Choosing the right servers for your business’s IT system can seem daunting. How can you select servers that will handle your company’s databases, email and other critical business functions in the future as well as today?
The key is to start with your existing requirements and consider how much they are likely to increase. This will help you determine what size server will best support your business’s growth strategy.
Assess your current and future needs.
If you buy servers that are perfect for your business today, they will almost certainly be insufficient within a few years. However, it’s not worth trying to predict what type of server your business will need 10 or 15 years from now – technology and business requirements change too quickly for that planning to be feasible.
Instead, consider your strategic IT needs for the next three to five years. Will your company add customers, employees, or product lines? Even if you expect your business to remain stable, you should still plan for growth in the server performance you need. For example, as you upgrade the applications your business uses, you will likely need more powerful servers than you have today. Many businesses will increasingly use resource-intensive video. And more powerful databases, which can make your business more efficient, will also require more server power.
Evaluate your needs for each server feature.
Servers aren’t one-size-fits-all. You’ll need to decide how much to invest in several areas:
- Memory: You don’t need to overload your server with memory, because it’s generally fairly easy to expand. So don’t pay a premium for memory you don’t need – get the amount you think you’ll need for the immediate future and be prepared to add more if necessary.
- Processor: The fastest processor available is likely to be overkill, but the slowest (and least expensive) risks slowing your business operations. Get one in the middle – a 12- or 16-core processor is common – and you can add a second one later if you need more processing power.
- Disk space: How much storage your server needs will depend on how your network is designed. If you have a separate storage array, your server’s disk space will primarily be used for the operating system, so you won’t need enough to store all your data and applications. Consider what will need to be stored on your server to determine how much storage to buy – and remember that you will probably end up needing more than you expect.
- Network capability: Midsize businesses – and even many small businesses – should look for servers that support a 10Gbps network connection. If a server’s network connection isn’t fast enough, it won’t matter if the processor is fast or it has a lot of memory.
- Other considerations: Depending on your specific business needs – and on whether you are running the server at your own site – you may want to consider slots for video cards or RAM, the number of fans needed, licensing issues, rack size and location, and how much heat the server generates.
In general, these areas should be proportional to each other. For example, if you buy a server with a high-end processor but low-end network capability, the network performance may slow your access to the sever so much that the other high-end components don’t matter.
Most of the time, it’s best to look at the middle-of-the-road options in each category. If you buy the lowest-cost server, one that just meets the needs of your business, your business will likely outgrow it too soon. However, the marginal gains you get from buying the top-of-the-line server are not likely to be worth the cost.
Look for outside help when necessary.
The various parts of the server require individual decisions but also an understanding of how they work together. Network engineers – either in-house or external consultants – can help you sort through your options.
An experienced network engineer will consider all the variables, aiming to keep the cost per user as low as possible. If your company is planning to add employees in the next few years, it’s important to consider the way the cost per user will go up: Once you get to the point where you have to add another server, the cost per user will increase more than when you were just adding users to an existing server.
If you outsource the server to a company that runs a data center, you will just need to know how much server space you need for your business. Some considerations, such as how much heat the servers generate or how to store them, will be handled by the outsourced provider.
With an IT strategy that focuses on your business needs and accounts for the costs and benefits of different server features, you can choose servers that will support your business as it grows.
When planning for your businesses future, think about how your technology needs will grow with your business. After all, all IT systems are comprised on interconnected parts and any one weak point can create risk for the entire system and affect your business. Seeking more information about how to improve your IT system, please download the eBook titled "Built to Scale: IT System Designed for Growth" to learn more about improving your IT solution for better productivity.