Getting a server 5 mistakes to avoid You're decided to buy a server for your small business? Now comes the tricky part: putting it all together. As someone who recently installed Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 in my office (OK, technically it was a bona fide Microsoft Certified Partner who did it) I know first hand how challenging it can be. Simply, there are decisions to be made about hardware, software, network connections and, perhaps, most important of all, whom to entrust with setting up the server. Make the right choice, and your new server will be humming along from the get-go. I enlisted the help of Zohar Pinhasi, the chief technology officer of Byte Tech, company based in Miami, Fla., who lent me a hand when I got Small Business Server up and running. He quickly sized up all of the components on my network and connected them. Since, my server has performed flawlessly. Make the wrong decision, and you'll end up in server purgatory. I know what that's like because for the two months before Zohar showed up, I tried — and failed miserably — to make SBS do what it was supposed to. This was particularly vexing for me, a committed do-it-yourselfer, who prides himself in being able to make just about anything work. Here are five common mistakes small business owners make when they install a server: 1. Not having a plan. Unless you know what you want in a server, how can you ever get it? That's the first mistake I made. I paid almost no attention to my business needs. What sort of hardware and software should I select, and what do I want the server to do. A product manager for HP Industry Standard Servers, recommends setting a small amount of time aside — 15 to 30 minutes — to make a wish list for your server needs. "Do you want to make certain tasks easier for you and your employees?" she says. "Is there something specific you want to accomplish that will impress your customers?" With this list in hand, she says you'll be better equipped to talk to a local tech solution provider about what best fits your needs. 2. Not hiring a pro. You will need a professional tech partner to set up your server. There's no getting around this fact.. Screen your tech partner carefully. "When choosing someone, be sure he or she has a small business focus, the experience and certifications in small business systems and the ability to meet your reliability criteria," A competent IT consultant will set you up with a server and document how the server works and how it will meet your needs. A server guru will also advise about likely future needs — and prepare you for them. (Also, remember not to install any add-on software until you consult with your IT pro) 3. Not considering all of your options> You can buy a server outright and have a tech professional set it up. Or you can lease a server to meet your needs. For example, should you host your server onsite or offsite? Oftentimes, having an on-site server isn't cost-effective. Small business owners believe they can manage a server on their own, but ultimately have a hard time handling it. "Leasing servers from a managed hosting provider gives companies the needed security, monitoring and scalability to run their servers without the upfront equipment, infrastructure and ongoing maintenance costs of taking it in-house,” What's more, an outsourced solution is scalable — meaning that you can expand quickly, if needed. 4. Not playing it safe. You are going to spend a fair amount of time deciding what kind of server to buy. But how about security to prevent hackers and viruses from infiltrating your system? Remember, your server is going to be connected to the Internet, and will be vulnerable to hackers. safety extend to backup, too. "Small Business decision makers should implement a tape backup solution that automatically backs up the critical data each working day," he says. That means assigning someone within your company the task of taking each day's backup tape home, in the event of a site disaster. 5. Not bothering with the power. One of the first things my IT pro asked me was, "Do you have a UPS for your server?" UPS, uninterruptible power supply, will ensure that your server keeps running even when the electricity isn't. In a place like Florida, which I've heard is the lightning-strike capital of the world; you can't live without a UPS. More than 60% of America's nearly 23 million small businesses have no backup power supply. "I think small businesses recognize the problem, but they aren't taking action. Ilan says the electrical power grid provides about 99.9% availability, which means on average it's down about 8.8 hours annually. "Not a big deal if the downtime only occurred when your business wasn't open," he says. "Unfortunately, you can't predict when that downtime will come." If you embark on your server adventure with a roadmap and all the right resources, you'll find that bringing a server online isn't so difficult. Take shortcuts, and you could end up like me: in server purgatory. "Once the decision is made to install a central server, it is very important that the system is designed, installed, and supported by someone with the appropriate skills and experience” In other words, this is no time to go solo — even if you want to save a little money.