Worth investing in server

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Servers
I am trying to decide if it is worth our expense to invest in a server for our small company. We currently have six network points - 4 desktop PCs networked on our LAN as well as 2 laptops that occasionally connect and are planning on buying another PC to add for another person that will be hired. We are currently using one of the workstations as a make-shift file server this PC has the following specs: - Windows 2000 - Celeron 1.7 Ghz - 512 Megs Ram - 80 Gig Harddrive We are all running Microsoft Outlook 2000 and sometimes have trouble sharing email folders (we have to use shared PSTs over the network which brings with its share of problems) The business is in the growth stage with IT playing a supportive rather than core role, though it does affect nearly all aspects of the business. Our database is currently Microsoft Access 2000. Once the business stabilizes there should be at least 4 people working on the network with a maximum of 6. I am trying to decide if investing in a server would be worthwhile and am looking for some opinions/resources.
ASKED: January 6, 2007  1:26 PM
UPDATED: January 9, 2007  7:15 PM

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Deekay, I went through a similar decision process about 8 years ago. 5 users growing to 8, needed shared access to 1 application (database for accounting/payroll), file storage, and shop drawings. We decided to install a server and set up a Windows domain. The capabilities have significantly enhanced several aspects of business and made management of the network much simpler. The major issue will be support and cost. The cost of the server and initial setup is very minor compared to the cost of a qualified and available IT expert to manage it. Most small businesses do not have funding avaiable to support this. Mine didn’t. Fortunately, it is a family business and I provide the service nights and weekends remotely and onsite a couple times a year. Makes it affordable for a small business. Overall, it has been worth the intitial investment. We have been able to upgrade several technologies that produce better products at a reduced cost through the technology implementation. But now the business relies on the technology and needs some fairly reliable support structure to maintain it.

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  • Dwiebesick
    The short answer is YES. If I was consulting you, I would recommend an entry level hardware server like an HP ML150 with dual SATA hard disk drives in a hardware RAID configuration, 1 GB of RAM, and some type of backup solution. I would then use Microsoft?s Small Business Server 2003 R2. You will get 5 CALs with the initial server license, so when you need to connect more then 5, you will need to purchase additional CALs. You should seek out a Microsoft certified Small Business Specialists. Just because someone has experience with Microsoft Server 2000/2003 DOES NOT make them the best resource for SBS. It is a different and very powerful solution for small or micro businesses. You can read on many sites why SBS is a great solution. You will then have the benefits of a domain environment, central user management, secure file sharing, EXCHANGE with all its benefits?, remote work place access, Outlook Web Access, central printer management and so much more. I have installed SBS for customers that just wanted the FAX capability that exist within SBS. None of my 38 SBS customers have any regrets. If you want additional information or recommendations, let me know. Take you time and do lots of research. dmw
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  • MtStream
    I agree with both - the answer is YES. The productivity and reliability improvements will be well worth the effort. However, the first reply does point out the #1 issue businesses of your size face - the cost of knowledgable service. Especially with the speed at which security threats come. An alternative for you to consider would be a hosted solution similar to this one by Aztec Systems http://www.oasysnetwork.com/home.asp. FYI - I'm not associated with Aztec. I've used this system for a couple of small companies and two not-for-profit organizations. It allows them to have a fixed budget for IT expenses and removes the need for having an IT person avialable. Backups, security updates, etc. are all handled by Aztec personel in their hosting center.
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  • Rayne427
    You should absolutely get a server and create a domain. I have worked in the past with Microsoft Small Business server which I think would be a good fit for you. You can create a file server, Exchange server, and I believe ISA server so you are covered on all basis. The drawback is that it only accommodates 50 users. Based on your message, this should fit the bill because you won't be anywhere near that upper limit.
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  • EeektheMad
    I think the advice is unannoumous, a server, at least for file and print services, would be a good idea. If your budget allows, some kind of hosted server with managed services would let you control costs and set your budget without needed any IT headcount. However, if your budget is light or absent, I'd still advise you to set up a dedicated server for file and print. Be very sure you have a backup schedule and test the recovery often. The less you spend on hardware and management, the more sure you'll need to be of your backup validity. Good luck, push for some funding.
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  • SGBotsford
    At this point, I would say it is not worth your time. I am the IT department for a school with 40 student machines, 8 laptops, and 15 staff desktops. For me it's worth while. BUT consider: In a server/client setup, you have to decide about a raft of policies. With individual workstations, each person manages his own, and fixes his own half the time, and asks you for help the other half. For me the breaker comes when you have shared machines. Once you have machines that are used by multiple people, or have people that at various times log on to various machines, then you have to try to keep the group much more homogeneous. People need to have their desktop look the same everywhere. When this starts to happen then look at going to a centralized file server with roaming profiles. The machine you have is more than adequate for this. My main file server, Conan the Librarian, is a 1 GHz machine with 2 50 GB SCSI disks. Logins take under a minute. This machine is the homedirectory and install server (I copy cd's and patches to the install server beause I kept leaving CD's in people's computers) and also acts as print server for our 6 network printers. It also acts as our Primary domain controller. It only has 256M of ram.
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