Does Your Office Still Need a Server?

If you work in a small office, the chances are that there is a grey box in the corner or a spare room that is on all the time and people try not to touch. Why?

The idea of having an office server is so baked in that people often ask, what type do you need? Before they think to ask, do we need one at all?

This is further reinforced if you employ an IT support company to set up your office network. Efficiencies of scale lead support companies to offer a menu of server options for small offices. But no option without the server at all.

For support companies, it is just easier to offer support remotely if there is an always-on computer there to use to connect in. The reason for the server is not always much more than that.

But wait, you say, my server does more than that. You’re probably right. So let’s have a look at the other jobs servers normally do. Then have a look at alternatives to see if it is needed.

File storage

File Storage is the shared drive. This is normally mapped to a letter in the alphabet. So if you have a Word document you want Jackie in accounts to see, you save it to the Y drive and let her know. That moves the file up to the server where you can both see it.

Because all the important documents are now in one place, that folder really needs to be backed up regularly. The more copies the better.

What’s the alternative

You don’t need me to tell you about Dropbox. But just in case, follow the link, it’s really neat. Of course, there are other options available. For instance, if you are in an industry that makes data residency a worry there are companies that run Nextcloud instances on the island.

What services like Dropbox and Nextcloud have in common is that they copy the files to each machine that has access and then keep them all in sync. Because of this you no longer only have one copy. You have one copy on each machine that has access and another on the cloud. This makes backups much less of a worry.

Client-Server applications

Client-Server applications are locally installed apps that connect to your server to share data with other computers in the office. Accounts or CRM packages often work this way. If you have software that works like this, then you probably need to keep the server. If this is an IOM payroll application, get in touch, we can help with that, hit, hit. Right, back to the subject.

What’s the alternative

Cloud-based software. There is a cloud-based alternative for almost all types of software these days. Some of them are direct replacements for instance if you use QuickBooks for your accounts there is a cloud-based version that does the same job. Why not let someone else worry about backups and maintenance.


Office servers quite often work as an email-server. This means the server runs something like Microsoft Exchange to host your emails. When you check your email the request will then go to your local server, not outside the building.

For larger companies, this can be quite useful as any emails inside the office don’t need to go out to the internet and back again.

For smaller companies, this can be a bit of a pain. First, because it involves setting up public IP addresses and forwarding rules, if you don’t know what they are, keep hold of that feeling you are probably better off. But also because the email database needs to be backed up and maintained.

What’s the alternative

At the time of writing, Microsoft is offering Exchange hosting for £3 a month. This offers, basically the same control without having to maintain the backup. If you pay for Office 365 this could already be included in your subscription. For that price is it worth the hassle?

User authentication

In most offices, it is possible to log into any of the machines in the building using the same login that you use to log in to your own. This is done by passing the user authentication to the server running it there and sending the result back to the machine. How much people use this is a little in doubt, but it can be very useful to have another login if someone is on holiday and they have the only copy of a file.

What’s the alternative

If you have an Office 365 subscription. User authentication comes along as part of the deal. Since Windows 10 it has been possible to connect the machine to the Office 365 organisation after that anyone in the company can use their Office 365 login to login to any of the computers.