The phrase “dedicated server” brings to mind images of cavernous buildings filled with row after row of rack-mounted machines – something reminiscent of a Mission Impossible film or a Google Data Center like the new one they’re building outside Dallas, TX.

But in-house servers don’t have to be scary for growing small businesses, and, in fact, are essential resources for even a small company that is subject to Payment Card Industry (“PCI”) and Protected Health Information (“PHI”) privacy and data security protocols.

In fact, with proper assistance, setting up and implementing a dedicated server in your small business office will make your daily work easier. And it can save you thousands, if not millions of dollars in the long run.

With that in mind, here are four fundamental reasons your small business needs a server:

1. Growth

This is probably the most obvious one, and the one that’s hardest to objectively judge. Every business is unique, and depending on what your company needs in terms of data access and storage, you may need a dedicated server even if you have only three employees. Meanwhile, a different business can grow to 5-7 employees, even 10, before needing to implement a server.

Having a server can allow you to update all of your company’s computers at one time, without needing to go machine by machine. You can ensure that all of the systems are utilizing the same software and that employees aren’t installing their own solutions or patchwork workarounds. And, if you have remote or part time workers, as soon as they log in their computers are automatically updated – even overnight.

2. Backup? What Backup?

This is one of the many instances where automation is your friend. Back in the “good old days,” we spent hours swapping out dozens of 3-½” (or larger) floppy disks or miles of magnetic tape to backup our computer systems. Then we used external drives, that sometimes worked and sometimes, mysteriously, failed.

It may seem easier now, when you can save an entire Terabyte of data in a device as small as your thumb…but even today, the greatest cause of data breach is exposure from an external drive through accident or loss.

When all of your computers are connected to a central, dedicated server, however, each one can be backed up, constantly, consistently, and isolated from the unique data of other linked computers.

You can also keep everyone on the same page, literally, with a server.

3. Local Storage – With Easy Access & Permissions Control

Do you utilize & share large files, create videos or need to keep sensitive data within the company infrastructure? Those are all made easier – or possible at all – by having a dedicated server. Changes made are automatically available to all of the computers on your local network, without having to entrust your confidential information to third-party systems over which you have no control.

Assigning login credentials to every user in your organization allows for centralized control of access to all manner of network resources, from files and databases to hardware. A domain controller simplifies sign-on and management of permissions.

Does everyone have their own printer? Streamline everything to a couple of printers connected through the server and reduce clutter and excess wiring.

According to a 2010 study by CA Technologies and Coleman Parkes Research, IT downtime and recovery led to an aggregate of $26.5 billion in lost revenue for one year, averaging $159,331 per business analyzed. And the numbers haven’t improved in the last 10 years. If anything, costs for downtime have risen. When mission-critical systems require constant local availability, there’s nothing better than having the hardware under your control.

Another consideration would be how you are protecting your computers from outside access. Routers provided by local cable companies – even the high end ones you can purchase – rarely have enterprise level security protocols installed or activated, if they exist. Recent studies show some 83-percent of routers are highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The fact is, anytime you’re utilizing an outside company, no matter how secure it claims to be, you’re surrendering control of something. Sometimes this is a requirement, and even a good idea. Every situation is different.

4. Security & Regulation

One of the prime benefits of having a dedicated physical server for a small business is control. You set the security protocols. You control the backups. You control who has access to time cards, personnel files, inventories, as well as any and all other sensitive and protected data, both your own and that of your clients. This is especially true for small businesses connected in any way to the financial or medical industries.

Both Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Amendments (HIPAA) require “reasonable and appropriate” measures to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic regulated data.

For HIPAA compliance, you must have a fully-executed Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place with your IT vendor. And the vendor must also be HIPAA compliant. That often overlooked item can have devastating financial consequences. Some of the heftiest fines declared by the Department of Health & Human Services have been for failure to have BAA’s in place. A hospital in Chicago paid $5.5-million for three red flags during its HIPAA audit. A significant portion of those fines were for not having proper BAA’s with just two technology vendors that had access to electronic Protected Health Information.

Are You Ready?

So, while every business is unique, if it is growing and expanding, at some point you’ll need to decide if you need a server. CSi has years of experience in installing and maintaining small business servers across the Sunshine State.

Because we conform to HIPAA requirements, we specialize in complete peace of mind with small businesses server solutions that ensure your business is compliant and up to date with current regulations. And we always provide a BAA. To discuss your small business’ computer and server needs, please contact us!