A file server is a computer system responsible for storing and managing files and folders so that other computers in the same network can easily access the files. A central file server is an excellent tool for users to share information through a company’s network without using physical storage mediums to transfer the files. The term “central file server” is often interchanged with file sharing, file repository, or collaboration folder.
Due to their ease of sharing data, file transfer servers can also be a target for malware attacks. It is important to ensure security and access controls for these servers to prevent potential data loss from cybercriminal activity.
File servers provide numerous benefits to organizations such as:
- They are a low-cost alternative to file storage and sharing
- They accommodate high capacity data volumes
- File transfer servers are easy to customize
- They are easily extendable, allowing for more file storage
- A central file server is easier to protect from malware attacks because admins can easily monitor file server activity
- Improves productivity due to more accessible access to work documents
- Reduces storage costs since all files store in a central repository
The following sections explore the pros and cons of a file server and file server alternatives.
What is a File Server?
File server systems are computer repositories or “network hard disks” accessible via a protocol. A file server simplifies file storage and sharing within a private network. The central file servers are responsible for storing and retrieving documents, audio files, images, videos, applications, and more.
Central file servers are generally compatible with all operating systems and enable easier collaboration among teams. Users can only store official files and not their documents. This control prevents unknown files from compromising the platform’s security.
How do File Servers Work?
The servers require hardware and software to implement their functionalities on a network. The function of the file server includes:
- Hardware – storage devices and a computer. Cloud storage is also applicable
- Operation System
- Filer server software
The purpose is to have reliable data storage using either physical hard disk drives or cloud storage. It is important to specify sufficient processing capacity and random access memory (RAM) to prevent server response latency when multiple users are logged in.
Server capacity depends on the number of users that will be accessing the file system. Therefore, the best practice is to work with a scalable file system that can easily accommodate mass onboarding and deployment without downtime.
How do servers and client computers communicate? Through local network protocols accessed through the internet. Encryption protects the file-sharing communication through Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or encrypted Secure Copy (SCP).
An important function of the file server is to create and maintain backup systems for a company’s files. File server backups provide a simple and affordable solution to protect a company’s assets. For more robust backup and disaster recovery situations, a dedicated solution should be implemented.
Low-cost cloud infrastructure storage has dramatically improved these server capacities. Before the cloud, servers were limited to physical storage devices, which had many more limitations. Companies now have a number of cloud file storage alternatives that provide scalable solutions offering unlimited storage, user capacity, and remote access.
Why Would I Need a File Server?
Are you still wondering if your business requires a file transfer server? After all, your operations have been running smoothly with no hiccups. Implementing a file stream server offers cost savings opportunities for your business. By automating file access, enables you to reduce direct and indirect costs. For example, suppose employees can access files, work tools, and applications from a remote file server. In that case, it offers the opportunity for employees to work remotely, enabling you to reduce office space. Migration to these servers or the cloud can save you office rental, utility, and maintenance costs.
Additionally, a file transfer server can provide a secure central repository to store files and backups. As a result, your IT admin can easily monitor system activity and quickly identify potential malware or unusual activity.
As your business scales, you need a solution that simplifies expansion and offers heightened security. For example, a file server centralizes storage, making it easier to deploy more capacity while controlling who gets access, preventing potential malware attacks.
As your business grows, a reliable, cost-effective centralized storage solution is a necessity to simplify file access, storage and file sharing for your staff.
Pros and Cons
A private file server has numerous benefits.
The pros of a file include:
- Simplified management of your company’s entire file database
- Convenient and straightforward file sharing
- Simplifies collaboration among teams without version merging conflicts
- Reduces the disk storage space in client computers because users can offload their files into a personal file sharing server
- Allows for thin clients to be deployed, reducing the cost of end-user PC’s or laptops.
- Equipped with remote access capabilities through Secure File Transfer Protocols SFTP and Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDav)
- Improves data security and protection and centralized visibility of all files and server activity
- File servers are a reliable alternative to individual hard drive backups
One of the primary challenges with the deployment of file servers is keeping on top of maintenance and security.
- File servers can be costly if not properly deployed and utilized
- Requires a level of technical expertise to manage and optimize the server
- Network bandwidth increases whenever multiple users log into the server at once. This increase puts more pressure on your network and may cost you more to increase capacity.
- If not correctly maintained, cybercriminals could compromise your file server and install ransomware or steal confidential company information
- Without proper file management systems, users fill your file server with duplicate files, leading to storage and document management issues
The comparison above gives you a high-level breakdown of what to prioritize when considering file server solutions.
File Server Alternatives
If you feel that setting up and managing an internal server for your files might be too complex or expensive for your business, we recommend outsourcing your file server hosting and management to a managed services partner such as CG Technologies that understands your needs and can work with you on a solution that is right-sized for your business.
There are other alternatives for these server solutions that you can implement yourself. They include:
1. Network Attached Storage (NAS) System
A NAS device is an external storage device accessible via an internet connection. NAS devices provide an affordable alternative to file servers without needing extensive maintenance and monitoring.
2. File Sharing Applications
Another great alternative to these servers is popular file-sharing software applications such as Google Workspace, DropBox, and Microsoft’s OneDrive. These applications synchronize your files to their cloud servers, making sharing files across distributed teams easier.
An additional benefit with such applications is that file changes automatically save to the system, and users can quickly restore older versions of the file they’re working on.
The only drawback with such services is that the business owner is the one who manages these platforms, which can be time-consuming. Another challenge is that uploaded files on a PC do not automatically delete themselves when uploaded to the file-sharing application.
This creates duplicates on your company devices and can lead to difficulty managing version control of the same documents stored in different places.
File servers are a great place to unify file sharing and management functions but need specialized skills to set up and manage. Engaging a managed service provider that can manage it helps you improve your file management systems to free up time and focus on growing your business.
If you ask yourself “do I need a server” or wonder about a file storage server, get in touch with CG Technologies to discuss your remote file access and remote file server needs.