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:
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.