Every business, whether it is a big corporation or a small company, eventually comes to the point when it has to think about their growing demands of digital information flow – how to efficiently operate, store and secure it. Today we would like to talk about small business in particular – how we can manage digital information assets and what solutions are available.
SOHO – Small Office Home Office
SOHO is usually associated with small, private business or self-employed individuals who are running their own office from home. It is also often described as being small in both size of the office and number of employees. And just like the majority of today’s businesses, employees use PCs in a local area network (LAN) and have access to the internet. Internet based technologies allow them to use email, Web, VoIP, and remote access software to communicate with customers, partners, third parties, suppliers etc. Small scale databases or data banks also can be part of it. Many small offices will have a local file server where they can share files amongst each other quickly over the network. These are sometimes called “the share” or “the server” by the users.
Handling the space
Space is a primary consideration of the SOHO environment and the computer equipment used for it. And one of the most popular solutions for it is racking solutions. Networking equipment and custom servers that allow running has already evolved to the point of being much smaller and much more efficient. Being able to do more with less allows small business to be able to operate a network in a much smaller space than ever.
Very often the network and server (or servers) are hosted in a back area of the small or home office, which, in a way can be extremely tight in space, making hosting server and network equipment an obstacle. Nowadays, people work from home more than ever before, thanks to the internet and advanced technologies. Working from home should not require a tradeoff of your wardrobe cabinet for a bulky server rack. So, whether it is a residence or commercial property, space will always be a concern.
We wouldn’t touch too many aspects of SOHO networking environment or which racking cabinet should you choose. Let’s talk a bit about servers that can be used for need of small office.
What is the typical set up for small office in terms of computing equipment? Five to ten desktop computers, a couple of printers, cable or wireless modem Internet connection and some other shared peripherals that could be specific for the business – it all can be handled by a small dedicated server. Of course, if you have only a couple of desktops and make only a few demands on a network, then maybe you won’t need a so called dedicated server for it – it’s easy enough to set up a share on a desktop system and use that box as a shared desktop/server. Otherwise, the reliability, data safety, flexibility and other advantages of a dedicated server are worth the relatively low cost.
SOHO servers are always a compromise between different extremes and it is very important to understand, which server subsystems are likely to be a bottlenecks – a client/server application that exchanges large amounts of data to clients may stress the network interface. A shared database that resides on the server may stress the disk subsystem but, at the same time, place fewer demands on CPU and memory. A server-based application may overload the CPU and memory, but not the disk subsystem. And so on and so forth. So, you have to identify you needs and foresee the probable outcome in terms of server’s efficiency taking into consideration such bottlenecks.
General requirements for SOHO Servers
First and the most important – the server must be reliable. Ideally, it should run 24/7/365. Other than regular downtime for maintenance, upgrade hardware or software updates, you want to expect your server to keep on ticking.
You don’t want to lose your data ever and you want to keep it that way. So, you should very cautious about backups. Server should have a redundancy in the disk subsystem and ever lose the data in case if it fails between the backups. Otherwise you might lose the hours, days or even months of the very important work or data.
Flexibility and easy access for maintenance
Initial configuration of the server should have a powerful processor, enough memory, and disk space that will allow to add or change its functionality incrementally without upgrading the hardware all the time.
Maintenance is an important part of being a flexible server – the easy access to the internal systems, the lesser time for maintenance, hence lesser downtime of the server in total.
While choosing a form factor, don’t just think about today’s needs – think ahead and try to foresee the future demands of your server expansion. MicroATX board in a small case would give a lot of advantages to such a server. It’s small and so can be put anywhere. It doesn’t consume much power, produces little heat, and doesn’t make much noise. But! Expandability of such small system at some point, can be difficult and you likely will end up with the situation, when advantages will be outweighed by disadvantages. If you would decide to install more hard drives to expand your RAID array, for example, microATX form factor would be to limiting for that purpose. But if you’d choose a full ATX motherboard and a mini-tower case – you’ll get you room to grow in the future. As always – the choice is yours!