From form factors, processors, and operating systems to pricing, features, and configuration, in this how-to guide you'll get the basic information you need to assess your needs and then purchase and install a server.
We'll be looking at the issues that decision-makers in small to midsize businesses confront when they decide if they need a server. From form factor to processor to operating system, storage, input and output, and peripherals we'll help you determine what features are important top your business.
A server can be more than a networked computer offering users shared access to an organization's files. Servers also can provide shared access to printers, to the Internet, and to e-mail. Furthermore, they can provide access to special shared applications, such as accounting and production systems.
Server components -- including the operating system, processor, memory, disk drives, power supplies, circuitry, and fans -- are designed to move large amounts of data efficiently rather than run single-user programs. The hardware is ruggedized for reliable long-term unattended operation.
Here's what you need to know when shopping for a server for a small to midsized business, including features and price ranges.
Server Form Factor
Servers came in three basic form factors: towers, racks, and blades.
Towers are beefy versions of the familiar desk-side PCs. Despite the name, a tower server is unlikely to be more than 18 inches tall. Commonly, they are placed on tables rather than the floor, to facilitate access.
Racks are just that: metal racks, resembling industrial shelving that hold standard-sized components such as servers.
- A standard server rack is 19" wide and each rack unit, or U, is 1.75" high. A standard rack has 42 units and can hold servers as small as 1U and as large as 4U.
- In most cases, each server on a rack is self-contained and only needs to be plugged into a power outlet and the network; the rack itself only supplies support. Some tower units, incidentally, can be installed sideways in a rack. The multiple servers on a rack are typically controlled through a single shared keyboard, monitor, and mouse, through a special switch.
Blades are modular, bare-bones computers that often reside in racks. Each blade is basically a circuit board (often in a special box) that plugs into a slot in a special chassis that in turn slides into a rack. The chassis supplies power and connectivity for the blades.
In contrast to towers, racks and blades greatly increase the amount of computing power that can be placed in a given space. However, they also increase energy and cooling needs and providing network cable access can be complex; raised floors are often used to conceal the snake nest of cables leading to racks and blades.