How to Choose a Server for SMB? (PART II)

Please Read Part I


Type’s of servers

  • Dedicated Servers
  • Tower Servers
  • Rack Servers
  • Blade Servers
  • Cloud Server

Dedicated Servers

A dedicated server is a physical server used by a single business.

Dedicated servers are the most powerful small business server option. They range from moderately powerful machines capable of supporting a busy website to massively powerful machines with dozens of processors and hundreds of gigabytes of memory. The most powerful dedicated servers can support high-traffic websites and eCommerce stores, applications with many thousands of concurrent users, and massive databases.

One or more moderately powerful dedicated servers are more than capable of supporting the application, web, and database hosting needs of a small business.

Dedicated servers can be of different types based on your business requirement

Tower Servers

Tower Server

Tower servers (and their smaller cousins, micro towers) are the first step up from a NAS. Tower servers cost more than NAS products, but they’re much less expensive than rack-mount systems. They can operate on the floor or on top of a desk, but you can also retrofit them to sit in a rack. Tower servers are generally quiet, because they don’t require a lot of cooling fans.

On the downside, you’ll need a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to manage each tower server, or you can invest in a KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) option that enables one set of peripherals to control several machines. (You can control micro towers running Windows Server using Remote Desktop Connection via a client PC.) More important, a tower server provides limited scalability once you’ve maxed out its capabilities. If you anticipate your IT requirements expanding rapidly, a rack or blade server is a better alternative than finding space for a bunch of towers.

Tower servers come with the same operating system choices as rack and blade servers do, including various flavors of Windows Server and Linux.

Rack Servers

Rack Server

If you anticipate the need to run several servers, either right away or in short order, consider moving up to rack-mount models. These types of servers come in a standard width (to fit in a 19-inch rack) and a standard height (a multiple of 1.75 inches, or 1U; a standard rack is 42U high). A rack permits you to fit many servers into a relatively small footprint, and typically it includes a cable-management system to keep your installation neat.

Most rack servers are highly expandable, with sockets for multiple CPUs, copious amounts of memory, and lots of storage. Rack-server systems are highly scalable, too; once you have the rack in place, you won’t need floor space for additional servers until the rack is full. Although they typically cost more than tower servers, they’re cheaper than blades.

Since rack servers operate in very close proximity to one another, they require more active cooling than tower servers do. The fans in these servers can be quite loud, and you’ll need a climate-control system to keep a full rack cool. For those reasons, most businesses isolate their rack servers in a dedicated room. Rack servers can be more difficult to maintain, because they must be physically pulled from the rack for servicing. And like a tower server, rack servers require a KVM arrangement for setup and management.

Prices escalate quickly as you add CPUs (or CPU cores), memory, hard-drive bays, virtualization capabilities, and other features. When you compare the prices of rack servers, be sure to include the cost of an operating system and any embedded hypervisor (for virtualization) that you might want, as these elements are not always included in the base price. You should also consider the price of the rack and the mounting rails you’ll need to install the server.

Blade Servers

Blade Server

The primary distinction between a rack server and a blade server is that several blade servers operate inside a chassis. Adding a new server is as simple as sliding a new blade into the chassis. You can install other network components, such as ethernet switches, firewalls, and load balancers, alongside the servers in the same enclosure, and you can install the whole assembly in a rack. Since the chassis provides the power, cooling, input-output, and connectivity for all the devices inside it, you don’t have to deal with new cables when you add something. Blades are neater and can pack more computer power into a given space than any other server ecosystem, yet their upfront cost is higher because you must also purchase the enclosure.

Blade servers do have their drawbacks. Typically they provide fewer expansion opportunities because they aren’t equipped with as many PCIe slots and drive bays as tower or rack servers are. On the other hand, businesses deploying blade servers usually have shared storage, such as a storage area network, to support their blade servers (and some blade chassis can accommodate SAN storage right alongside the servers). As you’ve probably guessed, housing all those components in such close proximity generates a lot of heat. Blade systems, like rack servers, require plenty of active cooling (usually augmented by fans mounted inside the chassis).

What is A Virtual-Machine?

Small to medium-size businesses have been behind the curve when it comes to adopting virtualization to date, but the technology can deliver significant benefits to companies of nearly any size because it allows the enterprise to make more efficient use of IT resources.

Virtualization enables one server to behave as several servers, each with its own operating system and unique set of applications. A virtual machine consists solely of software, yet it has all the components of a physical machine: It has a motherboard, a CPU, a hard disk, a network controller, and so on. The operating system and other applications run on a virtual machine just as they would on a physical machine–they see no difference between the two environments.

In virtualization, a program known as a hypervisor places an abstraction layer between the operating systems and the hardware. The hypervisor can operate multiple virtual machines with the same operating system or different OSs on the same physical server. Microsoft, Oracle, and VMware are among the top virtual-machine developers.

How does virtualization make more efficient use of your IT resources? Servers are designed to accommodate peak–versus average–loads, so they’re underutilized most of the time. In fact, the typical server utilizes only between 5 and 15 percent of its overall resources. Running several virtual machines on one physical server uses those resources more efficiently, boosting utilization to between 60 and 80 percent. Instead of operating one physical server for email, one for database management, one for your intranet, and yet another for CRM, you can run all of those applications on several virtual machines running on the same physical hardware.

Virtualization eliminates the need for additional physical servers, and the tech-support overhead, power, cooling, backup, physical space, and other requirements that go along with them. What’s more, you can deploy a new virtual server in a few minutes.


Cloud Server


Cloud servers can be thought of as a slice of a physical server. Each cloud server is a complete server environment that appears identical to a dedicated server from the perspective of the user, but is in fact a virtual machine running in software on enterprise-grade server hardware. Each physical server can support many cloud servers.

Services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Windows Azure, Net Magic etc offer a number of benefits. For starters, they don’t involve a significant capital outlay, and you won’t need an IT staff to manage the server.

Cloud Servers and Hybrid Servers operate on essentially the same principles. The difference lies in the resources they have available and the way they are paid for.

Hybrid Servers are very powerful virtual servers. Each Hybrid Server has the same resources as a lower-tier dedicated server.

There are several advantages to choosing a cloud server:

  • Cloud servers can be deployed instantly via a web-based control panel.
  • You can deploy as many cloud servers as you need with no delay.
  • Cloud servers can be quickly scaled to accommodate changing demand

There are a few things consider before choosing a cloud server:

  • The stability and reliability of whichever service provider you choose is your first and most important concern. If that firm goes belly-up or experiences a disaster, your business could quickly grind to a halt. What’s worse is that you could temporarily or permanently lose access to all your data.
  • Internet connectivity: If you lose your connection to the Internet, you’ll be cut off from your applications and data, and your employees won’t be able to share files. You could lose the ability to manage your business until your Internet connection is restored.
  • Bandwidth: And if your business uses large files, and your broadband connection is too slow, your operation’s productivity will suffer.
  • Security: Storing your data on equipment outside your immediate control also brings up privacy and security concerns. And although you’re not paying for an IT staff, ongoing maintenance, and investments in new capital equipment directly, you’re still incurring a share of those costs indirectly–they’re reflected in the fees you’re paying the service provider.

So what should i choose?

Dedicated servers are the best choice when performance is the most important factor. They’re the ideal server platform for high-traffic websites and eCommerce stores, big data analytics and other number crunching applications, applications with large numbers of users, and for high-load database or file storage.

Dedicated servers are also ideal when a small business wants to guarantee that they are the only organization with access to the server hardware, something that may be relevant to regulatory compliance.

Cloud Servers offer the ultimate in flexibility. If you expect to need new servers regularly on short notice — as testing or development servers, to rapidly scale to support additional load, or to host new products — cloud servers are an excellent choice.

Hybrid Servers sit between dedicated servers and cloud servers. They are less expensive than dedicated servers, but also less powerful, although the most powerful hybrid servers are competitive with lower-tier dedicated servers.

Our team at Kay Impex can help you  choose the right mix of infrastructure for your particular needs. Many small businesses use dedicated servers to host business-critical long-term applications while taking advantage of cloud servers for their scalability and on-demand pricing.

Hopefully, this article will help you choose the right small business server for your company.

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