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Server vs. High-End PC

Now that you know your business needs a server, one of your first questions is probably can you use a high-end desktop PCs instead of a dedicated server.

High End Servers

Once you've determined that your business needs a server, one of the first questions you should ask is whether or not you can use a high-end desktops instead of having to invest in a new server.  This is a common question, especially during these times of limited resources and tight budgetary constraints.

While a high-end PC can often work and function as a server in a pinch, especially for certain roles such as file serving, there are several reasons a dedicated server makes a better long-term investment. Some of a dedicated server's key advantages over a high-end PC include:

1. Reliability
2. Performance
3. Scalability
4. Security
5. Long-term Cost Savings

Reliability and Performance

One of the most important differences between servers and high-end desktop computers is the use of higher quality hardware in servers that has built-in failproof protection in the form of redundancy. If a desktop component fails, it typically impacts only one user, whereas if a server component fails it can impact a large number of users or even an entire business.  

Redundancy is particularly important for storage, where RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) is typically utilized to keep a server up and running even if a hard drive crashes, as well as for power, where backup power sources are utilized to keep a server operational even if the main power supply goes down. These components and other hardware in a server can typically be replaced with minimal or no disruption to users.

Servers also typically utilize hardware specifically tailored to the needs of businesses, including multiple processors and plenty of RAM to prevent performance degradation when supporting a large number of users.

Server Memory and Storage Needs

Scalability and Security

Server Scalability:  Servers are designed with scalability in mind, so as your business grows your server will have little trouble supporting increases of data, users and network traffic. While a high-end personal computer may meet the existing needs of a smaller business, there's a high probability that it won't be able to keep up as the company expands and its network needs increase.

Server Security:  Security can be implemented more efficiently and effectively with servers, since critical business data resides on one central server computer as opposed to being spread out over a large number of computers and storage devices like flash drives.  Backing up that data and preventing data loss in the case of a disaster are also much easier tasks when dealing with a central resource and data controller like a server.

Reduced Administration

Reduced administration and long-term cost: While you can certainly expect a higher up-front cost when investing in a server as opposed to utilizing an existing high-end desktop, over the long run you're likely to see a lower total cost of ownership with a server for several reasons.  First, with your server serving as a central resource controller there will be fewer components to have to support in terms of administration and maintenance. Additionally, with servers being designed to allow many users to share applications and connections to the Internet and wide area networks (WANs), a high-end server can reduce the need for duplication of hardware as well as additional computers in many cases.

Choosing the Right Server -- Servers are the unsung heroes of the corporate computing environment, working behind the scenes to help get the maximum benefit from the personal computers that people use every day. Before investing in server hardware, you need to consider applications, storage, processor, form factor, and more. 

Advantages of a Server

While it may seem at first glance to be easier and more cost-effective to utilize a high-end desktop computer as a server rather than purchasing one, a dedicated server offers several key advantages that make it the better choice in most all cases. These advantages include increased reliability and performance, scalability, security, reduced administration and lower total cost of ownership.

And while a higher initial cost may be an inevitability with a server, there's a greater chance that over time your business will see reduced costs and increased user productivity with a dedicated server versus a stand-in high-end PC.

Congratulations! You now have a better understanding of the differences between a server and a high-end desktop computer as well as the benefits that a server can bring to your business!

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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