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Do You Need a Dedicated Server?

Recently, I have visited several small firms who are considering upgrading their existing networks.  The firms range in size from 2-5 users and all currently have peer-to-peer networks.  Over the last few years, we have upgraded a number of similar firms to a dedicated server system.  While it will cost more than a peer-to-peer network, a true file server provides a number of benefits not available (or much more difficult to implement) on a peer-to-peer network.  Using Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 as an example, here are just a few:

  • Centralized, automatic backup and file saving 
  • Microsoft Exchange for sharing calendars, contacts and email inboxes
  • Free and easy remote access with Remote Web Workplace
  • Remote access to email with Outlook Web Access
  • The Premium Edition of Small Business Server includes SQL Server and provides the opportunity to run more powerful versions of Time Matters and other applications.
  • What will it cost?  Well, the server hardware and software is going to cost something close to $5000 or more depending on the exact specifications.  Labor can range from 25 to 50 hours.  Again, this is going to depend on a lot of factors such as how many users will utilize the network, how many workstations will connect to it, etc.

    Is it worth it?  I tend to think so, even for networks as small as two or three users.  The security provided by a good automated backup can save your business one day and the productivity enhancement provided by remote access can make a huge difference.  In fact, if I was starting a solo law practice today, I would probably put in a server for these very reasons. 

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