5 Best Affordable Servers for Small Businesses

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The cloud is supposed to be about convenience. But if you’re trying to access files quickly, remote data storage often disappoints. For file copying speed, even the best online backup options can’t outpace a good local backup solution.

For businesses, that means faster disaster recovery, faster collaborations and fewer headaches. Forget about single-disk external drives, too. Local storage options today are both powerful and reasonably inexpensive, making it a perfect time to implement a more advanced hybrid backup strategy for your business.

During this overview, we’ll be noting some of the best servers for business with an with an eye towards affordability. Our top options include the Lenovo ThinkServer TS140 and the Dell PowerEdge T30. Beyond that, unless you’re ready to spend bigger, we recommend going the NAS server route, and our final three picks reflect that recommendation.

Home ServerWhat Makes a Server the Best for a Small Business?

Finding an inexpensive server these days isn’t hard. Finding an inexpensive server that’s actually good is little trickier. The market is forever in flux and opinions vary wildly, but the five best server options listed below will all work nicely toward evolving your business’s backup plan.

There are a few criteria we looked for when making our picks. One of the most important is at least four hard-drive bays. The reason we encourage four bays is that’s how many you need to setup RAID 5 and maintain decent storage capacity. RAID 5 both stripes data across multiple drives for performance and keeps parity data so that if one drive fails, you don’t lose anything.

We also favor servers that support SSDs (solid-state drives). SSDs have fewer moving parts than traditional mechanical hard drives (HDDs). They’re both considerably faster and less prone to breaking. Granted, SSDs are also considerably more expensive, too, so you many want to stick to HHDs and upgrade later if needed. Some servers let you run both SSDs and HDDs simultaneously, so you can use an SSD for your OS and HDDs for other files.

As far as CPUs, most low-cost options use the same processors you’ll find in laptops. Better, faster options uses high-performance processors designed for multi-threaded capabilities and reliability (like an Intel Xeon). We considered CPU and allotted RAM, too. Both will dictate how many simultaneous users you can have accessing your backup and drive other performance metrics.

The Difference Between File Servers and NAS Devices

Traditional file servers and NAS devices share many features. Most notably, both let business users on a network backup, store, share, edit and otherwise work with files. Usually, the biggest difference between servers and NAS devices is power, with servers having more of it thanks to more advanced hardware. Lower cost servers, however, and NAS devices are usually pretty comparable in that regard, which is why we include NAS devices in this article.

Servers can also be used to run applications used by your office, including databases and email. NAS, not so much. In fact, servers are more configurable in general. They usually don’t even come preinstalled with an OS. That way, you can go with Windows Server, Linux Server or whatever other server OS you favor.

On the other hand, most NAS devices come pre-configured with proprietary OS software. While less flexible, there’s definitely a speed advantage here. NAS devices can be set up and backing up files in a few minutes. Servers will take both more upfront work and more consistent monitoring.

Ultimately, going with one or the other will depend on the needs of your business. Whichever you go with though, don’t dismiss the notion of also backing up your data to the cloud.

Server Backup to the Cloud

Here at BYTEK Corp., we tend favor a hybrid backup approach when it comes to storing business data. That’s to say, we suggest storing data both locally and in the cloud. While servers are pretty convenient when it comes to speed, only storing data locally can lead to some big problems for your business. It’s because of this that most online backup experts endorse the 3-2-1 rule, or some variation of it.

The basics of 3-2-1 are pretty simple: It’s always best to keep three copies of your data on at least two mediums, with one of those mediums offsite.

The reason offsite copies of your business files are recommend is that fires, floods, viruses, accidents and other such problems are hard to guard against. Unless you’re building your own climate-controlled, secure offsite data center to host your server, keeping everything on a server without a fallback plan means putting your business at risk.

Online backup is slow, but it also provides a level of data redundancy and security that’s hard to beat with an onsite server. Thanks to plenty of competition, you’ll find some pretty good prices on online backup, too.

Five Best Affordable Servers for Small Businesses

Servers:Server Type:Approximate Price:
Lenovo ThinkServer TS140NAS$750
Dell PowerEdge T30NAS$600
NetGear ReadyNAS 424NAS$550
Synology DiskStation DS916NAS$650
QNAP TS-453ANAS$1600

Final Thoughts

Finding a server for your business today is both easier and harder than ever. While there are many cheap options on the market, finding one that isn’t going to be more trouble than it’s worth can take some work.

For SMB owners looking for a quick solution for file backup and collaboration, there’s no reason not to consider a NAS device like the Synology DiskStation, Netgear ReadyNAS or one of the many great QNAP options. Advanced business users looking to use Windows Server or Linux Server are going to need a more traditional solution.

For affordable choices that don’t skimp on power, Lenovo ThinkServer and Dell PowerEdge are the two brands you’ll want to look at.

Even if you opt for upgrades, any of the server options listed above should cost under $800 and in most cases under $500. Just be sure and make sure you backup your server to the cloud, too. The best approach to disaster recovery is a hybrid strategy, an approach supported by many of the best online backup for business services now available.

Thanks for reading, and please post your questions and comments below.

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