What to Look For When Buying Your First Server

Businesses looking to gain or maintain a competitive edge in today’s hypercompetitive, data-driven world have to be aware of their computing capabilities (or lack thereof).  With big data stretching its reach from enterprise-grade data centers to SMB and home businesses, the importance of server technology has never been more prevalent than it is today.  Whether the need is to consolidate applications and programs into a centralized unit for multi-user access, operate as an email/file/print server, function as a system-wide backup, perform big data analytics, or all of the above, modern server technology can accommodate these services along with many others.  The server market is inundated with countless options available in innumerable configurations so finding the right hardware to fit a given application can be a puzzling task. In this post, we will provide insight into the different features of a server to help you decide what options and features are most important to your unique use case and what server solution is right for you.  

Form Factor

Many small businesses and first-time server buyers most commonly find tower servers as an adequate starting point.  Their appearance resembles that of desktop tower PC’s, which helps by offering flexibility in the area designated for server installation.  Tower servers are not only cost-effective but are also easy to deploy.  Rackmount servers are also available for more demanding infrastructures with blade servers being the most powerful option while also providing high flexibility. The latter two options will require added hardware such as a rack enclosure to properly house them within a facility. If you’re looking to install one server in a back office, there is probably no requirement for a rack-mountable form factor and a tower server may fit the bill, but if you are looking to install a number of servers into a data center or server closet, rack mounting may be a must.  


The brain of a server is known as the central processing unit, or CPU, and is the component that executes programs or applications, actions, and calculations.  It addresses inputs from the server’s memory, deciphers and manages a specific action, then provides the appropriate output response.  Modern processors employ the use of multiple cores to handle more than a single set of tasks like earlier single-core designs with current options providing quad-core solutions, which is essentially four CPUs on one chip.  Frequency is used to measure the speed of operation, also known as clock speed, for a CPU, and is found in gigahertz (GHz) capacities.  This measures how many calculations a processor addresses in a second, so the higher the number the more computations are executed.  High performance processors, such as Intel® Xeon, have clock rates ranging from 1.20GHz to 4.40GHz to provide enhanced performance and reliability over conventional chipsets, making them ideal for server use. Xeon processors feature ECC (Error-Correcting Code) memory, allowing for data integrity and system reliability by correcting memory bit errors. AMD EPYC™ processors can have clock speeds between 2.2GHz to 3.2GHz.  It is important to select a modern processor option with an initial server as CPUs can become a costly upgrade in the future and are not as easily upgraded compared to memory and storage.  


Server memory is another critical component that needs to be focused upon when selecting the most suitable and economical solution for an application.  Better known as RAM (random access memory), computing memory allows for a server to read and write data that is being processed by the device from its storage.  When a user accesses a file or program that is stored on the specific server, RAM is tasked with executing the appropriate response to the initiated action.  RAM is popularly considered the short-term memory of the machine, much like a person where their current actions and thoughts are being processed to perform their desired tasks in the present moment.  Storage, however, is commonly thought of as long-term memory as information saved into storage stands by until a prompted action engages its stored info to be processed or to write new and/or updated data.  Think of RAM as the top of a desk where all current projects are being worked on towards their path to completion.  The drawers under the desk where all the unused resources are waiting to be accessed acts much like the storage memory of a server. The latest RAM size on the market are offered in gigabytes (GB) and are available in ranges from 2GB to 64GB, with expansion options for scalable or upgradeable server solutions.  Provided with this understanding of RAM operation, the best rule of thumb, as is the case with most valued commodities, having more memory available than what is needed is a good practice for first-time server owners.  Understanding the needs of the infrastructure where the server will be deployed is key in sizing all aspects of a server solution.  The amount of RAM required for use by the most frequently accessed programs, email clients, antivirus and malware protection services, operating system (OS) installed on the server, and the number of users accessing the server are starting points to gauge the RAM capacity needed for your server. DDR4 SDRAM is the latest available dynamic RAM (DRAM) iteration that provides high GB capacity in DIMM (dual in-line memory module) kit configurations along with enhanced performance speeds. Measured in MT/s (millions of transfers per second), DDR4 solutions are available at speeds between 2133 MT/s and 2400 MT/s enabling lightning-fast processing rates for a seamless program and file access.  For more information about RAM, please review a previously posted article on our site, What You Need to Know about Sever Memory, which provides added insight on RAM, the different types available, along with added specification details.  


Storage is the long-term memory for a server where data is saved when not in use awaiting to be accessed or processed. As with memory, it is also sized in GB with higher capacity options providing multiple terabytes (TB) ranging from 4TB up to 12TB with solid state drivers.  Knowing how much storage is suitable for a server again depends on the needs and function desired from the system.  An article posted in August 2017, Storage Overview: A Glimpse into Digital Data & Storage Technology, provides insight into just how much digital data is being used worldwide.  For an entry-level server, starting with a 1TB is a good baseline for a small business as most modern servers allow for simple storage upgrades to allow for future growth. Entry-level servers commonly use the standard SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interface used in most computers. In the event high-end performance is a must for a solution, a SAS (Serial Attached Small Computer System Interface) interface may be considered. Entry-level servers provide SATA interfaces allowing for expansion or upgrade to SAS by way of add-in PCI Express (PCIe) cards.  Recent SAS developments offer a bandwidth of 12 gigabits per second, twice as fast as SATA3’s 6Gbs.  Hard drive disks (HDD) have historically been the customary form of storage within the industry, but solid state drives (SSD) allow for even better performance.  Some solutions allow for a combination of both by having an SSD handle the installed operating system and HDDs for to handle files.  This option is regularly noted as a good performance and cost compromise decision. Network-attached storage (NAS) appliance is another option for file centralization as well.  Premio’s Flachestream all-flash storage servers have numerous capacity and expansion options available to handle even the largest databases in any industry type.    

Expansion and Scalability

Sizing a server for current application and business needs is always the best starting point for a primary server solution.  Once the functionality required from the system has been formulated along with the amount of users accessing the data stored on it, making the decision on what options fit best can become much easier.  However, how well will this selection be able to handle future growth?  A server capable of supporting an office with five users will not operate at the same efficiency with ten clients. If the scope of business changes or adopts more users and data such as database recording, video editing, web hosting, along with many other memory and storage resource straining processes, the server will need scalability or upgrade options.  Internal PCI Express (PCIe) slots are beneficial for add-in cards used to increase CPU and/or RAM performance and capability.  USB 3.0 ports can be used for external devices such as backup drives. The information above should help you decide what server solution is right for your business, but if you still have questions, contact an expert.  Here at Premio, we understand the importance of the subtleties involved in each customer installation. Premio is renowned worldwide for the development, construction, and circulation of digital products with innovative computing strategies and solutions for various industries. Our company specializes in the analysis of system infrastructures with a concentration on modern storage options, purpose-built servers, embedded solutions, and display options providing an assortment of scalable product categories.  Premio’s Customer Care Team (CCT) provides a variety of services focused on customer service and quality assurance with a customer-centered mindset. Please contact us today to begin developing a solution that meets the dynamic business demands of your unique application.