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How to choose the right computer equipment for your business to increase your productivity and efficiency without it costing the earth.

Business software helps you complete a range of tasks. Choose the right software, provide support and train your staff with our introduction.

It is highly likely that you depend on the internet for some aspects of your business. Find out how you can use the internet more effectively.

Good communication with customers, partners and suppliers is vital for business success. This summary explores business communication methods.

How would you cope if your IT system failed or was breached? We cover the main IT security issues and how to protect against them.

Good IT management can help you choose, use and implement IT. Our overview helps you manage IT in a way that maximises the return on your investment.

IT support is vital if you rely on your IT system. But how can you set up an effective safety net in case things go wrong? We explore the options.

Getting the right IT is just the first step. Appropriate training, policies and working practices can help you maximise return on your IT investment.

Managed server hosting: your server in the cloud

Traditionally, if a business required a network server, it would purchase the hardware and have it installed on-site

However, as the speed of internet connections has increased and service prices dropped, managed server hosting is fast becoming the norm.

Managed server hosting refers to the process of leasing a server which is not on your premises. You can use it for the same things for which you’d use a normal network server - you just have to access it over the internet, rather than via your internal computer network.

Managed server hosting contracts

A typical managed server hosting contract will operate for 12 months (though shorter contracts can sometimes be found) and the ‘managed’ part of the title usually refers to the level of technical support included.

Your managed server hosting provider will take responsibility for the network, the server hardware, the operating system and physical security of the server.

Managed server hosting support

Every managed server hosting provider should provide a secure environment for your data.

Depending upon the level of management they offer, your managed server hosting provider may also take responsibility for other tasks. These may keep the services and applications on your server running smoothly and reduce the likelihood of data loss or a security breach.

For instance, many managed server hosting providers will handle backups, patching, software upgrades and application maintenance.

Do you need managed server hosting?

Managed server hosting can be a very cost-effective alternative to hosting a server on your business premises for a number of reasons:

  • There’s no capital outlay to buy the server to begin with, or to upgrade its specification in the future.
  • As maintenance will be performed by the managed server hosting provider, there’s less pressure on your in-house IT staff.
  • Most managed server hosting services are scalable, which means you can purchase additional resources as you need them, or scale back when you don’t.
  • On balance, managed server hosting is often more reliable, as servers are located in purpose-built buildings with backup power and internet connections.

Although the exact benefits of managed server hosting will vary from provider to provider, you should also expect to benefit from:

  • Technical staff with in-depth, up-to-date skills, who are available immediately to deal with urgent or critical issues.
  • Servers that are monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – at a fraction of the cost of providing this level of cover in-house.
  • Prompt resolution of issues and problems with your managed server hosting, outside of your normal business hours where necessary.
  • Software upgrades and scheduled maintenance performed outside of your working day, to avoid disruption to your business.
  • The ability to add extra managed server hosting capacity within hours, not days.

Managed server hosting costs

Of course, there are costs involved in moving to managed server hosting, so be sure to consider the following points:

  • Moving data onto managed server hosting takes time and resources, as does moving from one hosting provider to another. It’s therefore important to do your research before making a decision.
  • Some simple tasks may take longer than they would on your own premises. For example, you may need to request a reboot of your server – whereas if it were in-house you could just go and press a button.
  • Although the upfront costs of managed server hosting tend to be much lower than having an in-house server, the ongoing costs can soon mount up.
  • There may be limits to what software your managed server hosting provider supports. It’s very important to discuss your requirements with them so you end up with a server which is right for the long-term.
  • Some managed server hosting providers will prevent you from changing fundamental settings. This is because they will manage those areas for you. It’s not usually a problem, but again, discuss your requirements to be sure.
  • There may be additional costs for exceeding data transfer limits, or for asking the managed server hosting provider to perform tasks which are not covered by standard technical support.

In any case, remember that signing up for managed server hosting is a major decision. Although the initial outlay is nowhere near as much, it’s just as critical a choice as purchasing a new server to use on your premises.

Shop around, talk to providers in detail and seek advice from your IT supplier or support firm if you’re in any doubt as to what you need.

The right managed server hosting will bring lots of benefits to your business both now and in the future – so take time to make the correct decision.

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