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How Much Will a Server Cost?

When researching how much a new server will cost, the price of the computer and its hardware is the figure you're most likely to see quoted, but in most cases this represents only a small part of the total amount you’ll need to spend.

Once you've determined that your business needs a server, one of the first questions you're likely to have involves how much the new server will cost.  While the server and its hardware costs are the numbers you're most likely to see quoted, in most cases these represent only a small part of the total cost of ownership for a new server.  The three main components to a server's overall costs are:

- Cost of hardware
- Cost of server operating system and applications
- Cost to administer

Cost of Server Hardware

How Much Will a Server Cost?

The tasks your business will need your server to perform as well as the number of users it's expected to serve will largely determine your server's hardware costs.  While servers are almost always more expensive than their desktop counterparts, those on a tight budget can find low-cost server options that handle many if not all of the tasks your business will likely need from a server. 

If your server will primarily be used for tasks like print serving and office document file sharing among fewer than 25 users, a server with a low-end processor, as little as 1GB to 2GB of RAM, and 500GB to 1TB of RAID storage will most likely suffice, and should cost your business as little as $400. SmallBusinessComputing.com has a helpful server buyer's guide that lists several small business server options that range from $499 to a little over $1,000.

On the other end of the scale are high-end servers for tasks like data-intensive Web and database serving, video storage and sharing and enterprise-grade messaging and conferencing.  These servers will typically include multiple processors, 16GB or more of RAM, expansive storage with multiple redundancies, and a high-end server operating system, and they can cost in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.  High-end servers may also be deployed in multiple server configurations known as clustering.

Cost of Server OS and Apps

Server Map

The server you purchase may or may not include a server operating system.  When it comes to selecting your own server operating system, high-end server OSes like Windows Server 2008 R2 start at about $1,000 for up to five users (five client access licenses, or CALs) and $4,000 for the Enterprise edition, which includes 25 CALs.  If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative you have plenty of options as well, including Mac OS X Server ($499 with unlimited client licenses), Microsoft Small Business Server (approximately $550 with support for up to 25 users) and a variety of enterprise Linux server distributions that range from free to $1,000 or more for an annual support subscription.

You'll also need to budget for the software applications your server will need in order to perform its tasks.  The dollar amounts can add up quite quickly in this area – for example, to handle e-mail services you'll need an application like Microsoft Exchange Server, which starts at $699 for the Standard edition and $3,999 for the Enterprise edition; for database services an app like Microsoft SQL Server will cost nearly $900; and for file sharing and online collaboration, options like Microsoft's Sharepoint Server or Citrix Presentation Server can cost anywhere from $400 to $3,000 or more.

Cost to Administer a Server

In most cases, a server's hardware and software costs represent only a small part of the total cost of ownership for a server.  In fact, the hardware and software costs typically account for only 15 to 25 percent of the overall costs associated with installing, maintaining, upgrading and supporting a dedicated server.

For many businesses, the server becomes the lifeline to its success and any downtime can be disastrous, making it critically important to invest in your server's ongoing operation.  As a result, when budgeting for a server, it's necessary to create a solid plan for the costs associated with configuring and administering your server – costs that include initial configuration and ongoing support fees, workforce costs for day-to-day administration, reserve funds for replacing hardware as warranties expire, software update fees and more.  A reseller or IT consultant can provide specific guidance in this area to ensure that you're allocating the resources necessary to ensure that once your server is up and running, it stays that way.

Before investing in a server you need to consider many things, including the applications you will run, storage, processor, form factor, and more. 

Server Cost Summary

Adding a dedicated server to your business is no simple matter.  The hardware, software and administration costs can quickly get out of hand if you don't have a solid plan in place and a budget that accurately accounts for each of these areas.  This is one reason many businesses that can't get past the initial "sticker shock" of a dedicated server look at virtual servers as an alternative.

Virtual servers are servers that are hosted online and managed by a hosting company.  The ongoing costs associated with hosted servers are not exactly inexpensive either, but that's a topic for another time.

Congratulations!  You now understand how much a server costs and what’s involved in budgeting for a new server.







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