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How is a server different from a desktop?

The answer to this most basic yet key question is more straightforward than you might imagine. A server is a system specifically designed to hold, manage, send, and process data. The technology behind servers:

- Makes them more reliable than desktop systems
Helps them process data faster and more efficiently
Can be extended to support data backup and security
Reduces data bottlenecks so information flows more freely and quickly
Is designed to scale as your needs increase or decrease

In short, a server is much more than a supercharged desktop system, and can't be replaced by one. Desktop systems are optimized to run user-friendly operating systems, desktop applications, and facilitate other "desktop" tasks. Even if a desktop uses the same processor speed, memory, and hard disk space as a server, they aren't the same because the technologies behind them are engineered for different usage.

Do you need a server?

Here are some simple guidelines that apply;

If your office only has three or four staff members who share files across networked computers, surf the Web, or send e-mail, you may not need a server at all. However, once you have five or more employees working together on a network, a server can provide a central location for your important files, shared applications, and other resources you regularly use, like project documents and even an image library. In addition, if you want to implement any of the following systems or applications you'll need a server:

- Fax, file and print server
Microsoft Exchange system or other e-mail server
Certain security systems
In-house web site or company intranet

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. In general, if you need to put a computer system in place that processes, shares, or otherwise manages data, you'll need a server.

The right server for you

The questions of how a server differs from a desktop and when a server is the right hardware solution are easy to answer. But the answers to the remaining questions -- how much server you need to buy, what kind of configuration you need, and of course, how much it will all cost you in the end -- are based entirely on what you plan to use the server for. One of the significant benefits of servers is that you can customize their configurations to meet your very specific needs, so you can concentrate your money in those areas where you need it most.

It probably won't surprise you to find out that a server typically costs more than a desktop, but then again, a server is designed to do more than a desktop. It might, however, surprise you to find out a solid entry-level server doesn't cost that much more than a high-end desktop, and may fit more comfortably into your technology budget than you might have imagined.

The most important thing you can do to ensure that your server meets your needs and fits your budget is to devote a bit of time and energy to assessing those needs. Until you have a good understanding of exactly what you want to use your server for, you run the risk of not buying enough server power, or spending too much of your valuable budget on features you simply don't need. A little planning in the beginning can make for significant savings and proper equipment sizing in the end.

RegularGuy Enterprises Inc. will help you through this process. After our initial assessment, we will recommend your best course of action, whether it's a server, multiple servers or no servers at all. We look out for your immediate and future needs.