It’s no secret that I love cloud computing. I’ve moved most of my own work to cloud hosted solutions, in part because it allows me to effectively outsource much of the work I’d rather let someone else manage, like infrastructure and software upgrades and maintenance. Many small teams follow this pattern, using solutions like Google Apps for Domains to outsource email and Basecamp for project management, just to name a couple examples.
There are some things that simply make sense to maintain on premise, particularly if you deal with extremely large files. For small companies, the HP ProLiant MicroServer is a versatile solution for these on premise tasks. MicroServers are easy to configure, offer the reliability of a more robust server, and are powerful enough to handle many small business tasks. Minimal fan noise won’t drown out the office if you don’t have a server room. The elegant industrial design might even generate conversation if an office visitor sees it sitting on a desk.
Here are a few scenarios where I think the HP ProLiant MicroServer can shine for small businesses, particularly those that deal with creative assets.
On Premise Storage
There are two specific scenarios I see played out inside small businesses with some regularity. One scenario is that the person who has the file required for completing a project is out of the office and unavailable. The second scenario is far more dire – many hours are wasted trying to recover data from laptops that weren’t backed up.
Both of these scenarios can be solved by using something like the HP MicroServer as a storage solution. The MicroServer is expandable to up to 12TB of storage, which is plenty for most small business storage needs. You could further expand that storage by coupling it with a cloud solution for overflow or less essential needs.
By configuring automatic backups, the data recovery scenario becomes realistic. By making sure files are available, either by using a digital asset management solution like the one described below or by enforcing a policy to use a common file server, projects don’t get blocked when files leave the building.
Digital Asset Management
Organizations doing creative work typically work with large video assets, Photoshop and Illustrator files, and various other assets that belong to specific projects. For example, I have two to three terabytes of video footage that require my attention at any given time. Some of that footage may be on my laptop or workstation, but I need to keep a record of the footage, what it’s for, how it’s being used, and what project it’s associated with.
Configuring the MicroServer with a digital asset management (DAM) application, like ResourceSpace for example, could simplify creative asset management. The files are accessible via storage on the local network via a relatively fast connection. This prevents employees from using local hard disk space, while also creating a central repository that can be easily backed up. A DAM provides version tracking, as well as the ability to log approval processes along the way.
Remote Desktop and VPN
When I travel, I try to avoid accessing sensitive data over the network connections in hotels and coffee shops. I have very little confidence those services are being well maintained. Instead of risking compromised data, I prefer to use a connection back to a trusted computer in my office.
The MicroServer is perfectly suited to act as the endpoint for a VPN in a small office or to host a desktop that accepts remote connections.
While having a WiFi connected printer largely eliminated the need for a print server in my office, there are plenty of scenarios where having a network connected printer still means passing through a server. An always on MicroServer is perfectly suited to handling print serving duties.
Accounting Virtual Machine
At every small company I’ve worked for accounting is a part time function. Due to the nature of licensing restrictions around accounting software, it typically gets installed on a single machine even though the accounting job function doesn’t have a permanent desk. Virtual machines are a great solution to this problem, because they are easily accessible across the network. A fully loaded MicroServer could easily handle the storage, memory, and CPU needs for an accounting virtual machine, while also juggling many of these other job functions.
Home Media Server
While most of the MicroServer scenarios I propose above are focused on small business solutions, any of them could also double for home use. The MicroServer is priced in a range that’s affordable for the serious media enthusiast too. Serving your entire music library or a collection of videos from a central location is something I’ve written about at many points in the past. Using the MicroServer, you get a high degree of reliability from server class hardware, coupled with the ability to expand to 12TB of storage, along with 16GB of RAM in case you want to support some other functions in the background at the same time. Something like FreeNAS might be the ideal solution for the home user who wants a blend of business and entertainment.
You can see a walkthrough of the features in this video I recorded at HP Discover:
To find out if the HP ProLiant MicroServer makes sense for your business, be sure to check out the full product details.
Disclosure: HP provided me with a review unit of the HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and have not been influenced by HP.