Server Costs for Small Business: Calculating the Full Cost of Supporting Your Network

Your server is the control center of your business. Choosing the right equipment to support your needs is essential to your business’s success. Security threats to Internet-connected servers should be taken seriously and prevented whenever possible. Depending on your needs, there are many options to choose from ranging in price from hundreds to many thousands of dollars to purchase the server hardware. It is wise to spend some time doing research to determine what your server cost could be. Additionally, you will have to factor in costs for software and ongoing maintenance. Below, we will highlight some server security threats as well as break down factors to consider when selecting your server equipment and the associated costs of maintenance and support so that you can find what’s right for your business.

Server Threats to Protect Against

One concern is malware, including viruses and ransomware, infecting a server can lead to data loss, data theft, loss of productivity, and the spreading of malware to your workstations. The two most common ways that networks get infected with malware are users opening malicious email attachments and running outdated software that accesses the Internet – most commonly, a web browser or email client. Emails with malicious attachments and web links can appear to come from family, friends and colleagues whose computers have been infected. These emails will usually take the form of a legitimate email you would receive in the normal course of doing business. Unpatched security vulnerabilities can be exploited to infect your computer by malicious websites.  Outdated antivirus software will offer little or no protection from these constantly evolving threats.

Another concern is vulnerable software running on the server itself. Most commonly, vulnerable web server software or a poorly built website can inadvertently leave your data exposed. Password protected areas of a website are susceptible to Brute Force attacks where the hacker guesses your password using specialized software. Servers which handle email for your business can also be exploited.  An incorrectly configured email server can allow spammers to use your server to send junk email causing your legitimate emails to be blocked by recipients because of the unwanted messages sent by spammers.

Pick the Right Server for Your Needs and Budget

When selecting server equipment for your business, extensive research is necessary to determine what kind of equipment your business will need in order to function the way you need it to. In fact, buying a server is a lot like buying a car – you will have to ask yourself many questions to determine the right kind of vehicle for your needs. Here are some questions to consider when doing your research for buying a server that will meet your business’s needs within the server price range you were aiming for. Without a doubt, your answers to these questions will have a direct impact on the price point for the server equipment.

  • What will the server be used for? How much capacity do you need? Disk space, CPU power and RAM need to be considered. Servers can fill many roles: file server, printer server, mail server, web server, remote access server, VPN (virtual private network) server, etc. Deciding on your server’s role will help you determine the answers to these questions.
  • How many people will need to be able to access the server? The number of users that will be utilizing your server as well as the number of roles your server will fill, needs to be considered as part of your capacity planning.
  • What environment will the server be installed in? Will the server be installed at a data center or in a dedicated server room? In that case, a rack-mount server would be appropriate. On the other hand, a server in a smaller office environment, might share the same form as a workstation (i.e., floor standing).
  • How “bullet-proof”, or robust, do you want/need your server to be? Entry-level servers are very similar to the workstation you may have at your desk with the difference being the operating system they run. Mid-grade and above servers differ in that they feature things like multiple redundant power supplies, redundant cooling, remote management capabilities (see below), multiple network interfaces, multiple CPU sockets, hot swappable storage, the ability to have many storage disks, hardware, RAID, etc. These features will allow your server to keep running even if one of these components should fail. This is essential to keeping your business unaffected by a failure.
  • Do you need to be able to remotely manage the server? Having the ability to power your server on or off from another site offers a lot of other options for the person who will manage your server. These capabilities are not typical on entry-level servers.
  • Have you considered a back-up plan? Another concern might be data loss as a result of user error, natural disaster, theft, fire or some other unexpected event. How would you recover from one of these? Accidents happen. Backing up to tape, disc or cloud are the three most common methods. Each of these has its own pros and cons – Disc-based back-up is the fastest but depending on the amount of data, it can be cumbersome and typically, back-ups remain on site. Tape-based back-up is slower but the use of tape cartridges makes, it more portable and easier to take off-site. Cloud-based back-up is the slowest from a back-up and recovery standpoint due to its reliance on moving data over the Internet. However, it’s completely off-site at all times which can be advantageous and possibly, the safest approach.

Server Maintenance and Support Expense

There are several long-term considerations when choosing a server for your business. Again, the server cost will be directly influenced by the choices made.

  • Hardware maintenance – Read the maintenance agreement options from the server manufacturer thoroughly. How long does the warranty last? How much time will it take to have something repaired or replaced? Response time is something you need to consider.
  • Software maintenance - Keeping software up to date and figuring out who will install these updates also needs to be considered. Additionally, there may be day to day software maintenance requirements.
  • Product life cycle – Once a given generation has been on the market for 4 or 5 years, it will be replaced by the next. When purchasing new equipment, you may want to consider when the generation you are purchasing was introduced since you may not have the full life cycle ahead of you. The hardware and software will likely need to be replaced if you expect to continue to receive support for these.

Server cost depends largely on the size and needs of your business. Servers process and store your data as well as run your applications, so you will want to view them as an investment in your company’s success.  You need to understand the total cost of ownership - what you are paying to purchase, operate, maintain and upgrade. Only then will you be able to make the right choice for your business.

For more information about server costs for your small business, contact Geeks on site today.