Small Office Server Setup
A server, put simply, is a computer that multiple users can access over a network. It’s generally always powered on, and it’s built with hardware and software known for its reliability. So why would you need one? What sorts of things make them necessary?
A server is often tasked with providing workers with shared storage space. It could be a clearinghouse for corporate documents, spreadsheets, presentations, marketing materials, employee forms, you name it. With remote access to the server, even workers who are on the road can quickly download files they need, no matter where they are. Closer to home, if your employees can each find the resources and information they need using their computers or mobile devices, that’s less productivity wasted on asking each other-and you-for digital items that could have been stored centrally. Another point in favor of shared server storage is the fact that its data can be backed up regularly, such as after hours every workday. Using an online storage service or removable media that’s later moved offsite for safekeeping, a server could be scheduled for automatic backups of the entire company’s important data all at once. This avoids reliance on individual employees, who might forget to run backups on data stored on their own PCs. A server is useful to everyone in the office as a shared system, but it can also disrupt everyone’s productivity if it fails. That’s why most are built with features that maximize their uptime, such as redundant components that start running when the primary part fails (called failover). For example, some servers have backup power supplies and/or hard drives, the latter called hot spares. Most users also connect their servers to UPSes (uninterruptible power supplies), which let the servers run on battery power for a period of time should the AC power go out.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials
Windows Server 2012 Essentials is a server platform that’s designed for small businesses and home offices. With Server 2012 Essentials, you’ll be able to protect your business data, while still allowing remote access to you and your employees. Microsoft has designed Server 2012 Essentials to let you choose which applications and services you want to run from a local server or in the cloud. The Remote Web Access feature also lets you use “My Server” apps on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices. You’ll be able to choose between running your email client on a local server, with a hosted provider, or in the cloud with Office 365. Windows Azure Online Backup is provided to complement on-site backups.
Mac OS X Lion Server
For anyone who thinks that refined, top-brand server platforms are inherently expensive, check out Mac OS X Server (www.apple.com). While Leopard Server (Mac OS X Server 10.5) sold an unlimited client license for $999, Snow Leopard Server (10.6) cut this amount in half. Today, Lion Server (10.7) sells as a mere $50 addon for the regular Mac OS X. The services contained with Lion Server span the following: Address Book, File Sharing, iCal, iChat, Mail, Podcast, Profile Manager, Time Machine, VPN (Virtual Private Network), Web, and Wiki. Viewed functionally, these offer server apps for contact management, calendaring, messaging, firewall, DNS (Domain Name Server), backup, and more. The Wiki Server, apart from simply facilitating group wikis, acts as a SharePoint-like clearinghouse for document storage and collaboration. And leave it to Apple to implement something like Podcast Producer for turning a business server platform into a multimedia-rich powerhouse for audio/video production and distribution.
Arguably one of the most popular and mainstream of today’s Linux distributions, Ubuntu first arrived in 2004. Under Ubuntu Server, applications come bundled with their dependencies in “packages” for simpler administration. The Server edition includes file and print functionality, integrated virtualization support, power saving enhancements, and much more, but many conventional applications must be sourced from third parties. Long story short, the cost of entry into Ubuntu is low, but it’s not for the faint of IT heart, and there may be significant additional costs for enhanced support, management tools, and packages.
No matter what type of server you decide to purchase, configuring and maintaining it requires knowledge that doesn’t necessarily transfer over from using PCs. You can buy most servers preconfigured by the manufacturer, but most will require some tweaking to work well with your particular mix of hardware and software. Maintenance and upgrades should also be budgeted, and you may need to hire an IT consultant or full-time employee to keep everything running smoothly. Whatever the cost, servers can easily pay for themselves many times over by eliminating much of the hassle and money associated with running a traditional PC network