A server is simply a computer that delivers information and software to other computers that are linked to it by a network either through cables or wirelessly through a router. It provides centralized data management and file sharing, shared resources such as fax machines and printers, effective backup features such as automated client backup, remote access to files and applications, and increased data security through firewalls, data backup, user access licenses, and software updates. A server is different from a basic desktop computer. It is not well equipped to run normal desktop workloads, such as graphics‐intensive applications. Instead, it is built to handle heavier workloads and more applications utilizing server specific hardware to increase productivity and reduce downtime.
Requirements of a server’s operating system and application software differ from those of a desktop computer. A server is better able to share data from multiple people securely and reduces bottlenecks. Additionally, a server may also provide secure application sharing, as well as e-mail, Internet connectivity, data backup functionality, and shared printer and fax services - features that can significantly increase a small business’s productivity. Dell recommends pre-installed Windows Server 2008 family of operating systems for your first server purchase. Windows Server operating systems can be pre-installed at the factory before the server is shipped to your office which is not only less expensive than purchasing at retail, but also alleviates the hassle of installing the software yourself. In addition, pre-installed OS software has been fully tested by Dell engineers before it leaves the factory and is included in Dell’s support agreements.
A server comes with enhanced hardware features such as multi-core processors, faster RAM options for optimal application performance, multiple hard drives for increased data capacity and redundancy, and a multitude of additional features. There are two form factor options when selecting a server: Tower and Rack. A tower server is most typical and recommended for your first server. You will also be able to choose the number of hard drives and processors on your server. For an office with less than 25 employees, a server with one processor and 2-4 hard drives should be sufficient. If you have more than 25 employees or if you're planning to run data intensive applications, a server with two processors and 4-6 hard drives is recommended.