Home Blogs I need a server! And other fear-based business purchases.

I need a server! And other fear-based business purchases.


Picture this. You are at a party. You casually mention a problem you’ve had with your computer. You were probably joking and laughed a little after you described the issue.

Before you know it, someone you barely know creeps up to your ear and whisper the words “you need a server” and then disappears before they ever really showed up… a bit like HD DVDs.

You are left confused and on your own with those words ringing in your ear.

On Monday you commence the week’s work on your small business by calling your computer person. You tell them you need a server. Some of your computer guys will rub their hands with glee and forward you a quote ASAP. Others will ask you why?

Do you know why you want a server?

Don’t feel bad, most people don’t even know what a server is, let alone what they’ll do with it.

And you know what? Neither do I. Of course technically I know what a server is and does, I just don’t know why small businesses would need one these days.

To some degree, this is a symptom of a broader problem — technology for technology’s sake. Look around you and ask yourself what your favourite technology does for you, why and how well.

Chances are you’ll find the things that do the best jobs are specialists, not generalists, and were purchased to solve a problem (as opposed to sitting in the corner to increase the overall shininess of your environment).

Whether a server is a specialist or a generalist tool is up to you and your budget. If you suspect the ghostly server-suggestion appeals as a general solution to a myriad of ills, think again. I mean that literally. Think about it again. Then ask your computer guy the question they should have asked you: “What do I need a server FOR?” If you don’t understand the answer, then chances are it isn’t going to solve any of YOUR problems.

Here’s one example for you. Many people are sold servers on the promise of “better backups”.

However, in the last two years the cost-effectiveness and availability of simple cloud-based data backup and file sharing has dramatically improved.

To extend the example a little further, I am using a $1,200 box to centrally store my data on a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). I have added to that an offsite backup strategy which incorporates an additional external hard disk to the value of round $300. I have a weekly backup process that I execute religiously. Obviously, I am not paying for technical support so for me this is a cost-effective solution.

However, using a product like SugarSync — one example of many such products — I could store all my data in the cloud for $250 a year. You can weigh up the pros and cons yourself, and beware there are cons. It may even sound expensive for something you can’t touch or ever actually own.

However, when you consider the lifespan of computing hardware, this is actually quite cheap. All hard disks and technology fail sooner or later. Based on the cost of the hardware I have now, the money I’ve spent is equivalent to a six year subscription with SugarSync and we’ve not even factored in Moore’s law yet. That is a good bet. I doubt any of my hardware will last that long. When my hardware does fail, I’ll have nothing tangible left and I’ll have to pay to have it disposed of.

I could go on, but you get the drift.

Server me once, shame on you, server me twice… bugger! I just realised what that guy at the party actually said.

David Moore has 25 years experience in the computer industry and is now Principle PC Hater at ihatemypc.com.au.

Photo: ladyb