We get asked this question fairly regularly, from businesses that have been running an on-site or local server for years, and want to know if it's still necessary.
The answer, as with most of these sorts of questions, is "it depends". So, let's take a look at what factors will affect whether or not you need a local server, and what to do next based on the answer.
How can you tell if you need it?
Often, businesses got local servers because it was the done thing - many times they're barely used and can be easily replaced with a different solution.
The key is finding out whether that's the case for you or not. So, your first step is to do an audit of everything (and we do mean everything) that server is being used for. Even if you decide that some of what it does is unnecessary, or can be changed, you still need to know exactly what the situation is before making any changes.
Your audit should also include details of the departments and people using those applications or tools supported by the server. If you make changes, you'll need to know who to communicate with.
So, what might you find in your audit?
Local server used for file storage
This is a very common use for local servers, but it's outdated for the vast majority now. You're better off migrating your file storage to the Cloud.
Not only can you get plenty of secure storage, but you increase the opportunities for collaborative working - no more of the "I'm working on version 3" when someone else is still editing version 2.
The one caveat to this is if you're working with truly giant file sizes - think CAD and the like. In this case, you may need to consider retaining your local server, simply because you'd need a top-quality connection to be able to use the cloud for these size files.
Local server running applications
Often the types of applications that would be running on a local server are accounting software - things like Sage and Quickbooks. It used to be very common to have a requirement for a server when purchasing these services.
Now that you can get cloud versions of accounting software, there's no need to keep a local server just for these types of application. Obviously, you need to keep the server until you've moved to a more modern, cloud-based accounting platform, and the same is true for any other applications running on the server that you could migrate.
VPN on local server
Some businesses host a VPN to connect into the server for people outside the office. If that's the case, then you need to check what that is functionally used for.
Primarily, this used to be so that people not in the physical office could access files - so, if you move your file storage to the cloud and don't use the server for files, then you don't need to VPN into the server to retrieve them, you can access them anywhere.
If there's another reason for hosting a VPN, you will need to assess whether that reason requires you to keep the server or if there's an alternative method of achieving the same goal.
Local server running bespoke software
Sometimes servers are used to manage internal software, like CCTVs or door access controls. If you have something like this running, then you would need to maintain some semblance of a server. However, an always-on desktop computer could achieve the same goal without the physical server being required.
What to do if you DO need your local server
While many businesses will discover that they no longer need a local server, there are still reasons (see above) why you might need to keep one. If you do, it's important that it not be left as a forgotten hunk of technology.
- Keep the hardware and software up to date
- Make sure you have backups running
- Make sure you have security on the server
- Make sure you also have physical security - for example, keeping the server in a locked room
What to do if you DON'T need your local server
You've read through everything above and realised you no longer need your server. Great. Now what?
DO NOT just unplug it!
Stopping using a server isn't just an unplug and walk away situation. You need to move or migrate appropriately to avoid business disruption. This is one of the reasons that the audit is so important - so you can communicate with anyone who will be affected and make sure they know where and how to get at what they need.
- Move files from the server to your new file storage solution
- Move your office PCs off the domain (if there is one) - if you don't, no one will be able to log in
- Move DHCP and DNS
You also need to dispose of your old server responsibly. Not only in terms of recycling the hardware but also shredding the drives. There are companies who can do this for you with one of two methods - either rewriting the drive over and over again with gibberish, or by physically destroying the drive.
Getting some help
It can be a challenge to get to the bottom of whether or not you need a server, so if you're not sure, we're more than happy to take a look and advise you of your best options. If you're not using your server, we can help you to move to the cloud. If you do need (or want) to keep your server, we can help make it as secure and efficient as possible.