As businesses shift toward a stronger web presence and e-commerce, small business owners are increasingly concerned about the security, maintenance, and administration of their data. Business owners still have inquiring minds and are baffled and confused despite the best efforts of technology professionals to answer these important questions. In an attempt to thwart this confusion, I teamed with our engineers to compile answers to frequently asked questions from small business owners and, in essence, removed the “Geek Speak” for some clear and concise answers.
1. Why should I consider Dedicated Hosting and host my servers in a data center?
Data centers provide many benefits in contrast to housing your servers at your office.
- DataCenters are equipped with multiple, redundant power connections and provide proper cooling which ensures a substantial power cost- savings. It also extends the life of your servers by housing the equipment in a properly cooled facility.
- Data centers are designed to meet security and compliance requirements for the enterprise level. Computing is done with industry leading certifications like SAS 70 and PCI compliance. Organizations can piggyback on the data center’s compliances , which would otherwise be costly to acquire and maintain.
With SAS 70 certification, certified public accountants (CPA’s) are required to conduct audits of control systems that are put into place where your data is stored. PCI compliance is necessary if your business accepts online credit card payments. Both SAS 70 and PCI compliance are just another way to assure your customers that their confidential information is secure and protected without reinventing the wheel or incurring added cost.
- Another benefit is peace of mind, knowing that your data is safe at a data center you trust. Data centers employ engineers that are experts in fields like system hardware, operating systems, data backup, security firewall and general administration.
- This saves your IT staff sleepless nights worrying about your critical data and enables your IT staff to focus on revenue-generating applications rather than dealing with day-to-day issues. With this, help is just a phone call away and, best of all, you can even contract support beyond the usual scope of support! Imagine how happy your IT staff would be if they didn’t have to wake up at 3:00 a.m. just to restart a server.
2. How do I access my server in a data center from my office?
- Today’s technologies have helped bridge gaps. Ensure such bridges are secure and trusted. With the wider-deployment of broadband, even in the rural areas, businesses now have the flexibility to connect to their equipment through secure Internet connections, into their firewall and then to their servers. Internet enables businesses to establish a point-to-point, secure, encrypted tunnel between their offices and the data center of their choice without any geographic boundaries. Your server could be located in Japan and you could still connect to it using a secure connection from Alabama.
3. How much bandwidth do I need to connect with my server at the Data Center and how big of a connection do I need for my server?
- Most importantly, you want to have a stable internet connection at your office. Make sure you ask for a dedicated connection with proper service-level agreement so that you are always in control and able to connect to your server . For the normal administration, a 1 MB connection should suffice.
- For the server at the Data Center, recommended bandwidth (Internet connection) varies based upon the use of your server. If you are streaming media, you will need more bandwidth than if you simply have an e-commerce website.
- For instance, YouTube.com would require more bandwidth than NYTimes.com. Alternatively, adjusting the amount of bandwidth allotted to you is simple if you find your site sluggish. This would not so easy of a task if you kept your servers at your office.
- Burst limits allow your server to go above your normally-contracted bandwidth allocation for short periods of time. For example, if you run a 24-hour sales promotion on your website, you would expect much more traffic to the site and require more bandwidth. Since it is only a 24-hour sale, there is no need to contract for additional bandwidth for the remaining term of your contract. Ensuring that your contract will allow you to temporarily increase your needed bandwidth is essential if you are in an industry that has peak seasons, such as health insurance, accounting and travel.
4. How is support handled?
- Scope-of-support depends entirely upon the in-house IT tasks and functions and whether extended support is required. Dedicated server hosting is a popular service in which a server is leased from the data center provider. Leasing a dedicated server includes some upkeep by the service provider, but does not include managed services like firewalls, load balancing and other features such as administration.
- Managed dedicated servers are also leased servers; however, the maintenance and management of these servers is left to the service provider. This includes comprehensive security solutions. Even though some security solutions are included in your contract, it is encouraged that an IT consultant be on staff to handle other system requirements such as programming, development and administration.
- Colocation is the same as hosting your own servers but in a professional data center environment maintained by your IT staff. Colocation service requires you to either contract or hire your own IT staff. This staff would be responsible for all maintenance, updates, security installs, security and administration.
- There are other support functions like database administration to maintain your data base, email exchange program administration and web server maintenance tasks that might require extended service contracts.
- Many data center service providers can add these “managed” features to your contract. However, if you are inexperienced in administration, it is recommended that you employ (or contract) a staff to assist you in your efforts.
5. Does antivirus protection provide enough security? If not, how else can I secure my server?
- Antivirus protection defends against viruses and other minor issues that pose a threat to your machine. However, there are other serious security considerations that are a must to ensure the security and integrity of your entire server infrastructure. Today we are dealing with serious “cyber crimes” that do not just stop at DOS attacks. With both customer data and personal information at stake, it is important that you have a dedicated security firewall. This essentially is a barrier between the outside world and those authorized to access your data. (It’s also vital to meeting regulatory concerns such as HIPAA, HITECH, SAS 70 or PCI, depending upon your specific industry).
- Have someone available to install patches and upgrades and run diagnostics to monitor your systems and prevent threats. This can be someone on staff, a contracted third party, or your service provider.
- Another way to avoid troublesome hackers is to contract a third-party IT security team, such as CEP Logic , which can help implement the proper tools to mitigate your vulnerabilities.
6. How can using data center services make financial sense to substantiate a return on investment?
- Like any business venture, ROI will be determined by the efficiencies you create within your business. However, specific services such as managed and dedicated hosting can help reduce your IT spending. These also can help reduce your capital expenditures, a critical step to increasing ROI.
- If you have a heavy online presence and conduct e-commerce, ensuring your e-business availability around the clock is essential to your overall business objectives.
- Additionally, it might be practical not to have a fully-staffed IT department. Having a few highly-skilled consultants on hand will reduce your IT spending without compromising your network’s integrity.