Server buying tips

Purchasing a server for any business is a very big decision, and if not done properly, can reduce productivity or cause loss of money in the business. Below is information and help for what to look out for when purchasing a computer server. It is important to also note that every business is unique and may require more or less of what is listed below.

New vs. Used

Purchasing a new or used server or server equipment can be a method of saving the company additional money; however, it can cause lost money if that hardware or server does not meet the company's needs. When looking at purchasing a used main server or file server for a computer network, ensure that the server is going to meet the company's needs as far as performance and reliability. Unless the perfect used solution is found, we highly recommend purchasing a new main server, file server, network server or database server, as it has the latest hardware innovations as well as have a warranty, which allows parts to be replaced or repaired within a short period of time, keeping the network up and running.

However, other servers such as a print server or hardware such as a router or firewall can be purchased as used and meet most companies' needs.

What to look for

When purchasing a server, it is important that either the company or the network administrator consider the following:

Case and rack

When looking at the case or rack, look at the expandability as well as the accessibility of hardware. Determine how may drive bays if any are available as far as what drive bays (5.25" vs. 3.5") or available hard drive bays in the computer.


Hard drive

  • The available amount of disk space on the server can be an important consideration especially if the server is going to be a file or network server. Consider the space requirements needed for the operating system, applications, tools, utilities, web pages, files, and user settings.

  • When also looking at the hard drive, it is important to look at the hard drive interface. The majority of all servers today use either SATA or SCSI hard drives.


  • CD-ROM is not a critical item for most servers as it is usually only used to install additional software onto the server.


For all networks, backup is and should be an important consideration. Most companies need important data, such as company or customer related information, backed up on a daily basis. When looking at a backup solution, consider the following.

  • Is backup available with the server, if so what is it?

  • If available, what is the capacity of the medium?

  • If available, how fast is the medium (how long does it take to backup 4 gig for example).


Memory is and has always been an important consideration when looking at purchasing a server or any computer. Determine the amount of memory included in the server as well as verify if that memory can be upgraded in the future. It is recommended that at least 512MB of Memory be installed into the network or file server.

Network card

With the increase with more than one computer in the house and with broad band solutions, sometimes requiring a network card a network card is becoming an important consideration when purchasing a computer. Network cards allow users to connect to other computers and have small networks in their home or office. This allows for data transfer, file sharing, Internet connection sharing, printer sharing and other helpful uses.

Operating system

When setting up a new network verify the operating system or networking software is included with the server. If no operating system is included with the computer, verify what operating systems have been tested with the computer. For example: Novell, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Unix, Solaris, Linux, SCO... Etc.

It is also important that when setting up a network that the operating systems being installed or included is something that the network administrator is familiar with or requires for compatibility with other software.


For large networks or servers, power may be an important consideration. Look at the available amount of power supplies as well as the capacity of each of the power supplies.

Additionally, if you believe power may be an issue in the future, look at the availability of upgrading or adding additional power supplies to the server.


The computer processor and the amount of processors the computer can support is one of the most important considerations when looking at a server. When looking at the server, consider the following:

  • What processor is included? (Intel Pentium, Intel Xeon, Digital or other).

  • How many processors can the server support? (2, 4, 8 or more).

Brand of computer

When looking at purchasing any brand of computer you will hear good and bad stories. Regardless if the story is good or bad, these stories are always based on the experience of that user. While it may be true that the user had a bad or terrible experience with that computer, all computer manufactures have had users who have had a bad experience and there is no such thing as a bad or perfect computer manufacturer. Below is a listing of various things to consider when purchasing a computer and in some cases how to tell the good from the bad.


Verify if the server or networking device comes included with documentation. While most hardware, such as a router or hub, will not require documentation for most network administrators it is important that a server be included with some documentation that help with configuring the server or server components. This comes in real helpful for configuring jumpers and upgrade information.


We use location as a description to describe different topics. First, what is the location of where the network hardware or server is purchased: If the network hardware or server is purchased at a local retail store, can the network hardware or server be returned if unsatisfactory or incompatible to that store? If the network hardware or server is purchased through mail order or directly through the computer manufacturer or reseller, where can the network hardware or server be returned if unsatisfactory or incompatible?

Second, can the store location of where the network hardware or server was purchased service the purchased product? If not, where is the closest location to where it can be serviced?

Third, if the network hardware or server is purchased directly from the computer manufacturer and is shipped through mail, how is it shipped? What is the time period for the network hardware or server to arrive to your destination? What happens if the network hardware or server is damaged during shipping?


Verify you can get money refund for the network hardware or server. Many computer manufacturers will not refund your money but instead may offer an exchange for another product of similar qualities. Verify with the manufacturer or the reseller what their return, refund, and exchange policy is.


Service is an important consideration to look at when looking to purchase a networking hardware or a server. The service is how many companies describe the repair of the device purchased if it's to become unusable. Below is a listing of some examples of services.

  1. Is the service onsite, meaning a technician will come to your location to replace or fix a bad component. If the service is onsite, is it for the complete time of the warranty? Finally, if onsite is offered because it is likely this will be a network critical component, what is the time frame for the repair to be completed and can it be done 7 days a week 24 hours a day?

  2. If onsite is not offered, what is and for how long?

  3. Are their local service centers that may stock the potentially bad part or stock parts that can be used to exchange the part that has gone bad? If yes, what are their hours and availability?


Manufacturer support for most companies is an important consideration as if an issue arises with the computer you must be able to contact a support representative. Things to consider when looking at the support options of a computer are listed below.

  1. Is support open 24 hours, 7 days a week? If not, what are the hours, or is a paging service available?

  2. Is support open on holidays? If not, what days are it closed, and the days that they are closed is a paging service available?

  3. What support options are available? Phone? E-mail? Web? Chat? Pager?


While this option may not be considered at first when purchasing a computer, it is an important consideration. Below is a listing of different options to look for when looking to upgrade a computer.

  1. What can be upgraded in the computer? RAM? CPU? Hard Drive? Video Card? If available to upgrade, what are the maximum amounts or is it specified within documentation provided with the computer?

  2. Does the computer have on-board hardware such as an on-board Network or SCSI? If yes, can these be disabled with a jumper or through CMOS. This is important as many computer will disable the device when a new device is added. However, this does not always work and may cause future issues. Ensure it can be disabled and that it is not a device that auto-disables.


Finally, what warranty is offered by the computer manufacturer? How long is the warranty? Does the warranty cover both hardware and software issues?

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