Computer servers explained simply.

Servers are the lifeblood of any network. Servers provide the shared resources that network users crave, such as file storage, databases, e-mail, Web services, and so on. Choosing the equipment you use for your network’s servers is one of the key decisions you’ll make when you set up a network.

Here are some general things to keep in mind when picking a server for your network:

Service and support

Scalability refers to the ability to increase the size and capacity of the server without unreasonable hassle. It’s a major mistake to purchase a server that just meets your current needs because, you can rest assured, your needs will double within a year. If at all possible, equip your servers with far more disk space, RAM, and processor power than you currently need.

Reliability. The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies especially well to servers. Why spend £10,000 on a server when you can buy one with seemingly similar specifications online for £2,000?

One reason is reliability. When a client computer fails, only the person who uses that computer is affected. When a server fails, however, everyone on the network is affected. The less-expensive computer is probably made of inferior components that are more likely to fail.

Availability This concept of availability is closely related to reliability. When a server fails, how long does it take to correct the problem and get the server up and running again?

Server are designed so their components can be easily diagnosed and replaced, which minimises the downtime that results when a component fails. In some servers, components are hot swappable, which means that certain components can be replaced without shutting down the server. Some servers are designed to be fault-tolerant so that they can continue to operate even if a major component fails.

Service and support are factors often overlooked when picking computers. If a component in a server fails, do you have someone on site qualified to repair the broken computer? If not, you should get an on-site IT support agreement.

Don’t settle for an IT support agreement that requires you to take the server for repair or, worse, mail it to a repair facility. You can’t afford to be without your server that long.