Servers are the specialised computers that allow the establishment of a network, in which a number of users can each access centrally stored data. As such, servers are an essential component of all but the smallest offices, allowing as they do the efficient sharing of information and resources within a company. Because they are responsible for safeguarding data from multiple users, servers require high levels of data protection and component redundancy, which results in a distinct architecture, making them fundamentally different from ordinary desktop computers.
There are also different types of servers, designed for different sized networks, and for fulfilling different roles. Therefore, before buying a server it is essential to understand the various types and their distinct functions. Failure to do so can render the server and its network a costly mistake.
The numerous configurations available for servers means that to find the most suitable unit, it is important to be able to choose from a supplier who has a large selection available. As servers can be substantial purchases, it is also important to be sure of getting value for money. In most cases this rules out high street sellers, who have a deserved reputation for being expensive. Better value is available online, where eBay offers a wide choice of servers at competitive prices.
The Basic Functions of a Server
A server is a computer that employs special server software to manage a network. Its functions can include the storing of data, the sharing of data and of applications, facilitating communication of network members, and the sharing of resources, such as printers or centralised backup. Servers allow network users to collaborate on documents or other projects and can represent a great boost to efficiency as a result.
However, different businesses have different requirements, and as a result not all servers are required to carry out each and every one of these functions. Some servers are referred to as "file servers". These are generally small servers that let network users to share files and back files up centrally. They may also have a printer server function to allow common use of a network printer. File servers are a good option for many small companies, as they can provide the essential server functions at a modest cost.
Other Server Functions
Many servers also have an email function. This can involve the central collection, distribution, and storage of external email from the Internet and may also involve the establishment of an intranet messaging service too. For some companies, a separate mail server may be a good option, while others may have this facility integrated into their main server.
Another server function provides for the collaborative use of programmes, databases and other applications. This can require the availability of substantial resources and may be appropriate in particular for larger companies. Lastly, the final main category of server application is the ability to establish a virtual private network, or VPN, which can allow company staff to gain safe access to the network remotely.
The fact that a server bears responsibility for the combined files of numerous employees means that its reliability must exceed that of an ordinary computer. The level of risk of component failure acceptable when facing the loss of a single user's data is no longer acceptable when facing the loss of the entire company's data. Even in situations where the failure of the server does not lead to the loss of all the client computers' data, its incapacity does inevitably affect productivity. These factors explain why the architecture of a server is different from that of an ordinary desktop.
Improving Data Safety
There are in fact several refinements applied to servers in order to improve their reliability and therefore protect their data. When purchasing a server, it is sensible to evaluate each and decide which is most cost-effective for the particular company involved. These refinements include RAID hard drives (redundant array of identical disks), which writes data to more than one disk simultaneously so that the failure of one should not cause the loss of the data. There are several configurations of RAID, of varying complexity and cost.
There are also on-site and off-site backup options, and options such as the use of hot swappable components. These ensure that when component failure does occur, it can be dealt with without loss of working time or any threat being presented to the overall network.
Other Server Hardware Choices
The hard disk, RAM, and processor all need careful evaluation when purchasing a server. Servers generally come with ample expansion room to increase hard drive capacity, but it is, nevertheless, important to project future likely demand when choosing hard disks.
RAM, the oil that keeps the whole system working smoothly, is fundamental to the ability of the network to meet the demands placed upon it. Therefore, it is important to consider the likely future expansion of the network when RAM is being specified. For small networks, a fast multi-core desktop processor may suffice, but for servers facing more substantial demands, it is normal to go for a dedicated server processor.
Servers come in a number of formats, each of which has its own advantages. For small networks relying on a single server, the normal format is a tower. This looks like an upright personal computer and can be sited in an office with ease. For larger networks, servers are likely to be located in a data centre, a dedicated air conditioned room where the heat of the servers does not accumulate. The servers may be rack-mounted or blade mounted. In each case, the format allows for a large number of units to be accommodated efficiently.
Quiet; free-standing; cost-effective
Compact; easily scalable
Energy efficient; reliable; space efficient; scalable
The disadvantage of having rack or blade mounted servers lies in the cost of the air conditioned room. They are only deployed where the network capacity is such that a tower server cannot accommodate it.
Consideration When Buying a Server
There are a number of considerations to be borne in mind when looking for server. The overall process begins with an assessment of how large the network is likely to be and what sort of demands are going to be placed upon it. Partly, this is a question of numbers, and partly it is a question of functions.
Once these basic questions have been answered, the format of the server should be apparent. Either a tower form, for a small to moderately sized network, or a rack or blade form for a much larger one. Questions of the most appropriate hard disk capacity and form follow, bearing in mind the need to have room to expand the network in the future. The same consideration applies to the amount of RAM to be installed and to the processor. The last major item to be thought about on the hardware side is backup capacity.
The server's operating system needs to be specified too. Both Microsoft and Apple have dedicated server software, and Linux is another very popular choice.
Locating a Server
Finally, the decision needs to be taken as to how and where to buy the server. One point worth bearing in mind is that buying locally in a high street is unlikely to be the cheapest way to obtain the server. Many companies looking for servers find that buying online is more cost effective and quicker. eBay sells servers, at prices which are often lower than those available in the high street.
Finding Servers on eBay
By searching from the eBay home page you can find all the main categories of server. Type "servers" into the search bar, and press send. This brings up listings for all the servers currently offered for sale on eBay. You can narrow this list down by specifying more detail about the sort of server you are looking for. If you want a tower server, for example, you can specify that and just be shown tower servers. The same applies to other factors, such as the amount of RAM required, the processor speed, or the processor brand. You can also specify your preferred server manufacturer. And if you have a preference for a new or a used server, that is another point worth searching for.
Specifying the criteria mentioned above reduces the search results to a much smaller set of listings, which you can then look through in detail. Take careful note of the descriptions from the sellers. If you need more information about a server you think may be suitable, use the seller's profile page to make contact. In evaluating the seller's responses, take their feedback into consideration as this is a good guide as to their past reliability and helpfulness.
Servers are a special type of computer that allows the establishment of a network. In doing so they let a number of computer users share resources, data, and programmes. Servers can also manage a company's email and its intranet, and as well as promote efficient communication, they can make it possible for network users to collaborate on documents and other projects. Because of the central importance of servers in storing and distributing a company's data, it is essential for the server to be reliable. This means that servers need to be built with safeguards such as RAID storage, hot swappable components to avoid downtime, and comprehensive backup.
There are different server formats, each of which is suitable for a particular size of company. Of these, most small to moderate sized businesses choose tower servers, as they are economical. When buying a server, it is important to bear in mind that high street retailers are expensive and that servers can be found more cheaply online. eBay's wide range of servers makes it easy to find the ideal one at a good price.