Do I need a server?

This week, we’re continuing our series of posts from local partners specializing in related areas in the marketing & tech fields. Leanne and Mike Schmidt run Springs Technology. They are our go-to contacts for Managed IT in Colorado Springs. They do great work and keep several of our in-town clients running smoothly when it comes to the in-office technology. We love working with them because we know that anyone we send their way will have a stellar customer experience AND they’re in good hands when it comes to the technology and expertise. – Hannah

Gmail. Dropbox. QuickBooks. Salesforce. What do these all have in common? They all offer online services so you don’t need a server. In other words, they say, “Don’t buy a server. Use ours instead!”

Is that good? Is that bad? Let’s discuss the basics so you can decide for yourself.

First, what is a server? Isn’t it just a computer? And if so, why can’t I use the (old) PC I already own?

Correct. A server is simply a computer—albeit a powerful one. And that’s what makes the difference. Compared to off-the-shelf PCs, a server is built with higher quality components, including an OS specifically designed for what servers do best—process data, and designed to do it without downtime. Repurposing your old desktop as the company server would be like me enlisting my Kia Soul to do the work of a Ford Super Duty F350. Both are vehicles, but only one has guts.

What do I need a server for?

Short answer: processing data. As mentioned above, a server’s super power is storing, organizing, processing, and managing access rights to information. Take Gmail as an example. If you have a Gmail account, you use Google’s mail servers to process and store your messages. Using these servers costs “nothing”, because you gave Google certain rights to your information. They consider it a fair trade.

Cloud servers exist for all sorts of data. For financial data, there’s QuickBooks online. For documents, DropBox is popular. CRM servers abound, a la Salesforce. And then there’s mail and work tools like Microsoft’s Office 365 suite.

The upside to online servers is that you don’t own them. No big-ticket capital expense upfront. No question of where to (safely) store them, how to back them up, or who will handle routine maintenance. All that is taken care of for you.

The downside to online servers is that you don’t own them. Your data is your company’s crown jewels. Are you ok with it resting on a machine located outside your building (not to mention your state, or country)? You are also more exposed. Accidentally granting access to sensitive information is bad when all your employees can see it, but it’s far worse when the whole world wide web can read it.

Bottom line. Do I need a server? Yes, you do, and probably already use one, like Gmail’s, without realizing it. A better question might be, how well are my server/data storage choices serving me right now?

If you use cloud servers, great! Evaluate: Is my data encrypted? Can I control file access rights? Is upload/download time impeding workflow? Am I uneasy about a third-party holding my information?

If you use local servers, great! Evaluate: How old are they? Is the OS current? Do I have dual-redundancy, so that if one goes down day-to-day business continues uninterrupted? Are they backed up (offsite)? Are they patched and updated monthly?

Thinking through these questions will guide you to wise solutions. And if you need help, ask a pro

About Leanne Schmidt

Mike and Leanne Schmidt started Springs Technology, Inc. in November, 2015. They provide managed IT services for clients who want using technology to be as effortless as blinking. Their other (not so secret) passion is software development; creating solutions for Windows Desktop and Server platforms that automate systems.

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