Why do I need a dedicated server?
The dental market can be a strange place when it comes to IT. I have come across networks built by professionals, and networks built by a friend down the road, and even the principal dentist. Some practices use generic home built computers, others branded hardware. But one of the consistent differences between well-built and poorly built networks is the presence or not, of a dedicated server.
There are 2 types of Windows network builds, and these are called:
2. Peer to peer
A peer to peer network is one that uses only Windows 10 machines on every computer; one machine is designated as the "server" but really it is just another PC on the network that happens to hold the application data and all your files.
A client/server network has a dedicated server computer which has a specifically higher specification making it appropriate for a server role, but is also running the Microsoft Windows Server operating system.
There are many operational differences between these 2 networks, but the main benefits of the client/server model are:
Let's cover these in more detail:
A workstation acting as a server will not have the commercial grade security features required on a Windows network. Chances are, everyone is logging onto the machine with administrator privileges, which puts any data on the machine at risk, and increases the chances of the PC being hacked or getting a virus infection. It becomes harder if not impossible to have different permissions levels for different members of staff. And your practice management and x-ray data is much more vulnerable to loss if it isn't on a dedicated server. Your backups may or may not be reliable on a shared workstation, further risking data loss.
A dedicated server is far more reliable than a workstation. Proper servers are built for high availability, 24x7x365. The components are tougher and typically have built in redundancy or error checking. Everything from the power supplies, the disks, the RAM, are all of a different standard to a desktop PC.
A workstation is designed to get data from the network or the Internet, not to host data and serve it out. The components and build of a proper server are designed to serve files rapidly to multiple machines at the same time, promptly and efficiently. You will never get the right level of performance from a workstation acting as a server.
© Liam McNaughton, Dental IT ltd August 2021
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