Things you need to know when buying a server
  • Tower or Rack?
    There are two kinds of servers, rack servers and tower servers. The biggest pitfall to avoid in this area is to not buy a rack server unless you already have a rack or have budgeted for one. Racks can be very costly and sides and shelves for the rack are usually also an additional cost.
  • The speed requirements:
    The speed of a processor is measured in gigahertz (GHz), but it can be misleading to look only at the number of GHz. In general you would think that the higher the number the faster the machine, but in reality this depends on the type of processor. A quad-core processor can perform four processes at once as opposed to a single processor which can only perform one.
  • The amount of memory (RAM) required:
    A point to remember when purchasing RAM is that many servers require RAM modules to be installed in pairs and all servers have a limited number of slots. In other words you have to have two of the same value and brand installed at the same time. So when purchasing the server you should look to the future and try to establish how much RAM you will need, and then ensure that this amount is a workable combination with what you are purchasing.
  • The Brand:
    Purchasing a server from a reseller that deals with large international brands such as HP and/or IBM is your best option for several reasons:

Firstly, large brands maintain availability of parts for purchase in order to support warranty claims. Smaller manufacturers however cannot afford to sustain such an inventory and may not be carrying the same hardware week in week out and so getting replacement parts may be difficult.

Secondly, buying a larger brand’s server helps you to avoid hardware software compatibility issues. For example: when you buy an IBM server to run Microsoft Windows Server software there are likely to be tens of thousands of other companies doing the exact same thing as you. This means that any compatibility issues that arise will most likely have already been identified and the fixes will be documented and in place or available to you or your service provider.

Thirdly, response from the bigger brands is often much faster as they have more resources available to them to deal with problems when they arise.

  • The amount of data it will need to store (hard disk requirements in GB):
    As one would expect planning for the future is an important step. Not only do you need to plan for the increase in employees using the network over the next 3-4 years (the average life of a server), but you also need to take into account if there will be an increase in data requirements per person. For example you may foresee the organisation storing more images in the future or possibly using video conferencing, both of which would mean an increase in data storage per user.
  • Backups:
    When purchasing the backup solution it is important to ensure you have enough capacity to be able to back up both now and in the future. Also whenever possible you should try to get your backup on to one media per backup, because once a complete back up takes more than one media you create a whole new dimension for failure in your back up process.
  • Warranty/Service Plan:
    Unless a server is noncritical, i.e. not very important to your company’s operations, and you can afford to have it down for up to several weeks, then you need a current warranty/service plan. This is because regardless of the brand you choose if a part on your server fails and you are not under warranty then you are treated as a new customer for that part and therefore are put at the end of the waiting list. Depending on the part you require you could be waiting up to 5 weeks for a replacement and that’s if that part is still even available for sale.
  • The UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply):
    The UPS is a battery backup for your server. It ensures that if there is a power failure the server has enough power to shut down properly. This helps avoid problems with starting it up again. When purchasing the UPS you need to think about how much up-time you want. You may just want enough time to make sure the server shuts down nicely say 10 minutes, or you may want enough time so that you have the opportunity to identify and fix the problem so the server does not have to shut down at all say 30 minutes.
  • Drive Redundancy:
    RAID stands for redundant array of independent drives. It is the way that you protect your data in the case of disk failure. RAID 1 is the cheaper option and it is a lot better than nothing but RAID 5 redundancy allows you to use your hard disk space more efficiently. On the other hand it is slight harder to rebuild after a disk has failed. We recommend a minimum of RAID 1 but this will also be determined by the applications used of the server.
  • Operating systems:
    There are a number of different Operating Systems and versions of those operating systems that you can choose from to run on your server such as: Windows server or Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) either standard or premium. When buying a server you can sometimes get the Operating system bundled in with the hardware. It is recommended that you talk to an IT consultant to discuss which version of the server operating system you will require.

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