business is where the server is going to be situated. When considering this, it’s important that risks vs benefits vs costs are assessed.
If you plan on housing your server on the premises of your business, you need to ensure you have the correct level of expertise on-site and appropriate space. Servers can be noisy and can also present a security risk if not stored safely, so do consider whether the space you have available can suitably act as a server room/closet.
Housing data centres on-site is sometimes perceived as the more cost-effective option, particularly for small to medium sized companies that opt for Tower and Blade servers. Whether this is the more lucrative solution for you depends on the extent of your server network requirements and also expected energy consumption. Whilst housing on-site means you may avoid the data for paying for data centre maintenances services, your business will need to foot the cost of power usage and employees potentially working out of hours.
The other option is to host servers in dedicated data centres that offer onsite support and maintenance. The outsourced server maintenance will ensure maximum uptime as the facilities will work to keep the system running if something goes wrong, and they also have the added benefit of back-up power supplies which in-house facilities may not have. Housing servers in data centres also means cooling and power requirements can be managed properly as the data centre facilities should be present the perfect environment for server networks. Blade servers, for example, require specialist care and equipment that data centres can provide.
When choosing a data centre for your business, it’s important to opt for a reputable organisation as your IT equipment is only secure if it is maintained properly. There are plenty of companies to choose from online but be sure to do your research of which companies are trustworthy and dependable as otherwise you may have a greater risk of security breaches and poor internet service. Take into consideration the flexibility and scalability of the data centre company too to avoid barriers to business expansion in the future.
Step 3 ) Calculate your budget
The types of tasks your business needs to fulfil will also determine the level of IT budget you need. Essentially, the more complex the tasks, the larger your budget needs to be. We can’t stress enough the importance of thinking carefully about long-term task requirements as the costs of adding additional servers to data centres can stack up very quickly.
Do take caution though. Some businesses fall into the trap of splashing out on the best servers on the market to ensure maximum business outputs, but in reality they don’t need such performance when comparing against their workload levels. This ultimately means money is wasted on the energy required to power these more advanced machines, and on the equipment itself.
For perspective, if your expectations are in line with the below, you could consider a smaller budget:
- It’s acceptable for the server to be offline for some time
- The server doesn’t need to carry out critical tasks such as managing e-commerce traffic
- The server being offline would not have great impact on the business
- Workloads required are basic and need little power
If your expectations are listed below, you will require a larger budget:
- The server needs to be online 24-7-365
- Multiple and complex tasks need to be carried out quickly and efficiently including managing databases or pulling analytics
- The server needs to host heavy traffic, e-commerce or other customer facing resources
The likelihood is if you host front-end websites and/or have growth forecasts, you will need to consider a higher budget for your server requirements to be feasible. The good news is, even if you need IT hardware with the higher capabilities, there are easy ways to cut down on your overall spend.
How can I maximise my IT budget?
The first way is buying from the secondary market. It’s a myth that buying refurbished servers means you must compromise on performance. When buying from a refurbishment specialist, such as Techbuyer, extensive testing takes place, so you can expect performance as good as new, along with a generous 3-year warranty for ultimate peace of mind.
The second way to get the utmost out of your spend is using scientific and innovative infrastructure recommendations to optimise your server. Techbuyer recently took part in a study that proves when optimised properly, the immediate past generation of a server can outperform the next generation in terms of outputs and energy consumption. This peer reviewed evidence that features in an IEEE paper officially debunks the myth that only brand new equipment has the best performance, so this is a brilliant option to consider if you want to get the very best out of a previous generation of server!
If you’re looking for insight as to how much it will cost you to build a server estate from scratch, this is like asking how long a piece of string is. Considerations such as IT hardware components, server maintenance and support, operating systems, and powering and cooling all are key elements that will shape the final cost. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to determine this though. A knowledgeable IT specialist will happily talk you through the costs, including capital expenditure and operational expenditure that you may expect based on your requirements.
Step 4 ) Select your server type
Now it’s time to select the physical type of server that’s best for your business. Servers come in different physical form factors and are classified into three types: Blade, Rack and Tower. The components on the inside of servers are comparable models so it’s hugely important to think about long-term server needs to avoid any barriers to scalability in the future.
If you’ve thoroughly assessed your budget, system requirements, long-term business objectives and locations, choosing the right physical server type should be the easy part!
Choose between Tower, Rack and Blade Servers
A Tower Server does not look dissimilar to a regular desktop computer. Its upstanding build means they can stand alone and do not need to be positioned in a cabinet, so is a really good choice if you have no server room. Generally, Tower Servers are seen as the most cost-effective option as they do not require additional mounting hardware or specialist cooling equipment, and the servers themselves are generally less expensive than Blades or Racks.
Smaller businesses that don’t have a huge amount to spend on IT infrastructure tend to prefer Tower Servers as despite being the cheaper option, they still have plenty of processing power and can support virtualisation. A key thing to be wary of is the amount of space they might take up, especially if you decide to add more. If space does become an issue, a rack conversion kit can transform Tower Servers into to Rack Servers which is a great way to save money upgrading.
View our video below to see one of our server specialists configure the HPE ProLiant ML110 Gen9 Tower Server:
Rack Servers differ to Towers as they are installed into a cabinet and required a dedicated server room. The cabinet can hold multiple servers that can be installed on top of each other in slots, so Rack Servers are a good option if you have multiple servers and want to reduce floor space. Rack Servers tend to be preferred by growing companies with more powerful system requirements as they have higher processing power than Towers and also require less space.
Rack Servers are convenient as they feature rails which makes it straight-forward to add or remove the rackmount servers from the cabinet, resulting in an easier maintenance process when you require upgrades for example. They are also a great option for businesses that are planning for expansion as their design makes its simple to add extra servers to the network. Rack Servers require specialist cooling equipment though so make sure this is taken into consideration.
Blade Servers are the next step up and are the go-to option for large enterprises due to their high density and converged networking. Their slimmer design means they are even more space-efficient than Rack Servers. They still need specialist cooling equipment though, along with a special blade enclosure to be installed within.
Blade Servers deliver accelerated performance as they have more processing power as well as much less cabling. This means IT administrators can spend less time managing the infrastructure. The Blades can also be managed through a single interface, resulting in easy maintenance and monitoring. Blade Servers also have higher thermal output and are very heavy, so they must be housed in a specialised data centre as proper cooling equipment is vital. As the most expensive option, Blade Servers so should only be considered for the most advanced workload requirements.
Watch us configure Cisco Blade Servers for an NHS Trust below.
When you begin the process of purchasing servers for your business, remember that it’s not necessary to settle for the server components that are included with it as standard. When you configure a server, your servers will be custom-built to fit your exact business needs. This might result in benefits such as reduced powering costs, increased scalability and also time savings which you can read about here.
Remember, as well as configuring your server, it’s also possible to optimise them for major cost and performance benefits. Using the Interact tool, it’s possible to enhance servers to outperform the immediate next generation. This banishes the misconception that purchasing from the refurbished market means compromising on quality.
Step 5 ) Get in touch with an IT specialist
When you buy from Techbuyer, you’ll be assigned a knowledgeable and friendly IT specialist who will work with you to understand your needs and help you with the process of purchasing your IT infrastructure from start to finish. Get in touch with one of our 5-star server specialists today.
Techbuyer has over £10 million worth of servers and IT equipment and we’re experts in providing sustainable IT solutions. Featuring over 150 brands including Dell, HPE and IBM, we supply an extensive range of new and quality refurbished equipment.
Take a look at our full range of new and refurbished servers online. Our Configure-to-Order service for personalised servers is completely free and every IT system and part that we sell comes with a three year warranty.