A small, agile business might not need much IT – a laptop or two and an Internet connection could be all that’s required. But once that small business starts growing, with more people joining and the volume of work building up, some basic IT infrastructure becomes not so much a nice-to-have as a must-have. It’s at this point that many small businesses look for their first server.

Some think servers are an enterprise technology or wonder if they still make sense in a world of the ubiquitous cloud. If anything, however, they’ve only become more relevant to small business needs. If you have multiple computers in the business, with employees sharing documents or working between different PCs and on the move, then a server gives you a central place where you can securely store and share folders, documents and other resources. This becomes even more important if you have people working on-site with customers, on-the-road or remotely from home. Managing a mess of files through different devices, cloud services, USB memory sticks and email chains soon becomes a nightmare, but with a server you can keep everything organised and centralised, yet easily accessible to users wherever and whenever they need to get things done.

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A server also gives you a more secure way to manage your IT. Once organised and managed, files become significantly easier to safeguard, with firewalls, automated system updates and anti-malware protection to protect your assets. It’s easier to audit who’s storing and accessing what and when, while having one central resource makes for simple, effective backup and recovery.

Most of all, a server puts you in control. You can manage your IT resources and how they’re used and you know and can anticipate any costs. If you need more capacity, hard disks are cheap and easy to add. The server can become a hub for your IT network, giving you the resources you need for future growth. And while managing your burgeoning IT infrastructure might seem complex or a burden, it doesn’t have to be. With Microsoft’s Windows Admin Centre and remote access toolkits, you can manage your server from anywhere using simple and intuitive tools.

A platform with potential

Yet a server isn’t just a repository for files, but a platform on which you can do more. You can run and manage your own email systems or share access to peripherals such as printers and fax machines. A server gives you a space to develop and deploy a company Intranet or build and test a business website. And with CRM or Accounting applications, you can transform how your business operates or organise and secure your customer contacts and data, in turn ensuring compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation – the Europe-wide data protection regulation which now governs how UK businesses use, store and protect personal data.

While buying and setting up your first server might still seem intimidating, help is available. There are excellent resources available online to help you choose the right hardware for your business, then set it up. Specialist server manufacturers, like Dell, now manufacturer entry-level servers that can get you up and running with the minimum of cost, time and effort, with support throughout the process. For instance, Dell’s Small Business Technology advisors can give you all the help you need to get going. Dell’s class-leading servers are available at a surprisingly low initial cost; you can find something affordable that covers your needs right now, and still has the scope to scale and upgrade as those needs expand.