How To Assess Your Server Needs
Business plans should drive your server shopping, not bits or bytes. In this how-to guide, learn about user needs, applications types, and other considerations vital to server-capacity planning.
But most senior managers can't confidently predict the number of employees or business volumes they'll have two years from now, much less five years into the future. To determine how much server horsepower you'll require, you first need to answer these three questions:
- How much do you expect your transaction and business volume to grow?
- What applications will your organization use on the server?
- How many simultaneous users of server-based applications do you have now and how many do you anticipate over the next several years?
Once you develop a business scenario for the next several years, you can use a variety of online server configuration tools offered by leading server vendors to develop a short list. Then to narrow your selection and shield you from the pain out of the tech-shopping trip, be sure to read product reviews and user feedback online as well as exploring the server resources available at the bMighty.com Server How-To Center.
To maximize your investment, you'll need a system that can fulfill current as well as future demands. A host of factors can affect the demand on your servers, such as ballooning revenue growth, changes to product lines, and shifts in the number or types of customers as well as the geographic reach of the business. You should always buy more server horsepower than you need today, but how much more will depend on your type of business and expectations for growth.
Consumer-oriented businesses generally experience more variability in business volume than businesses that sell to other businesses. The traffic spikes resulting from wide swings in business volume create server capacity-planning challenges.
For example, if Oprah Winfrey mentioned your business favorably on her show (you should be so lucky), the traffic to your Web site would most likely shoot off the charts and overload your Web servers. But within a short period, that traffic surge would probably wane -- about the time your new servers would arrive had you panicked at the increased volume and placed an order.
Oprah-induced traffic spikes are one issue, but slow, steady growth poses challenges, too. That's particularly true for e-commerce sites. You can assume growth will progress in steps, with additional resources needed every three months to six months, but that will go smoothly only if your hardware and software infrastructure can easily scale to accommodate additional servers. Planning for smooth scalability is another important step in successful server-capacity planning.
You must also think about the servers that support your accounting and back-office systems. If you expect your customer base or transaction volume to grow dramatically, you should plan to increase capacity for these servers as well. In most cases, the number of back-office application users won't balloon overnight -- growth is more likely to be steady and controlled -- but scalability remains important.
As your business' transaction volume increases, the demand for disk storage will grow as well. Buying more storage than you need today will help accommodate growth. For example, if your files fill 50 GB, get at least 500 GB of storage. Most storage vendors offer configuration tools that can help you scope your storage requirements.
When you're planning for your storage needs, keep in mind other data storage options. Automated archiving of transaction data can reduce your hard-drive consumption, particularly for seldom-used data. Rather than keeping the data perpetually available, older files can be moved to other media, such as DVDs, tapes, or storage appliances.