Whether it’s for your home or small business, you probably need a server if you have a network and run a business. Servers used to cost thousands of dollars, but you can build your own small business server for basic office functionality. The server can store files and host applications without costing you thousands of dollars.
Depending on the size of your company, your server needs plenty of storage space. There are two types of hard drives: hard disks and solid state. Hard disks (HDDs) are the drives you’re probably most familiar with. If you’re just looking for a lot of hard drive space, you can even consider skipping the server machine and just investing in a NAS (network attached storage). A NAS is basically a group of hard drives that attach directly to your network. The NAS storage has its own IP and uses RAID for speed and redundancy.
If you go for a full server, hard disk drives have the most storage space and are much cheaper than solid state drives. Hard drives aren’t as fast as SSDs. That’s where you must make your decision. HDDs have the massive storage space. A terabyte drive is not expensive, and you can buy more current drives that have several terabytes. For most small businesses, this is plenty of space for a server.
SSDs are the other option. SSDs are much more expensive, however. SSDs are solid state, so they have no movable parts. These drives use flash memory, so they are more stable and less volatile. However, a terabyte drive will cost you thousands of dollars. Most businesses combine SSDs for fast servers with HDDs for storage space. This type of storage solution is called a hybrid storage solution.
You’ll also need multiple drives for certain RAID configurations, which you should use for better redundancy.
Network Cards and Cabling
You’ll probably have several users connecting to your server. This means you need fast network cards and cabling. Notice the plural “cards.” You might need multiple network cards, depending on how you want to use the server. You can technically use the server as a router, but this is probably not useful when routers have come down significantly in price.
If your users will be using the server for applications, it’s probably best to invest in fast, category 6 cabling with gigabit technology. Category 6 cables are less prone to noise degradation and allow you to string cable to up to 400 feet. Gigabit networks are fast backbones, so you can assure your users that they get the best speeds when working off of an application that runs off of the server.
Determine Your Environment
There are two major environments for most networks: Microsoft and Linux. Of course, you can mix these environments if you need to use both, but most offices like to choose one or the other. Some users will have Mac laptops, and both of these network environments support using a Mac. However, using the same operating system across a network makes it easier to integrate applications and share files.
Linux is open-source, which means it’s cheaper. There are several Linux distributions to choose from. With Microsoft, you have to choose a server operating system and then install the desktop operating system on your client computers. Microsoft also offers database and email solutions. With Linux, you need to find open source solutions for any other client services.
Permissions and Roles
You’ll need to set up security on your network, and this takes a bit of planning. Permissions are usually not the same across the entire network unless you have a very small office and trust everyone on the network. Chances are that you need to restrict files on your server, so you need to lay out a plan for folders, profiles and backups.
Typically, you have roles assigned based on department and you set up folders based on those roles and departments. For instance, if you have an accounting, executive and IT department, you set up a folder based on these three departments and assign roles to these permissions. The permissions are assigned to the folder, so your server can then store data in an organized fashion while still keeping the data safe.
Security can also be set on the router or using the operating system. The Windows Server operating system comes with a firewall and antivirus application. You just need to make sure you update the virus definition files regularly to ensure you have the latest in virus definition files. These definition files protect you against the latest threats found on the Internet.
Your server will need daily backups. You can buy software that will schedule backups, but you still must monitor and keep backups safe. Backups can be stored on the current server or you can store them on a different machine. You also have the option to store data in the cloud. Cloud backups are quickly becoming popular, because you need massive amounts of space that the cloud can offer. You only pay for space you use, so the cloud is also affordable for people starting out with a new IT department.
One main issue with backups is the time needed to transfer the files and knowing if the backups are viable. Most companies don’t know that their backups are corrupted until they actually try to restore data from them. At this point, your data is lost if the backup is corrupted. Therefore, when you build your server, make sure you consider the backup process and take the time to verify if the backups are viable. Most scheduling software will also do a check on a backup to ensure the data is not corrupted.
Your server doesn’t have to be an expensive machine, but if you do a little planning and take care to give it plenty of hard drive space, you can create a quick server for a small business that supports several users.