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====SME Company IT Infrastructure and Server Requirements====

The IT infrastructure for a business often includes:

~- Internet connection and basic network services (e.g., firewall, NAT routing, wireless access point, DHCP server, LDAP server, web server, etc.)
~- E-mail Server (possibly with spam filtering and virus protection, with IMAP, POP3 mailboxes and even a web-based e-mail mail client)
~- File Sharing (often simply ad-hoc "network folders", but possibly some other form of collaborative work space, even including a document vault or repository with check-out/modify/submit workflow)
~- ERP System (the financial transaction and reporting system, including such functions as purchasing, sales, and manufacturing, and possibly providing suport for project management and budgeting)
~- Issue Tracking (often company departments will each have their own issue tracking list or spreadsheet, but there is much more value when everyone collaborates using a shared tool (e.g., customer and vendor issues and complaints, Return Material Authorization investigation, ISO Non-Conformance system, etc.).
~- Collaborative Knowledge Base (a collection of searchable documents, perhaps in a Wiki, containing, for example, company policies and procedure, answers to frequency asked questions, etc.)
~- Database Server (for WebERP and other applications or purposes)
~- File Backup (typically an automated periodic procedure, storing backup data on a disk or tape drive, preferably either off-site or immediately stored off-site)

When designing IT infrastructure, the following should be considered:

~- Purchase or capital cost of hardware and proprietary software (primary server, backup server, uninteruptable power supply, switches and equipment racks, fire prevention equipment, etc.).
~- Implementation labor source and cost for planning, customizing and configuring the server and business applications such as WebERP, including data conversion and importing applications such as webERP.
~- Operations cost, the on-going cost to the business associated with using applications such as webERP, hosted server costs, backup material costs, cost of internal staff or consultants to maintain the server and applications on it, such as WebERP, new feature implementation as needs arise, periodic security and disaster recovery reviews, etc.
~- Quality and Reliability, often difficult to quantify issues but important to consider. Does the server and backend IT need an uninterruptable power supply? Does there need to be a documented and tested disaster recovery process to follow in the event of a server power supply or disk drives failure, how quickly must the replacement server be on line, and how recent must the data be on the replacement server be?

When dedicated servers in purpose-built data centres (including hot standby servers and automated fail-over mechanisms, and electrical generators for uninterruptable power supply), some reasons for a company to manage its own server include:

~- High traffic between servers or between servers and workstation clients. This is often the case when the business needs require both very large files and a large number of files (e.g., mechanical CAD files, large spreadsheets, still image and video files, etc.).
~- Poor, unreliable or slow connectivity between business operation sites to the data centre.
~- Physical security of information (generally the fewer access points the better, but also management often dictates that business data must be stored within the walls of the business).

WebERP itself is well suited to a hosted server solution. WebERP has almost no client server load and minimal network traffic, typically needing only a reliable 2 MByte/second connection to the internet. If on-site file hosting is required, a dedicated NAS or Network Attached Storage device can often provide the solution (even when local servers are required for e-mail or and web application host, an applicance NAS device - often simply a Unix-like computer configured as a file server - is often still the best solution).

While the cost of setting up an on-site Unix-like server can seem deceptively low, factors to be considered when looking at hosted solutions include:

~- Expertise. Without in-house expertise, an SME bears the risk associated with outsourcing a critical aspect of its business and the necessary expertise can be expensive and difficult to retain. Leased-server data centres have sufficient technical staff to provide backup for each other, and have a collective knowledge and experience that a typical SME would be unlikely to need - or able to afford. A viable option may also be a support agreement with a local IT shop.
~- Security and Reliability. Should a level of security and reliability be required (or desired) that would involve backup electrical generators, fire safety and security measures, physical security measures, etc., a leased-server data centre will most certainly be a more economical solution (conversely, without putting these measures in place, an on-site server will be generally less reliable, less physically secure and have a greater risk of fire damage)
~- The often-forgotten on-going maintenance of a server is effectively contracted out when using a leased server in a data centre.

Against that - setting up a dedicated server is now ridiculously easy and "Superb Mini Server" is a pre build linux server distribution containing all the server software any business would ever need and webERP comes preinstalled!!
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