There comes a time in the young life of every growing business when you have to ask, "Do we need our own server?" You may get to that point because you had a data disaster, or are tired of chasing down digital information that's scattered across multiple computers, or because those sorts of problems are exactly what you want to avoid. Some entrepreneurs may choose to entirely outsource the work a server does, but others will look to bring the hardware home to their office.
"Any small business that has more than two PCs has a lot of digital data," says Katy Hunter, group product manager for Microsoft's Windows Server division. "That's the point where we say it's time to start centralizing it, securing it, backing it up, and really treating it like the company asset that it is." Those are all top reasons for investing the time and money in an on-site server.
The newly released Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 shows off some of the features a server provides. Hunter emphasizes its ease of use and its suitability as a first-time server for businesses with fewer than 50 PCs. Many entrepreneurs will bring in a reseller to deploy the hardware and software, but the straightforward administration makes it plausible to maintain in-house, even without a full-time IT person. Remote connection, the ability for you and your employees to connect to the server from anywhere with Internet access, is becoming increasingly important in a mobile business world.
Often the capabilities of a server sound great, but cost and usability are concerns. The Small Business Server software starts at $599 (street), while hardware-software combinations are available for less than $1,000.
Once you've taken action to set your business up with a server, you can start looking to add functionality. One growing area to check out is an IP telephony communications system. For example, Avaya's (www.avaya.com) IP Office product is a voice and data convergence solution designed for two to 180 extensions. Features include integrated messaging, voice mail and call handling. Smart technology investments can really pay off when it comes to helping your business reach the next level.