Are you feeling the pain of peer-to-peer?

How does your organization produce, share and secure digital information: peer-to-peer or server-based?

Peer-to-peer means stand-alone personal computers for every employee, connected to each other – if at all – over a local network also delivering Internet connection. Each PC has its own programs, files, data back-up and security. File sharing is possible, but not elegant. This is a classic small business system because of how we start and grow: one employee and PC at a time.

A server-based environment is the next level up. Growing businesses find that a server set-up provides more control over file management, sharing, back-up and security, plus efficiency when adding people.

A server is to a PC what a pair of overalls is to a hand-tailored suit – rugged, utilitarian and plain. It comes with a central processing unit (CPU) and hard drive(s), and is designed to “serve” workstations. All programs, storage, back-up and security resides on the server, instead of at the desktop. And file sharing? Servers are born to share files like a thoroughbred is born to run.

So how does a small business know when to make the leap from peer-to-peer to server?

The rap on converting to server-based has long been that it was big business complicated. For a small business to jump to a server system, the peer-to-peer environment had to be so unproductive that the pain had to be worse than the conversion challenges. But here’s good news: Today you can convert before the pain becomes unbearable.

For a few years now, technology companies have made server hardware and software much more adoption and user friendly for smaller companies, especially with the creation of something called a “server appliance.” This is a features-rich server with pre-loaded software designed to reduce conversion headaches. You just plug your new box into an electrical outlet and your network and, bada-bing, bada-bam, you’re server-based, baby, with central data back-up, security, file sharing – maybe even a phone system. Now, adding a new user is much easier than buying a new PC.

Most providers of these small business-friendly servers distribute them through one of your neighbors, a local small business computer company. Contact one in your area and let them help you decide if it’s time to make the jump to a server platform and which system is best for you.

Don’t let peer-to-peer pain get too bad before considering converting to a server.

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