Old Server, New Problems

Realizing your business critical data is running on old server hardware creates new problems that will require critical decisions be made within your organization. Even a relatively inexpensive server, may be a big investment for your small business, but the price of keeping infrastructure insecure, or unsupported is too high to ignore or delay a decision.

Knowing When Your Time is Running Out

While virtualization, updates, ongoing maintenance, and extended warranties may have increased the life expectancy of servers, there will come a time when a refresh is inevitable.  The first sign that it may be time to replace your server will come when there is a higher demand on resources. You’ll therefore notice your applications (Office, Accounting programs, CRM, etc.) running slower. The key to justifying a new purchase will be to identify when increased performance potential, energy-efficiency requirements and reduced risk of hardware failure becomes necessary.

Your Options

With several options available to consider, there is no need to put unnecessary risk on your business operations by running outdated hardware.

  • Lease, Buy, or Rent-to-Own a New Server

Leasing a server from a hosting provider is an attractive offer many businesses consider because of its scalability. As your business operations change and demands increase, so too can your infrastructure.  Your monthly expenses will be consistent and manageable while you maintain total control. With predictable expenses, you’ll be able to keep up with your competitors without draining your financial resources.

While financing options can make leasing a server more cost efficient in the long run, it is important to avoid major pitfalls when entering into new agreements. Be clear about what your lease terms are so if your business needs change, you won’t be tied to an agreement that no longer meets your requirements.

If your organization requires only basic server needs for file sharing, automated client backup, and light-duty remote access for PCs , consider purchasing your own NAS (Network- Attached Storage) Device. For those with ten or fewer workstations, purchasing a new server is typically cheaper in the long term than leasing options.

Be sure to understand the storage and maintenance requirements your business has when deciding to purchase new server hardware. You’ll want to ensure your new hardware will be powerful enough and managed properly to protect the investment you are making. Performance reliability and data storage should be primary considerations when making a purchase.

Rent-to-Own servers can also be an attractive option for companies that need to stretch their IT dollars, and want to leverage CAPEX vs. OPEX spending. With service providers offering low, competitive interest rates, you won’t have to come up with a large amount of cash up front.  Decision makers tend to base their purchasing options off the impact the infrastructure will have on their financials. It’s important to capitalize on your IT assets as to not limit the ability your business has invest in the right technologies.

  • Move to The Cloud

Instead of running business critical applications on a server, many businesses have made the move to the cloud.  The cloud offers more flexibility, is scalable and simplifies the management of your applications. Once you’ve moved to the cloud successfully, your applications become available for use through the internet. This gives your users greater accessibility as they will now be equipped with remote access to the applications from a variety of devices. Moving to the cloud will also help to scale your IT needs; as it becomes easier to acquire and scale your licenses as necessary.  A phased approach when moving to the cloud is typically advised. Storing your e-mail, antivirus, and document sharing applications are a great starting point for cloud migrations.

You’ll want to be sure to investigate the stability and reliability of the cloud service providers you choose since moving to the cloud means if the provider goes down, your access goes down. Likewise, if you stop paying for the service, the access to your data can be instantly terminated. Your broadband connection will need to be fast enough to handle the amount of large files your business uses and will also need to address the number of users that will need to access them.

Some organizations are prohibited from using cloud services that store data outside of Canadian borders. Since security and data sovereignty is a top concern for most businesses, you will need to investigate your company’s privacy policies to see which cloud services are something you will even be able to consider; particularity if your organization handles health records, or financial data.

  • Hybrid Approach

For some companies, taking a hybrid approach to server management is the best approach. By selectively moving workloads to the cloud, you’ll have more resources available on premise, while  keeping your security technologies up to date.

The hybrid approach keeps your organization in control of your data, and is a cost effective solution for organizations that have already invested in hardware.  Being able to take advantage of cloud components like Software-as-a-Service is an attractive feature as your software will always be kept up to date and your data is backed-up automatically.

The hybrid approach also enables your business to maintain any legacy systems to are deemed critical, while allowing greater flexibility internally by allowing your users to incorporate a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

  • Things to Consider

Whether maintained locally or hosted  in the cloud, your businesses’ hardware, software, and internet connection are all still prone to similar risks and issues.  It is important to consider the trade offs of costs, security, availability, and  maintenance when choosing the right solution for your business.

Remember, “moving to the cloud” doesn’t have to be an intense, “all or nothing” approach. It is a process that can be slowly integrated with your existing system. At times, small gradual changes paced over a length of time, enable greater agility in the long run.

Your budget and storage needs should be considered carefully when deciding whether to purchase a new server or move to the cloud. Many hardware and software vendors have reduced their costs to compete with cloud options, so moving to the cloud may not necessarily be the cheapest option for your business.  The stability and security of your business critical applications is worth the effort it will take to ensure the method of accessibility selected is the right fit for your needs.


(image via Bruno Cordioli/flickr)