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Dec
8th

What will winter cost your business?

Car in Snow - resize

Brrr… it’s getting chilly in Macclesfield. Sleet, hail and there’s a dubious looking sky here today. The beginning of what is no doubt set to be a disruptive few weeks. The first day of “proper” winter, and we’ve already got one of our engineers snowed in. But that doesn’t matter to us. Not one bit. Why? Cloud computing, that’s why. We can work from anywhere – well, anywhere with an internet connection. So when the snow falls, the roads gridlock, and it’s not safe for staff to make the journey in, or they simply can’t travel, with cloud computing it’s business as usual.

Loss of productivity as a result of snow days costs businesses in the UK millions every year. How does it affect your business? If you lose 50% of your staff to snow for the day, how much money do you lose?

Of course it depends on your line of business. If you’ve got factory or shop floor staff, then of course they can’t really be utilised at home. But your office-based staff can continue to work as normal. And with VoIP telephony, your business comms can continue to work effectively as well.

So what is cloud computing?

If you’re not too sure exactly what cloud is, you can find out more info on our cloud services page. But in a nutshell, you move all of your business data away from your on-site servers and into “the cloud” – so onto your cloud provider’s servers – and you access it via an internet connection. It gives flexibility, it saves money, and it helps form part of your business continuity and disaster recovery plan – meaning that if your offices become rendered out of action, for whatever reason, fire, flood, theft, or you can’t physically get to your office, then your business continues to run as normal.

Working from home on a bad snow day, is a great way of maintaining productivity when the weather turns bad and stops staff being able to get into the office.

Staff can boot up their devices at home – home PC, laptop, iPad etc, and access their files, emails and calendars  in exactly the same was as they would in the office. And Microsoft Office 365 helps to make your tech even slicker. It brings you all the benefits of your usual Office software, together with data storage and internal intranet sites through OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online, access anywhere emails and calendars through Exchange Online and intuitive communication capabilities through Lync Online. Lync takes your comms that step further with online meetings, live video conferencing and instant messaging helping teams to collaborate efficiently no matter where in the world they’re based.

Which brings us nicely onto business comms. If staff are snowed in, cloud computing makes sure you’re all in contact, working effectively, keeping the business running…but what happens to your phone lines? What happens to your customers ringing into the business while your staff are all at home? Well this is where VoIP can save the day.

But what’s VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and it’s the technology of placing telephone calls over an internet line. And the key benefit in this type of scenario, is the flexibility. Mirroring the way that cloud works,  when your telephone system uses broadband instead of traditional analogue lines, it will work from anywhere with an internet connection.

You use either an IP enabled telephone handset, or a headset combined with a piece of software known as a softphone installed onto your computer and that’s it. Well, and the internet. So if you’ve had to stay at home, you just boot up your laptop, connect to the internet, plug in your headset or IP phone and you’re away. All calls made to your regular business telephone number will arrive on your laptop, and you can transfer calls or call internally using your usual individual extension numbers.

Of course, there may be flaws to my plan. I’m assuming your staff all have the internet at home. And a company laptop or home computer. But let’s face it, most of us do these days. If your teams can remain productive when they’re unable to battle through the elements you will reap the benefits on your bottom line. It can also help keep morale high, letting your team stay in touch, keep on top of their workloads and even the peace of mind that they’re not having to make dangerous journeys into the office when it’s not necessary.

Get In Touch With Us

You can find loads of information about cloud computing services and VoIP solutions on our website here, and if you’d like a chat about how cloud could work for your business, pop in and see us – unless it’s snowing. In which case, you might want to catch us on VoIP 01625 837800.

Nov
28th

We did it! Business of the Year 2014

NEC Business Awards Axon Business of the Year credit James Russell Photography

Photo credit James Russell Photography.

Happy faces at Axon Towers this week after we scooped Business of the Year 2014: Turnover £1M – £5Million at the prestigious North East Cheshire Business Awards.

The glitzy ceremony took place at The Mere in Knutsford and was attended by over 400 business people from across Cheshire. According to awards officials this year received a record number of entries with fierce competition, so it’s fair to say we’re chuffed to bits to have come away with such an esteemed award.

Our category saw us up against two highly successful local businesses, Collect a Case Ltd and Topspeed Couriers, but the judges explained that our recent rapid growth, development of  cloud applications and business technology solutions combined with our dedicated team and strategic plans for future growth helped us to clinch the top spot.

Congratulations to all the winners and well done to the finalists. And huge thanks to everyone that’s supported us over the past year, and to the North East Business Awards team, Macclesfield Chamber of Commerce and all the sponsors for putting on such a good show.

Here’s a full list of the winners, along with a few photos. Check out our Twitter feed for the awkward selfies :)

Business of the Year, turnover over £5Million – sponsored by Natwest
Winner: Cyprotex PLC

Business of the Year, turnover £1 – £5Million – sponsored by Orbit Developments
Winner: Axon IT

Business of the Year, turnover up to £1Million – sponsored by Thorneycroft Solicitors
Winner: Sedgwick Riley Ltd

Innovation & Design – sponsored by RA Smart
Winner: Caps Europe Ltd

Excellence in Customer Service – sponsored by Plastic Card Services
Winner: Chess Ltd

Excellence in Social Media – sponsored by Macclesfield Express & Wilmslow Express
Winner: Beauty Works

Community Impact Award – sponsored by KAT UK
Winner: The Rossendale Trust

Export Award – sponsored by UKTI
Winner: Delamere Dairy

Best Design / Creative Award – sponsored by Williams & Crosby
Winner: Boxed Red Marketing

Team of the Year – sponsored by Varda Kreuz
Winner: Decipher Consulting (UK) Ltd

Start up of the Year – sponsored by Cheshire East Council
Winner: Alderley Analytical Ltd

Best Company to Work For – sponsored by Strategic Growth Solutions
Winner: Chess Ltd

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Awards 1

Awards 5

Nov
20th

Delivering reliable broadband to Cheshire businesses

Do you rely on the internet to keep your business running? You may not even realise just how crucial the internet is to you. Emails, browsing, backups, intranet sites, and certainly cloud and VoIP telephony solutions are all dependent on the internet. So what do you do, if your internet goes down? How does your business run without connectivity?

We understand just how important reliable business broadband is, which is why we deliver reliable broadband to Cheshire businesses. But what should you look for when you’re choosing your broadband package?

Speed and download allowance

Think about what sort of web user you are. Do you have a lot of heavy traffic? Large files, images or videos to upload and send? Or does your business only use the web for small amounts of email traffic? Are you on cloud computing or VoIP and therefore completely dependent of the internet? How many users do you have? The answers to these questions will help you decide whether to go for an entry-level business broadband package, a business fibre or bonded DSL connection or even a leased line.

Cost

An all signing all dancing connection is great, but make sure the cost fits in with your budgets. The flip side of that is, are your budgets adequate? Are you spending enough on your connectivity? If your business is dependent on it, you ought to be making some serious investment. How much do you pay for your home broadband? Now scale that up to your business needs and think about the investment. Are you prepared to spend what you need in order to keep your users connected.

Contract length

Are your business needs likely to change? If you’re expanding, will you outgrow your current supplier? Is there scope within the contract to change your package? Is there an exit route?

Extras

Business broadband packages often come with added extras. Webspace, email addresses, static IPs…if you need these extras, great. If you don’t, then an alternative option might be best for you.

Support

This one’s important – who do you call for issues? What happens if your internet goes down? What’s the SLA (Service Level Agreement) – so, if there is a problem, how long is the fix time, how long are you likely to suffer downtime for and is this acceptable?

Security

We’re all vulnerable to the threats of the World Wide Web, and you should definitely take this into your own hands making sure your business is as safe as possible. But check whether your broadband provider offers business-grade security.

Get in touch with us!

If you’re looking for business broadband in Cheshire or beyond, check out our connectivity options here, or get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

Nov
18th

Getting started with cloud computing

business man with laptop and look sky and cloud

Cloud computing can be of benefit to businesses of all sizes. It brings a simplified approach to IT, with flexibility, scalability and cost-reduction across the board. But how do you get started with cloud computing? What do you need to know before moving to the cloud? What are the pitfalls of cloud computing and how could you benefit from it?

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the process of moving all of your company data away from your business premises and into the cloud, where it is accessed remotely via an internet connection. So essentially, the data is moved from the servers in your office, to the servers of your cloud provider in a data centre.

The chances are you’ve been using cloud computing in some form already, whether it be Dropbox, Flickr or even Facebook. In terms of business use, you could be looking at Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs or perhaps a private cloud solution. And the benefit to business is vast.

What are the benefits of cloud computing?

1) Increased flexibility, productivity and collaboration – Work from anywhere with an internet connection, at any time and from any device.

2) Reduced IT hardware and maintenance costs – There’s no need to purchase expensive on-premise servers, you pay for cloud on a monthly per user basis. This also brings a reduction in the energy required to power and cool your on-site hardware – therefore a reduction in your energy bills. Plus all licencing, upgrades, patches and updates are handled for you as part of your monthly cloud charge.

3) Scalability – Deploying new applications and services is quicker, easier and more cost effective.

4) Better disaster recovery If your offices become rendered out of action, work from any alternative location with an internet connection.

Why should you move to the cloud?

The above-mentioned benefits aside, cloud also tackles the challenges of running a business by making it easier to future-proof in times of economic uncertainty. It helps companies to align themselves with the demands of a 24/7 society, enabling employees to work around family commitments and counteracting the issue of unoccupied desk space. It boosts the productivity of staff whose roles involve travel and time out of the office for other events by providing the freedom to work from any location and on any device.

What do you need to know?

So taking all of that on board, what do you need to know before moving to cloud computing?

Well you’ll need to plan. Migrating to the cloud is a big operation. And you’ll need to choose your solution wisely. Would a private cloud solution best suit your needs, or is public cloud best for you? Many businesses find that a hybrid solution gives the greatest flexibility. You can read about the difference between private, public and hybrid cloud solutions.

Think about the availability of your cloud service in respect to the way your business functions. Can you afford downtime, or do you need the solution to be available 24/7, 365 days a year? Office 365, which is Microsoft’s cloud computing offering comes with a 99.9% financially backed uptime guarantee. Read more about cloud services.

Do you need your cloud service to be bespoke? Or will an out-of-the-box solution work for you? Will you need technical support? Does it matter if your data is hosted outside of the UK, or even the EU? Can you be tied into a long-term contract or do you need an exit route? What additional services will you require? Will your cloud solution need to be virtualised? You can find out more about virtualisation.

Know the different options available to you and make sure that they’ll work for your business, not just now, but in the future as your business requirements change.

Connectivity is king

So this is all great, you can work from anywhere with an internet connection, boosting flexibility and productivity, saving money along the way. But what happens if your internet goes down? With cloud, connectivity is king. So what’s your disaster recovery plan if you lose connectivity?

Well for starters, you can simply pick up, and move to somewhere that does have an internet connection. Send staff home, relocate to emergency premises, head to the nearest Starbucks. But whatever you do, have a plan for what you will do if you lose your connection. Make provisions to best ensure that a loss of connectivity never happens in the first place. Have a failover broadband line installed. Choose a package with good SLA and quick fix time. Think about your telecoms…. Have you considered VoIP? You can learn more about VoIP here.

Research your providers

Do your research and draw up a shortlist of suppliers. Ask for referrals, customer recommendations and feedback. Shop around and ask whether free trials are available so you can try before you buy.

You can sign up to our free trial of Microsoft Office 365 here or read about how we brought some of our customers over to the cloud.

Get in touch with us, we can help!

If you’re looking for a cloud computing provider in Cheshire, get in touch with us or check out our cloud services page here.

 

Nov
12th

Microsoft to rebrand Lync as Skype for Business

Microsoft has this week announced that it will rebrand Lync to Skype for Business. If you’re already using Lync, then in 2015 you’ll see some changes. If you’re not sure what Lync is, well it’s Microsoft’s video conferencing service. Available as part of Office 365, Lync offers a range of communication features including audio and video calling, live web conferencing, online meetings, screen sharing, virtual whiteboards and much more to improve collaboration across business networks.

But as we all know, in 2011 Microsoft bought Skype, and with that being the more recognised of the two brands it was only a matter of time before Lync got a new name.

The details on what to expect, plus any definitive date for the change are sketchy at the moment, but Lync users can expect to see an interface change in the first half of 2015. Skype and Skype for Business will function as two separate apps, and users will have two different usernames – although the network will function as one. And with 300 million people communicating via Skype, that’s one pretty huge network.

So what’s the benefit of Lync? Well we use it here at Axon, and it not only improves communication, but productivity, collaboration and it brings flexibility. As Microsoft puts it on its blog –

“Lync means the freedom to work anywhere. It’s like tapping someone on the shoulder to say “let’s chat” no matter where you are in the world.”

You can read the full Microsoft announcement here or click on the video above to see what Lync can do.

Want to know more?

If you’re looking for a Microsoft Office 365 provider in Cheshire, or have questions about the changes to Lync, give us a call on 01625 837800 or get in touch here.

Nov
7th

What is VoIP?

woman with tin can

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and is the technology of placing phone calls over the internet. It’s also known as IPT (Internet Protocol Telephony) and sometimes Voice over Broadband (VoB) or Voice over Networks (VoN). Hosted VoIP, is in essence, cloud computing for your telecoms system with your physical phone system hosted elsewhere by a cloud or hosted telephony provider.

It works by converting voice into digital data which is then carried over the internet, in just the same way that email or web search data is carried. Phone calls are made either via your computer using a softphone (think Skype), or by using an IP-enabled telephone or VoIP phone, which functions independently to your computer. And because the data is digital, it carries a superior sound quality.

And it brings with it a series of business benefits…

1) Flexibility

A key benefit of VoIP – particularly hosted VoIP –  is the flexibility it brings. Firstly, because you’re making your calls over the internet you can effectively work from anywhere with an internet connection. Either by taking your IP-enabled handset with you, or using your laptop and softphone (this is basically a piece of software that runs on your computer, displaying a telephone keypad and other functions to allow you to make and receive calls). VoIP also lets you do much more than a traditional phone network with features such as call diverts, music on hold, and voicemail to email being much more readily available and affordable (often free of charge), giving you access to better communication tools and resulting in better business control. Especially with hosted VoIP. For example, if you’re working from home or from a hotel abroad, you can make and receive calls on your main business telephone number and your colleagues back in the office can transfer calls to you on your internal extension number… what’s more, all of these calls are free – no matter whereabouts in the world you are. Which brings me onto the second benefit – cost.

2) Cost

Another benefit of VoIP is the reduced costs it brings. Think of it like this… when you pay monthly for your broadband, you don’t then pay every time you send an email. And the same goes for VoIP. You pay a monthly broadband cost, an initial set up cost and then your phone calls are free – so long as you remain within a VoIP network, so, internal calls or VoIP to VoIP calls. And generally, calls that go outside of your VoIP network are cheaper than calling PBX to PBX. In addition, VoIP requires less on-site hardware (no on-site hardware at all with a hosted VoIP solution). So there is low capital expenditure.

3) Scalability

VoIP is very easy to scale up and down as your business requirements change. Lines are usually charged on a per line basis so it’s easy to add and remove lines as the size of your business changes. Plus with the softphone software, it’s easier and cheaper to purchase additional licences than it is to invest in extra telephone handsets.

4) Business continuity

In much the same way that cloud computing can act as a part of your business continuity plan, VoIP can help to keep your business running in the event of a disaster that renders your offices or lines out of action. This could be anything from the internet going down, to a fire or flood. If you’re using a hosted VoIP solution, all of your vital hardware is stored elsewhere. In a data centre or “the cloud”. Which means that you can up-sticks and move to somewhere with an internet connection and your telephone comms system continues to function as usual. Combine this with cloud computing and you’re well equipped to handle any data loss based disaster – seamless continuation of service in the event of an emergency.

Get in touch – we can help!

If you’d like to find out more about our telecoms services take a look here or if you’re looking for telecoms suppliers in Cheshire, get in touch here or give us a call on 01625 837800.

Nov
4th

Disaster data recovery options

Frustrated businessman

All businesses are vulnerable to data loss. All of them. From equipment failure to electrical faults, and from natural disasters to theft. And all of these events are beyond our control. But while we can’t prevent hurricanes, burglary, floods or terror attacks, we can take steps to protect ourselves against them. And likewise, we can protect our data.

A study carried out by Gartner in 2000 found that 60% of businesses experiencing a data disaster ceased operations within two years. These are the businesses that didn’t take sufficient steps to protect their data.

And although, according to a survey by Ontrack Data Recovery, only 2% of data is lost in natural disasters, more than half of all data is lost because of hardware or computer system problems, 9% due to software corruption or programming, and a further 26% is lost to human error.

So what can you do?

Protecting your data

Backup, backup, backup! It’s an IT company’s favourite mantra. And you might get sick of hearing it, but it’s the only sure-fire way to guarantee protection from a data loss. Whether you backup manually to an external hard drive each day, or invest in an online backup solution, you need to be doing something.

Best practice, is to backup your data off-site and remotely, using a specialist IT company. There’s no point backing up to an external backup device, if you then lose that device, or it gets stolen, becomes corrupt or you leave it in the office on top of your server. The whole point of a backup is that it’s kept well away from your primary data source. And although a manual backup to an external hard drive is better than nothing, that device is then also open to all the same risks as your server is. So your ideal solution would be a remote online backup solution such as AxonBackup24/7 which automatically backs your data up at scheduled times, replicating your data to a data centre, where it is then backed up multiple times by the data centre’s security systems and can be quickly restored in the event of a loss. The more places your data is backed up to, the better.

Disaster

So what happens if disaster strikes? A fire, flood, burglary or even just a hardware failure. Heck, even somebody pressing the wrong button or clicking in the wrong place could lose you your data. Not to mention the damage caused by the thousands of viruses and other threats from the internet. What happens if you lose your on-site data?

Well, with the above mentioned backup plan in place you’re guaranteed to get a very high percentage of that data back within a very short space of time. In all likelihood, you’ll get it all back. Depending on the size of your business, the amount of data you have and the deal you have with your data backup provider, you could be back up and running again in anything from a few hours to a few days. Without a backup plan in place, the outlook isn’t good, but there are a few options that might go some way towards saving your bacon (and your business).

1) Salvage operation

Don’t assume that damaged hardware is beyond repair. If your hardware is retrievable, it’s worth enlisting the help of a specialist data recovery company to try and salvage what’s left of it. There are no guarantees of course, but data is sometimes successfully recovered from computers that have been dropped, smashed, burned, or had data stolen from them via virus or hacking attempts. There is a glimmer of hope, and some very good data recovery companies out there, many of which are so good they assist police forensic departments, but it will come with a price tag attached. And prevention is better that cure.

If you want to try and handle this yourself, you could get a hard drive disk enclosure. These let you run your hard drive on another computer via USB, to try and recover the data yourself. But if your damage was caused by a virus infection, be aware that this could infect the secondary machine. Or you could try linking the dead computer up to a working computer via USB and try to transfer the files, but again, your need to be security savvy. And we would always recommend asking the experts for help here – you don’t want to end up causing further damaging and risk losing any chances you had of recovering your data.

2) Make a plan

You may have fallen foul to disaster, and you might be in a real mess right now, but you can learn from your mistakes. Use this experience to put a disaster recovery plan in place that will protect you from it ever happening again. Deploy a backup solution (and test it regularly), provision a fail-over broadband line to give yourself a better chance of undisrupted connectivity, consider a flexible working solution that enables employees to work from home quickly and efficiently, have secondary telephone numbers available or the ability to redirect calls into your main business line, have a list of emergency business premises that can be moved into quickly in the event that your offices become rendered out of action – even if that’s the nearest Starbucks and a laptop. Anything that will work towards maintaining business operations if disaster hits. And test these plans.

3) Consider the cloud

One of the many benefits of cloud computing, is that it gives you an instant remote backup solution, and therefore an instant disaster recovery plan. With cloud, all of your business critical data is moved away from your on-site servers and into the cloud. When we say the cloud, what we mean, is data centres. So your data is automatically backed up remotely, and always available. You access it through an internet connection, so if the worst happens and you are unable to work in your office – whether that’s the result of a fire or a simple case of your internet connection going down, you can simply pack up your laptop, head home (or back to that Starbucks we mentioned), connect to the internet and carry on as normal. And the same can apply for your telecoms if you decide to opt for a VoIP solution – which is basically cloud computing for your phones system – you can find out more about VoIP here.

Get in touch – we can help!

If you need any advice putting together a disaster recovery plan, you’re looking to switch to cloud computing or you need some help with data recovery, get in touch with us here or call us on 01625 837800.

Oct
28th

How to keep your computer in optimum condition

desktop computer

Like anything else, computers run better and last longer if you look after them. So how can you keep your computer in optimum condition?

1) Install good anti-virus software

Install and maintain a good anti-virus solution to keep malware, spyware and adware from damaging, clogging up and slowing down your machine – not to mention keeping your data and systems safe from the threats of the world wide web. Schedule it to run automatically for optimum results.

2) De-clutter

Clear out email inboxes and set your email client to automatically archive older messages. Delete any locally stored files or documents that are no longer needed and remove programmes that you don’t use anymore. Screen savers, wallpapers and files downloaded from the internet can take up valuable space and slow down your PC so remove these too, if they’re not critical.

3) Keep updated

Keep your software updated. Most programmes, certainly Windows software, will allow you to do this automatically but if not, then you should check for updates once a week to make sure that security and compatibility updates are current.

4) Backup

Backup your files to a remote location, rather than keeping them on your local hard drive. Storing documents locally will result in your hard drive getting full and your computer becoming sluggish. It also poses a security risk – if your machine gets lost, damaged or stolen, any locally saved files will be gone.

5) Empty recycle bin

Get into the habit of emptying your recycle bin weekly. Documents in your recycle bin will clog up your system in the same way the locally stored files and folders would, filling up storage space and slowing down the running of your machine.

6) Delete internet files

Delete your internet files and cookies on a regular basis to keep your browser running nice and quickly. This setting can usually be found under internet options > safety (depending on which browser you’re using).

7) Defrag

Regular defrags will keep your hard drive in order and improve your computer’s running speed. This will depend on which operating system you’re using – Windows 7 and Windows 8 will automatically defrag (depending on the type of hard drive you have). Check out When should I defrag my computer for a full explanation.

8) Keep it physically clean

Crumbs, dust, pet hair… it will all damage a computer over time. The particles get into the fans and slowly start to corrode the internal electronics. If you’re working in a particularly dusty environment – a factory or quarry for example, you’ll find that your machines tend to have a shorter life expectancy than they would in an office.

9) Keep it cool

Computers don’t like warm or humid environments. Keep them away from heat sources, steam or damp and leave plenty of space around them for air intake – don’t pile papers, files and books around them. Give them room to breathe.

10) Don’t ignore error messages

Error messages appear for a reason. You need to have your wits about you though …clicking on pop-ups introduced by viruses or spyware can of course, have devastating consequences, but you need to take note of any software error messages (Microsoft errors for example) and action them. If you’re not sure what they mean or what to do with them, contact your IT support company for advice.

Need IT Advice?

If you’re looking for IT support in Macclesfield, or computer hardware advice, contact us here or give us a call on 01625 837800.

Oct
24th

Choosing a server – how to future proof your server

So far in this series of blog posts looking at how to choose a server, we’ve looked at processors and RAM, and then at space and hard drive size. Now, for our final post let’s look at how to future proof your server…

Choose your hard drive size wisely
You need to ensure that the server you choose has the scalability to cope with your future growth, and the best way of doing this is to choose a server with as much storage as possible. We touched on this in Choosing a server – space and hard drive size. You need to be sensible about it, of course. And you need to remain within budget, but as a guideline, work out how much storage you require, and then double it to allow for growth. This may seem like overkill, especially if you’re just starting out, but allowing for growth at this stage will be more cost effective than upgrading your server as and when you need more space. Upgrading your server drives as you go along could bring you all sorts of problems – the extra storage might not fit in your current server, the engineering time involved to make the upgrade could prove costly, you could even end up needing a full server rebuild or replacement. So to minimize cost and prepare for future growth, choose the most (sensibly) affordable storage you can.

Go virtual
Another option, is to look into virtualisation. With virtualisation you run multiple servers virtually, on one physical box. You can find a full explanation here. This is a great way to allow for future growth as you can increase the number of virtual servers that you’re running as your requirements change. So for example,  if your number of users increases, your data increases…you can create further virtual servers within that same physical box, even running different operating systems if necessary. Of course, you would need more RAM and the space within the physical box can run out, but virtualisation gives you a superior way to future proof your server. Virtualisation can take place on premise – so the physical box is located within your premises, or it can be in the cloud, which provides an even greater level of flexibility when it comes to scalable solutions.

Look after your server
And finally, to help prolong the lifespan of your server, you need to treat it well. We touched on this in Choosing a server – space and hard drive size. Keep your server in a cool room, with air conditioning if possible. Give it plenty of space, don’t pile boxes, files and papers around it and don’t leave it in a location where it could be accidentally kicked or damaged. If you need to power it down, do so gracefully and use a USP or surge protector to protect it from fluctuations in power.

You server needs to not only meet your current needs, but support your future investments and business development.

If you need any guidance on the best server for your business needs, get in touch with us here or check out our hardware service offering here.

Oct
16th

Choosing a server – space and hard drive size

Welcome to the second post in this series of blogs looking at how to choose a server. If you missed the first one, you can check out Choosing a server – processors and RAM here.

This time, we’re looking at space and hard drive size.

Space
So what do we mean by space? Well, it seems like an obvious one, but you need to make sure you’ve physically got enough room to store your server correctly. Think about where you will keep it. It needs to be accessible to your IT staff at all times. If you buy a rack-mounted server, you need to make sure you do actually rack-mount it for ventilation purposes. If you go for a tower server, you need to keep it out of harm’s way – you wouldn’t believe the number of helpdesk calls we get because somebody has accidentally walked into a server, kicked it and powered it down. And remember, servers like it cool. In an ideal world you need to keep it in an air-conditioned room. If this isn’t possible, it needs plenty of ventilation. Keep it away from heat sources and don’t pile papers or folders around it. Increased humidity will also affect it so if your office is prone to condensation it might cause you problems down the line. Try to maintain a consistent temperature in your office if possible. If your server overheats it can lead to permanent failure.

Hard drive size
There’s no definitive answer to this one, because it of course depends on what you’ll be using your server for, the number of users, and which operating system you’re planning to run. Some of the space will be taken up by your operating system, then you’ll need space for data. So really, it depends on how much data you have. Are you data heavy? A company in the creative industry with lots of data heavy images will need a much bigger drive than a smaller business with fewer files. The servers that we supply as an IT solutions provider, tend to have between 1 – 2TB of storage, (remember the operating system will take up a good 60-100GB of this). This could be overkill if you’re a small business, but our advice would be to go for the overkill. Upgrading server drives down the line can be tiresome to say the least. The extra disks might not fit, it might mean a server rebuild, plus all the engineering time to get this done makes for an expensive job. It could even mean a server replacement job. So if you calculate that you need 1TB of storage, go for 2TB. This will be more cost effective than starting small and trying to upgrade. Go for the most sensible and affordable storage overkill you can to allow for growth and to minimise cost.

These days most servers support drives with high-speed Serial ATA or SATA interfaces, but for a better performance go for a server that supports Serial Attached SCSI or SAS drives. Both SATA and SCSI will have built-in RAID technology (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) which helps protect your data to different levels. RAID 1 for example, works by duplicating the same data over two disks by way of a backup (although you’ll still want to make sure you’ve got a full external backup solution in place) whereas RAID 5 has the ability to rebuild data from a failed drive. And if you want the ultimate top-dog performance, go for a Solid State Drive (SSD). These are based on flash memory rather than spinning platters and are a much faster type of hard drive. Really, it’s a game of cost vs speed vs size to work out the best type of drive for your needs.

If you need any advice choosing your business IT hardware, you can get in touch with us here or check out our IT hardware and software services page here.

And look out for the last in this series of blog posts which will look at future proofing your servers.

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