Network Planning: Dedicated Server Question

One of the most basic questions that a network plan must answer is whether the network will have one or more dedicated servers or rely completely on peer-to-peer networking. If the only reason for purchasing your network is to share a printer and exchange an occasional file, you may not need a dedicated server computer.

In that case, you can create a peer-to-peer network by using the computers that you already have. However, all but the smallest networks will benefit from having a separate, dedicated server computer.

  • Using a dedicated server computer makes the network faster, easier to work with, and more reliable. Consider what happens when the user of a server computer, which doubles as a workstation, decides to turn off the computer, not realizing that someone else is accessing files on his or her hard drive.

  • You don’t necessarily have to use your biggest and fastest computer as your server computer. I’ve seen networks where the slowest computer on the network is the server. This advice is especially true when the server is mostly used to share a printer or to store a small number of shared files.

    So if you need to buy a computer for your network, consider promoting one of your older computers to be the server and using the new computer as a client.

If you determine that your network will require one or more dedicated servers, the next step is to determine what network operating system those servers should use. If possible, all the servers should use the same NOS so that you don’t find yourself supporting different operating systems.

Although you can choose from many network operating systems, from a practical point of view, your choices are limited to the following:

  • Windows Server 2003 or 2008

  • Linux or another version of Unix