What is a server appliance - and why do you need one?

by Equiinet

It's stating the obvious that the majority of companies rely on IT in some way - whether through stand-alone computers, a network of PCs or something more elaborate. The advent of e-business and the subsequent need to manage Internet access, security and email makes IT yet more complex to both install and manage on a day-to-day basis.

In order to help meet these rapidly expanding needs and to take the strain off traditional servers, a new class of machine has been introduced over the last few years - the multifunctional server appliance.  Put simply, a server appliance is a specialised networked device that has been built to do a particular job or jobs very well. This could be email management, print management or Internet access and the advantage is that it provides a straightforward solution to a problem, that it is easy to manage and does not need a dedicated IT person to tinker with it.

Small businesses are predominantly non-technical. People in such companies are experts in their own particular field and have no experience in - nor any inclination to become well versed in - areas of technology which quite justifiably they see merely as a means to an end.  Small companies do not want to install and maintain multiple boxes to deal with security, email management and Internet access. They therefore relate to an 'all-in-one-box' server appliance, containing a firewall for security, a cache to speed up web page delivery and easy to use management software.

The growth of the Internet and the move to e-business has opened up a major new market for the server appliance. Small and medium sized businesses need to be able to connect all their PCs to the web, send and receive email, trade electronically - and to be able to do this both securely and swiftly.

Managers are concerned with getting their businesses online without major disruption, safeguarding security of internal systems and managing staff access to the Internet. Multifunctional server appliances deal with all these problems and enable companies, particularly SMEs that do not have the resources to install or manage complex IT infrastructures, to reap the benefits of the Web.

The server appliance market is not only growing rapidly in terms of sales, but also in what a server appliance can do. Customers are demanding new features, such as virus scanning of emails, filtering and blocking of websites that employees can access and virtual private network for distributing sensitive information between sites or between HQ and a remote user.

Added to existing functionality such as firewall, caching, email serving, web-, file- and print-serving, and inbuilt router and compatibility with any transmission technology including ADSL, ISDN and cable, multifunctional server appliances are appropriate for most environments. Different models can meet the needs of companies with anything from 10 networked PCs to 400.

Straightforward and simple to install and use, multifunctional server appliances offer a 'plug and play' Internet access and email solution for non-technical users.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



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