If you’re looking for another example of bad advice for small businesses, I just found one on a CMP Web site. The article is “Why You Need a File Server Right Now” from a supposed IT “expert” and could have been written by a Microsoft PR person.
Here’s the bit of good advice: moving data off personal computer and putting that data on a centralized file storage appliance of some kind makes backups much more successful. Absolutely true. Too often, Local Data = Lost Data. Moving the My Documents folders of PC users to a file server will save you time, money, and frustration with the backup advantages alone.
Then we get to the long list of bad advice. First, the story even goes green by claiming a file server will help global warming. Didn’t know file servers slowed global warming? All those stories reporting servers taking five percent or more of all energy used in the United States miss this detail? The article claims you save money by leaving all the PCs in the office turned off during the weekend and running the file server instead. When people come to work on the weekend they will have their network resources without needing all the PCs on for peer-to-peer networking resources.
Yet according to the article, there’s no need to come in to the office on the weekend, because your basic entry level file server should be publicly accessible on the Internet so users can connect to all network resources from home. Yes, Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2003 is the preferred choice in the article for neophyte server users and their administrators. The article even fudges the pricing to make it seem affordable, but doesn’t mention the user licenses and extra user packs for the server when your company expands beyond five employees.
True, collaboration benefits small businesses, which is why I recommend Software as a Service products like HyperOffice. This product, and competitors like Google and InfoStreet to share calendars, documents, contacts, and task lists. But doing this with Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2003 in a company will little technical expertise makes as much sense as getting help pruning rosebushes by giving toddlers machetes. Disaster awaits in both situations.
Your entry level file server should be a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, such as reviewed here. Many now offer excellent backup software that will truly help small businesses looking to grow. All will keep users out of the security black hole that appears when you install any Microsoft server on the Internet. Telling a company with five users to buy a Microsoft Small Business Server should be considered editorial malpractice.
My review of the most recent Microsoft Small Business Server, version R2 here.