I come upon a number of small businesses and professionals who are asking at what point do I need a server for my office? Peer to peer networks among Windows PC’s are easy to setup and they do work.
Some circumstances just scream for a dedicated file server.
Here are some signs that you need a server for your office:
- You are not sure where to locate a document and you waste time searching on all of your workstations.
- You realize you have more than 1 copy of a document and now you have to figure out which is the most recent, or, heaven forbid, more than 1 is being updated on a regular basis.
- You have no idea how to effectively backup all of your important data because you don’t really know where it all resides.
- You want to print to a shared printer but the PC that normally is attached to it is currently down.
All of these issues are indicative of a need to centralize your data on a dedicated file server.
In the past, this has meant a serious cash outlay for a piece of hardware, $700 or more for Windows Server software and probably $1000 or so for an IT firm to set you up and then charge you ongoing maintenance fees.
Enter network storage, commonly referred to as NAS for network attached storage.
These small devices are usually about the size of a toaster (or pizza box if you have a computer “rack” you want to install it into) and run a free operating system based on the solid Linux operating system.
NAS devices are ideal for small offices who need a server for dedicated file sharing, print sharing, media storage and streaming or providing “brains” for the office network.
When you make the move to add a network storage device to your office network you can create “shares” that are available to the entire organization and also have shares that are private to individual users. Quotas can even be easily setup to make sure no one user “hogs” all of the space.
Most of these network storage devices also have the ability to connect and share a USB printer that can be made available to whomever in the office needs it, without worrying about a PC being turned on and running Windows to make it work.
Any NAS that I would recommend for an office has hard drive redundancy, commonly referred to as a level of “RAID”, that protects your data in case of a single hard drive failure – something not common on individual workstation PC’s. The unit then warns you that a drive has gone bad so you can replace it before any data is lost.
All without any downtime to your business. These units have a “hot swap” feature that means you can replace a failed drive without even turning off and rebooting the unit.
So when do you need a server for your office or business? Easy, when you are tired of battling your data the hard way and then losing sleep at night over the fear of losing the data your business needs to survive and thrive.