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The Right Server for a Small Business (The Ultimate Guide)

Victoria Kleinbort

By Victoria Kleinbort, Country Manager for Kenya at Servercore

If you’re a small business owner or manager, it’s essential to know your IT infrastructure needs are unique, just like your business. As such, selecting the right IT infrastructure solution for your business processes is one of your most crucial decisions.

If you’re thinking about getting a server, we’ve put together this guide addressing crucial queries and providing actionable insights to help CEOs and IT leaders of small companies make an informed choice when selecting a server for business.

The Big Question: Do You Even Need a Server?

The first step in your server selection journey is determining whether you require a server. Here’s why. There may already be a suitable and readily usable SaaS (software as a service) solution on the market that will meet your server needs.

In such a case, you will be spared the trouble of installing and managing custom server software. And when it’s easier to pay for a ready-to-use server solution at the start, why reinvent the wheel?

To illustrate this, consider a small marketing agency relying heavily on data sharing and teamwork. Instead of purchasing and maintaining a server, the organization could use SaaS solutions like Google Drive for file sharing, Slack for communication, and Trello for project management. This saves resources and alleviates the need for dedicated IT support.

However, it could also be true that your small business urgently needs a server solution.

Decide the Hosting Plan: In-house Server vs. Cloud Server

If you choose to acquire a business server, the next step in your server journey is to decide where you’ll host your server.

An in-house server is on-site in your company. When your server is in-house, you invest in hardware, software, and professional IT teams. As a result, implementing an in-house server requires a sizable initial capital investment because of the costs associated with acquiring hardware, software licenses, upgrades, and IT experts. An in-house server also means you’ll have complete control and don’t have to rely on a cloud service for server management.

On the other hand, a cloud-based server solution means your applications get hosted off-site and get delivered to you as a service over the Internet. This eliminates the need for investing in hardware, software, and dedicated IT teams.

Both of these server solutions have pros and cons.

For example, a cloud server setup would provide guaranteed data security and 24/7 availability of your service, but you don’t have control over it. Conversely, an on-site server solution allows you physical control over your infrastructure system. But if it malfunctions, your business could face severe disruptions, including potential data loss, reduced productivity, and compromised customer service.

When deciding between the two, it’s essential to ask yourself questions including the following:

  • Can you provide stability, uptime, and security for your in-house server?
  • Can you ensure 24/7 availability and protection from power outages or overheating?
  • If not, your data may face dozens of threats, ranging from power outages to a janitor’s stray rag.

Many businesses, small or large, face technical challenges, such as power outages, cyber security concerns, hardware failures, etc., when it comes to server management which can result in downtime and significant financial losses.

A study found that about 60% of small businesses that suffer cyber-attacks close down within six months. It’s a worst-case scenario for small businesses in Africa, which are more prone to cyber threats due to vulnerabilities like weak infrastructures, limited resources, weak security, zero-day exploits, and lack of awareness.

According to Kaspersky, African nations, specifically Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, face increased cyber attacks. It means in-house servers without stable server management, monitoring, and robust security measures are riskier for small businesses in the region.

To overcome such challenges, opting for cloud-based solutions helps by offering benefits such as guaranteed power supply, backup systems, stable security, up-to-date software, and better disaster recovery options. Cloud service providers often set up stable infrastructure systems to minimize the impact of unforeseen events. 

Buy or Lease a Server?

Buying and leasing a server primarily hinges on your financial capability and long-term plan. On the one hand, buying might seem cost-effective in the long run, but it comes with potential uncertainties.

As such, it’s essential to consider the potential pitfalls of ownership. For instance, an emerging tech startup might find that rapid growth outpaces its server’s capacity within a year, necessitating additional, often complex, hardware upgrades.

On the other hand, leasing offers flexibility and scalability. It lets you change your server configuration based on evolving needs, ensuring your infrastructure stays aligned with your business growth.

Choosing the Right Server: Catering to Growth

Servercore
Servercore

We don’t want to upset anyone, but no server shopping advice is 100% effective. This is because every business has its own server needs and priorities.

Consider Twitter’s initial days. The social giant was often plagued by the infamous “fail whale” challenges due to insufficient server capacity, causing service disruptions. Users would get an error message when the platform experienced server overload. Such challenges underscore the importance of a scalable server solution for rapidly growing businesses.

Also, consider a grocery store venturing into online sales. Such a business might need a server to support its digital transformation. Even when its growth would be less explosive than an IT startup, flexibility and scalability remain key aspects to consider.

To find the right server, it’s essential to test your hardware in action and give it a test drive. When working with a cloud provider, you can afford multiple test drives: borrow a server for a day or keep one for a month-long trial. If you don’t like it, you can return it and get another one.

p. s. Even if you are determined to buy your own in-house server, we recommend testing it on the provider’s premises first. Do not buy a server before you have the entire configuration together, lest you miss the mark on one specification or another.

A server with room for growth

Speaking of small enterprises, let’s profile the kinds of businesses that might need a server.

  • IT startups

Startups have a good idea of why they need a server and mostly have the in-house expertise required to handle the infrastructure. These companies aim for growth by definition—change is inherent in such businesses. So, in the normal course of events, sooner than later, a time comes when a single server with a specific configuration will no longer be sufficient. Then the infrastructure will have to be scaled up (with progressively more powerful servers deployed) or scaled out (with more hardware added to boost capacity).

If the service grows increasingly complex, on top of the hardware, the business may have to add some extra features like DDoS protection, data storage, CDN, and others. The provider can supply and sustain this growth more comfortably to the business objectives and budget.

  • Companies looking to embrace digital transformation

Another group of small businesses that may need servers are companies that have yet to use technology before and are looking to digitize their services. This is becoming increasingly common nowadays. Usually, when a business gets preoccupied with online opportunities, it needs a server.

A business needs to digitize its processes to grow and expand. Digitization means automation, faster processes, and more customers. Infrastructure growth may occur slowly in this case. It is certain, however, that these customers get more flexibility with an IT infrastructure provider.

After all, there is always time to move to a data center. The company may start by operating its in-house server but eventually comes to a point where it becomes more profitable to use a provider’s services.

Making a Choice: Dedicated or Virtual Server?

Your business’s current and prospective needs dictate whether a dedicated or a virtual server would be ideal. Small businesses with predictable traffic and stringent security requirements may opt for a dedicated server, ensuring exclusive access to server resources.

Consider a dedicated server if your traffic load is predictable and never changes. The best part is that all server resources will belong to your organization. You don’t have to share your resources with anyone, and you can sleep well at night—you won’t be affected by a significant DDoS attack on a client who shares cloud resources with you.

However, you’ll sleep better with an expert provider taking care of all your server needs, even though your server may be virtual.

If seasonal growth patterns characterize your business, it’s best to focus on cloud servers. A cloud server allows you to quickly scale up your business infrastructure in minutes at peak demand times and disable redundant capacity just as quickly. Moreover, you’ll be paying for the actual usage only (the pay-as-you-go model), so there is no way you will ever pay for resources you never used. Finally, you don’t have to worry about the hardware and server management—the provider handles it.

A recent report by Fortune Business Insights projects that the global cloud server market is expected to reach USD 2,432.87 Billion by 2030. This points to the increasing reliance on virtual servers, which offer flexibility in scaling up and down based on demand, coupled with a pay-as-you-go model.

Conclusion

Whether you opt for an in-house or cloud server, it’s essential to carefully consider your business’s unique, current, and future needs. Remember, choosing a server isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. It may involve some trial and error, but with the proper assistance, you can identify a server solution that propels your business forward.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Get the full assurance that you need a server. It would help if you considered starting with a SaaS service—it saves you time and money you would otherwise spend when you hire an IT specialist.
  2. Think twice before getting your own server. In most cases, this solution won’t pay.
  3. If you do decide to buy your own in-house server, take the time to test its different configurations to improve your chances of getting a server solution that is right for you.
  4. You’ll unlikely find the perfect server on your first try. So, try a few different ones before settling—the provider should help you with that.
  5. Think one step ahead. If your business promises growth in the future, it is better to use a provider’s server services from the start.
  6. Keep your business needs in mind. If a particular server has served some company well, this does not mean it is suitable for you.
  7. If your business’s seasonality or fluctuating loads are typical, go for a cloud server. Dedicated servers are ideal for predictable loads and services with zero tolerance for “neighbors.” Plus, some software products run faster on a dedicated server.
  8. Take a broader view when assessing the provider’s capabilities. After all, this is not only about a server solution. Factors such as value-added services can save you money and make it easier to operate the infrastructure.
  9. Lastly, shake off the stereotypes about data centers being costly and in-house hosting being safer. The evolving technology landscape ensures these concerns are continually addressed, making server selection more manageable for small businesses.
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