First, let’s define what a data server is and is not. A data server is a device that is dedicated to running applications or network resources such as QuickBooks, Microsoft Active Directory, or even a simple webpage. Data server hardware is designed with two main purposes, redundancy and availability. A server is intended to withstand the most common hardware failures without interruption and run 24/7 for very long periods of time. While a personal desktop is capable of hosting some applications, it should not be considered a server. They typically do not have any redundant hardware nor are they designed to run for several years with little maintenance. Data servers may be owned and managed in your office or they may be in the cloud.
Second, lets evaluate the uses of a data server. Applications: If your application requires special features such as Microsoft SQL or Active Directory then you realistically need a server. Storage: A data server is used as a central location for data and backing up of critical data. In a server environment, most data is typically stored on the server. Data servers are backed up daily in the event of any unforeseen issues, these backups can be local to an external device, stored in the cloud or both. User Management becomes much simpler with a server, user permissions and security groups can be defined, application management and control can be done in one location and applied to all computers.
Do I need a data server? The answer is not always straightforward and every business has its individual needs and requirements. Its best to list your desired goal for your environment and then review each application’s requirements. You are then able to review the details and develop a plan with a professional.