Purchasing Your First Office Server

Christopher Lentz | February 19, 2014 10:39 AM

Take this scenario: You have been in business a couple years, hired a few employees, and you have finally decided it is time to centralize your files with a server. The big problem is that you don't know where to start or what to get. Today is your lucky day, we are going to discuss the key factors to consider when purchasing your first office server. 

Cheaper Is Not The Answer

I know that a lot of us out there want to keep our costs low and save as much money for those rainy days as we can. However, cutting costs on your first, or your last, server is not the place to do it. The reasons are extensive and could at some point create or prevent a disaster. You should expect to spend at least $1,000 on your first server in order to get the necessary CPU, memory, and drive capacity you are looking for. Let's talk about the key pieces of hardware and what to look for during your search.


The processor in most servers today will likely be an Intel Xeon of some sort, however you might see the occasional AMD Opteron processor. This makes CPU one of the easiest factors in determining what you will need. Server processors tend to be much more powerful than your average desktop or laptop processors. An easy way to calculate how much processor you will need is to add up the processor speeds of each desktop/laptop you currently are using, multiple each one by its number of cores (i.e. Dual = 2, Quad = 4), total those numbers up, and finally divide by the number of machines. This should give you the minimum processor total speed you will need for your server. Since this number represents the core total speeds, you will need to multiply your new servers processor speed by its number of cores to determine the matching value.


A lot of people confuse hard drive space and memory when they are talking about computers. Hard drives store our data more permanently and memory, or RAM as it is actually referred to,  holds data for very brief periods of time while we use it in our running programs. Now that we know the difference, let's determine what we need for our first server. A good rule of thumb is to allocate at least 2 GB of RAM per processor core. So, if you have a Quad Core Xeon processor your minimum memory would be 8 GB. However, if you plan to start running database or Microsoft Exchange services I would look at doing 3GB for each core. This will help with high loads or sudden spikes during peak periods in the day without creating slowness or delays.

Hard Drives

Most of us really only look at the space when we consider hard drives for our first servers. The main reason for this is because we are given larger and larger drives on our desktops and laptops each new year through advertising. So, it can be tempting to go out and get a server with huge drives. However, let me suggest a new approach that might help save you from some headaches later. Instead of looking at only the size, it is important to consider the speed of each drive and the type of drive redundancy you will be using. Going back to our memory examples of using database or Exchange services, let's consider how those applications use system resources. Both of these services do a lot of reading and writing to the disks, this requires faster disks to be able to maintain a steady workflow without creating a bottleneck in the system. At the very minimum, I would recommend 10k RPM drives even if you are not running Exchange or a database. If you are running one of those two applications, step up to the 15k RPM drives, or even better go to SSD drives. These performance improvements from the start will save you troubles down the road when you have 20 employees and hundreds of emails pouring in each day. 

Selecting the right server for the job can be tough, that is why we are here to help. Give us a call today and let one of our friendly, certified systems engineers assist you in making the right call on your first office server. 


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