With a little one on the way, I've been spending a good amount of my free time starting to search for a new home for my growing family. While the search continues, I've learned a thing or two about what to look for and what should be done before taking the plunge, and as I've gone through the process, I can't help but notice lot of parallels to what it's like to purchase a new server:
It's an Investment
Just like purchasing a new home, deciding to purchase a server is a huge investment. As you start shopping around, the costs may seem staggering, and while most servers don't cost as much as a small home, your new server will be your business's new home online. When you consider the revenue your site will generate (and the potential cost of not being able to properly support demand), you won't want to skimp on the details. The truth is that like any investment, you can reap great rewards with proper planning and execution.
You Have to Know What You Need
One of the best tips I've incorporated in my home-buying process is the need to differentiate what you want, what you need, and what you can live without. Unless you're royalty, you're likely living on a budget. As cool as it would be to live in a 10-bedroom mansion with an indoor Olympic size pool, there's a lot there that I don't need. That sort of
homepalace also falls way outside of my personal budget. The same could be said about a business.
I've heard plenty of stories about companies who slash their IT budgets in order to cut costs, and even the greatest IT departments have to live within their budgets. As you're determining what your next server will be, you need to understand the purpose (and needs) of your workload: Will it be database server? An application server? Will it be an additional web head? Are you using it for mass storage? You need to plan accordingly. I'm sure you'd want a new Xeon E5-2600 server with all of the bells and whistles, but if you don't need that kind of performance, you're likely just going to burn through your budget quicker than you have to. Know your budget, know your needs and purchase your server accordingly.
You Should Get to Know the Neighborhood
I don't intend on purchasing a home in a high-crime area, nor do I plan on moving into a neighborhood with exorbitant HOA dues for services I don't intend to use. Your new server is going to have a "neighborhood" as well when it comes to the network it's connected to, so if you plan on outsourcing your IT infrastructure, you should do the same research.
You want your critical environments in a safe place, and the easiest way to get them in the right "neighborhood" is to work with a well-established host who's able to accommodate what you're doing. A $20/mo shared hosting account is great for a personal blog site, but it probably wouldn't be a good fit for a busy database server or front-end application servers for an application dependent on advertising for revenue. A mansion worth of furniture doesn't fit very well in a studio apartment.
You're Responsible for Maintenance
Ask any homeowner: Continuous improvements — as well as routine maintenance &mdashl are a requirement. Failure to take care of your property can result in fines and much more costly repairs down the road. Likewise with any server, you have to do your maintenance. Keep your software up to date, practice good security protocols, and continue to monitor for problems. If you don't, you could find yourself at the mercy of malicious activity or worse — catastrophic failure. Which leads me to ...
You Need Insurance Against Disaster
Homeowner's insurance protects you from disaster, and it provides indemnity in the event someone is hurt on your property. Sometimes additional insurance may be required. Many professionals recommend flood insurance to protect from flood damage not covered under a typical homeowner's insurance policy. Ask any systems administrator, and they'll tell you all about server insurance: BACKUPS. ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!!! The wrong time to figure out that your backups weren't properly maintained is when you need them, more specifically in the event of a hardware failure. It's a fact of life: Hardware can fail. Murphy's Law would suggest it will fail at the worst possible time. Maintain your backups!
I can't claim that this is the guide to buying a server, but seeing the parallels with buying a new home might be a catalyst for you to look at the server-buying process in a different light. You should consider your infrastructure an asset before you simply consider it a cost.