You’ve Been Served!

     Servers create a crucial function in any network.  In that case: exactly what is a server and what does it really do?


     Actually, it can refer to the hardware itself, the operating system that runs on it, or a piece of software that provides a specific service such as email delivery or website hosting.  Frequently, a server is a high-performance computer that utilizes specialized software or operating systems to store data and centralize resources across an office.


     “In most cases, the biggest impetus for getting a server is an increase in the number of staff and workstations that regularly use your network,” according to Kevin Lo, lead technology analyst at  “If you anticipate growing to more than seven FTE (full-time equivalents) at an office, each using a computer, you might want to consider a server to better manage your workforce and the data they produce.  Having a server-based network will enable you to better manage the additional data you collect and report in your grants.  As you approach 10 employees and workstations, the benefits of a server become more pronounced.”


     Lo details significant benefits to having a client-server system:

·        Easier User and Workstation Management.  “A server can help you manage the users on a network,” states Lo.  “All server operating systems like Windows and Linux offer ‘directory services’ which allow you to create user accounts of different privilege and access roles.  These network user accounts give you more control over the network resources your users can access.  For example, you can assign one user or a group of users access to a human resources folder, but exclude others from opening it.  Having a server can make this kind of network administration a reality.”  Additionally, server-based systems enable central management of workstations without the need for individual administration. 

·        Improved File-Sharing and Data Storage.  Increased staff means more generation and collection of data, which in turns translates into the greater need to share files and resources.  “A server facilitates sharing,” according to Lo.  “One staff can save files on a server and other staff can look at the file and work on it.  A server is also designed to help share other resources, such as databases and printers.  In addition, servers are also designed with efficient storage and retrieval of data.  They come equipped to store a lot of data, and allow you to add additional storage capacity when you need it.”

·        A Better Backup System.  “As data and workstations become more centrally managed, the backup of data will likewise become less haphazard.  Consolidating your data to a server allows you to target your backup processes to key folders at a central location,” Lo explains.  “You will also be able to take advantage of more powerful, server-based backup software which offer additional backup and restore features, even for files located on individual workstations.  As you move to a more sophisticated information management, you would need server-level backup software to effectively prepare for data loss and recovery.”

·        Improved Networked Application Performance.  “Servers are designed to accommodate a number of users simultaneously.  To boost performance, they are equipped to handle more memory and processing power than a regular desktop computer,” states Lo.  “If sharing files or a database from another staff’s computer in a peer-to-peer setup is affecting your productivity, it’s time to upgrade to a server-based system.”

·        Ability to Run More Powerful Applications.  According to Lo, many applications, including constituent relationship management, collaborative project tracking, fundraising databases even email require servers to operate.  “Like a lot of information technology, server-based applications are gravitating toward an internet-based delivery model.  However, you may still want to host some applications on your own server if you need complete control on the availability and security of your data.”


     And if your organization doesn’t require all of the aforementioned benefits, Lo provides the following options: 

·        Cloud Applications.  “Many server-like applications can be accessed over the Internet—or over the cloud—using fixed-line or mobile broadband access.  There are backup, email, and donor management applications available in the cloud.  Instead of managing the applications yourself, they are managed by the companies that provide these services.”

·        Network-Attached Storage.  “Network-attached storage (NAS) devices allow you to add hard drive-based storage to your network without having to install and maintain a full-blown server, and is available at a fraction of the cost.  In a small compact package, NAS devices also offer many server-like functionality like database hosting, backup space, or printer sharing with an easy to manage web-based interface.”

·        Remote Access.  “Virtual private networking (PIN) allows authorized remote users access to your organization’s internal network resources such as the files on a NAS or the shared printers while keeping unauthorized users out.    This is especially useful for organizations with a central office who have workers that travel quite a bit or for organizations with satellite offices that need to connect to resources within the headquarter office (such as a database or stored files).”

     A server affords you the capacity to share, manage, and access your information.   And as you can see, there are alternatives to a server.


     In any event, you have the needed technology to successfully grow as an organization.

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#1 luigi4235 2015-02-14 17:13
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