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Buying a Server – A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing a web server can be a daunting task, given the array of hosts and services. But with this guide, the otherwise intimidating task will become pretty straightforward.

This guide is aimed at narrowing down the options and filtering out the irrelevant services to help you decide the best server.

Why should you buy a server?

The first thing you should ask yourself is whether you really need a server. There are a number of reasons why you should set up a host.

First, you may want to store your files and other personal info in a safe space. Second, you are a business owner and plan on moving business online. Third, you want to start learning the minutes of web server administration.

server administration

Whatever be the reason, I have come up with a comprehensive guide to help you decide the right hosting solution – both in terms of price and performance.

Buy dedicated servers to interact with people

Web servers, in most cases, have nothing to do with technology but with people. Yes, in more than 95% cases web servers directly interact with visitors. The remaining 5% servers are either inactive or used for other business-critical backups.

You will note than buying a server can unlock an arsenal of advantages for your business – the first being security; second, reliability; third, performance.

Buy dedicated servers

Disclaimer – if you have a business idea on mind, buying a server is the first thing you will stumble upon. However, before you do so, ensure that there is a person responsible and skilled enough to handle the server all by himself.

If this is not the case, you might need to procure an IT team. This means you need to hire appropriate staff to begin.

We have seen a number of clients who are well aware of their requirements but haven’t a clue of the workforce they will need to handle their server. The result is that these organizations suffer in the long run.

Our advice to you is –

Figure out everything before you buy a server. Make a note of things that you need and seek expert advice on the same. Also contemplate whether you have sufficient workforce; if not, hire men who know how to run a server. And last but not least, choose an appropriate data centre to host your website.

The data center closest to your client location is where you should ideally host your website. For example, if you are targeting customers in India, relocate your website to a data centre in India.

While your website won’t get affected if you do not relocate to data centers in India, search engines will give you more preference in local searches if you do so.

Buying a server – the ultimate guide

Components of a server

The size of your business is directly proportional to the number of workstations in your business. More the workstations, bigger the business.

Smaller businesses need lesser resource and even lesser workforce. We have seen businesses operating from a single workstation.

Put simply, the size of your business determines what type of server you will need, if you need any at all.

When I say “servers”, people think of a big cabinet with microchips. “Servers” prompts a different notion than “computers”. However, a trained server admin would tell you that servers are simply computers without individual monitors.

RAM

The amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) determines how much tasks can be done in one go. More the RAM, faster the system.

RAM

RAM temporarily stores files. The loading of files from RAM is faster than it is with connected Hard Drives, so more the space, more the files that can be stored.

Depending upon how you are going to use your server, you will need to scale RAM.

If your website is going to do pretty normal stuff, like blogging, news and articles, 2 GB

RAM would be more than enough to start. Note that as your website grows you will need to upgrade RAM because more memory is needed for your website to function appropriately.

If your website is about gaming or lite apps, you need at least 4 GB RAM on your server. Nothing less. This is the minimum configuration you should choose, even if you are just starting.

Besides, your RAM might not be enough to render high-end graphics. There are separate GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) for that.

GPU

You may be surprised to know that although some servers have GPUs, they do not use them for rendering high-end graphics. Servers are so engineered that they are able to render resource-intensive tasks with ease.

Some hosts are built with multiple CPUs. Although it is advisable to have a GPU on a gaming server, you can have one even if you are not gaming.

GPU

The GPU, in such cases, would be used to deliver other tasks and fills in the role of supplementary RAM. You would notice a performance surge of at least 40% with a GPU than without it.

So, blogger or gamer, we do not see a reason why you should not have a GPU.

However, if you do not place high loads on your server and your machine is never rigged to its limit, you need not overinvest in a graphics unit.

Who should configure GPU –?

  • Gamers who are looking for a high-end gaming experience
  • High-end applications that rig the server to its peak

Getting Started

Once you have an idea of how big a system you are going to need, you now need to identify how the system will fit into your business network. Do you have the power and cables installed or are you procuring a server over the internet?

If you haven’t set up an office yet, you’re in luck. Instead of installing cables go with wireless connections all over the premises. This will ensure that adding devices to the network will not require setting up of cables.

Or, if a wired connection is somehow your need, you can combine wireless and wired ports. The wired port will help you to connect devices to the internet and the wireless port to connect computers and other devices with the office network.

Draft a storage Plan

If you noticed we discussed RAM & GPU at the start and are now back to ground zero.

This was to help you have a glimpse of how powerful a server you are going to need.

This will be essential in predicting the scale of other resources such as network and work staff.

dell

The next in the line is storage. You are going to need an immense amount of storage for your website.

We recommend that you choose at least 500 GB of storage. (You can choose less if you run a basic blogging site).

This is how you should decide the amount of storage needed for your website–

  • Blogs can start with 250 GB or less
  • Application hosting sites should choose twice the total size of apps
  • Video sharing websites should have at least 2 TB space, considering a single video content could occupy gigabytes of space.
  • Gaming servers should choose storage which is twice the total game size.

If a number of workstations are going to be connected to the server without internal storage of their own, multiply the number of workstations with 500 and that will give you the storage requirement.

Storage needed (GBs) = number of workstations X 500

Note – we have assumed that each workstation needs at least 500 GB (on average).

The requirements may vary as per needs.

In my opinion, 1 TB should be the threshold and one should have that much space, even if there is just one computer to connect to it.

Hosting or Colocation?

If you are only running a website, hosting services would do just fine, go with that.

However, if you need top-notch control and customizability, co-locate your server.

What is Colocation Hosting

Hosting is when you lease a pre-configured server. The hosting provider will provide you with a ready-made hosting environment to host files.

In colocation services, on the other hand, you will lease empty racks or cabinets in data centers and install your server.

Everyone should go with hosting service unless your requirement is extremely specific. Enterprises should only co-locate their servers because it gives them access to top-notch control and is more cost-efficient.

Server specifications by Use cases

What kind of a host do you need? That depends upon what you are planning to run on your server.

If you need a central system to store your Word files and PowerPoint slides you do not need a server either. You could have cloud storage or NAS (network-attached storage) at the place and manage all the things with ease.

But if your needs are somewhat tedious, you need more robust servers on the basis of your needs. Below examples will help you know them better –

Productivity tools and Emails

Tools such as MS Exchange and email suites are not at all resource-intensive. You need not rig the best of specifications as these programs would run just fine on pretty much any machine.

Emails

Such clients need relatively modest specifications. I am thinking 2 GB RAM, 500 GB storage and no GPU at all. RAID configuration with hot-swappable drives is ideal in such scenarios.

Hosting a website

Servers are inevitable when hosting a website. Now the question is whether you should host on private or shared servers.

If you have a big consumer base, nothing less than dedicated servers would do.

When starting a website, start with shared servers instead. This way you will save a ton of money and still be able to grow your business.

If your requirement is just too big for a dedicated server, buy two. We have seen websites starting from shared hosting and ultimately outgrowing dedicated servers.

High traffic web servers will only benefit from high-rigged dedicated machines with multiple CPUs. More the CPUs, better the performance.

If your requirement falls somewhere in between, VPS is your thing. A virtual private server (VPS) is a private server except in a shared environment. To achieve so, a single dedicated server is partitioned several times and the partitions are then allocated to individual users.

For domain management

The single biggest advantage of a small business server is the ease with which domains can be managed with it.

With domain controller and active directory applications, you won’t require a ton of resources since you will have your own environment.

Backup Plan at Place

Small or big, every business should have a backup at the place. There shouldn’t be data which you haven’t backed up. So backup should be on your list.

Since backup services come with included OS, you wouldn’t have a difficult time figuring out the correct backup service for your business.

Just take a note of how much space you will need to store your files and take a backup plan twice that size.

Backup Plan

For example, I have a data of 350 GB on my server so my backup plan should be somewhere around 700 GB.

It would be even better if you could host with a cloud server. This way you wouldn’t have to pay for the extra 350 GB. You can easily scale resources as and when required on a cloud server.

Since cloud backup service is an offsite service, it is also ten times simpler and convenient.

Hard Disk Drive or Solid State Drive?

You can choose either HDD or SSD. SSDs are faster, more reliable and also more expensive.

Hard Disk Drive

You should go with HDD when –

  • You are concerned with cost. This is usually the case when you have to procure a number of servers.
  • When performance isn’t an issue as such and HDDs are likely to work equally fine.

You should choose SSD when –

  • Speed is your primary concern.
  • Cost isn’t too much of an issue but performance is the priority.

Takeaway

If you think we are done, well, we are not. Having finalized everything, your host will also ask you whether you want a managed and unmanaged hosting.

In managed hosting, your host will take care of most things. This include, backups, security, updates, and also installing applications.

In unmanaged hosting, however, your host isn’t liable for a thing. The provider will setup your server, turn on the lights and hand you the keys. You are left to figure out everything else on your own.

Choose Managed servers when –

  • You want convenience in managing servers and cost isn’t as important.
  • Your organization lacks the workforce required to maintain a server.

Choose unmanaged servers when –

  • You want to save every penny possible.
  • You have the required workforce in-house.
About Nishant Nath (12 Posts)


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