5 Best Affordable Servers for Small Businesses

obrBy Joseph Gildred — Last Updated: 23 Nov'17 2017-11-22T08:42:59+00:00

The cloud is supposed to be about convenience. But if you’re trying to access files quickly, remote data storage often disappoints. For file copying speed, even the best online backup options can’t outpace a good local backup solution.

For businesses, that means faster disaster recovery, faster collaborations and fewer headaches. Forget about single-disk external drives, too. Local storage options today are both powerful and reasonably inexpensive, making it a perfect time to implement a more advanced hybrid backup strategy for your business.

During this overview, we’ll be noting some of the best servers for business with an with an eye towards affordability.  Our top options include the Lenovo ThinkServer TS140 and the Dell PowerEdge T30. Beyond that, unless you’re ready to spend bigger, we recommend going the NAS server route, and our final three picks reflect that recommendation. 

Check pricing for the Lenovo ThinkServer on Amazon 

What Makes a Server the Best for a Small Business?

Finding an inexpensive server these days isn’t hard. Finding an inexpensive server that’s actually good is little trickier. The market is forever in flux and opinions vary wildly, but the five best server options listed below will all work nicely toward evolving your business’s backup plan.

There are a few criteria we looked for when making our picks. One of the most important is at least four hard-drive bays. The reason we encourage four bays is that’s how many you need to setup RAID 5 and maintain decent storage capacity. RAID 5 both stripes data across multiple drives for performance and keeps parity data so that if one drive fails, you don’t lose anything.

We also favor servers that support SSDs (solid-state drives). SSDs have fewer moving parts than traditional mechanical hard drives (HDDs). They’re both considerably faster and less prone to breaking. Granted, SSDs are also considerably more expensive, too, so you many want to stick to HHDs and upgrade later if needed. Some servers let you run both SSDs and HDDs simultaneously, so you can use an SSD for your OS and HDDs for other files.

As far as CPUs, most low-cost options use the same processors you’ll find in laptops. Better, faster options uses high-performance processors designed for multi-threaded capabilities and reliability (like an Intel Xeon). We considered CPU and allotted RAM, too. Both will dictate how many simultaneous users you can have accessing your backup and drive other performance metrics.

The Difference Between File Servers and NAS Devices

Traditional file servers and NAS devices share many features. Most notably, both let business users on a network backup, store, share, edit and otherwise work with files. Usually, the biggest difference between servers and NAS devices is power, with servers having more of it thanks to more advanced hardware. Lower cost servers, however, and NAS devices are usually pretty comparable in that regard, which is why we include NAS devices in this article.

Servers can also be used to run applications used by your office, including databases and email. NAS, not so much. In fact, servers are more configurable in general. They usually don’t even come preinstalled with an OS. That way, you can go with Windows Server, Linux Server or whatever other server OS you favor.

On the other hand, most NAS devices come pre-configured with proprietary OS software. While less flexible, there’s definitely a speed advantage here. NAS devices can be set up and backing up files in a few minutes. Servers will take both more upfront work and more consistent monitoring.

Ultimately, going with one or the other will depend on the needs of your business. Whichever you go with though, don’t dismiss the notion of also backing up your data to the cloud.

Server Backup to the Cloud

Here at Cloudwards.net, we tend favor a hybrid backup approach when it comes to storing business data. That’s to say, we suggest storing data both locally and in the cloud.  While servers are pretty convenient when it comes to speed, only storing data locally can lead to some big problems for your business. It’s because of this that most online backup experts endorse the 3-2-1 rule, or some variation of it.

The basics of 3-2-1 are pretty simple: It’s always best to keep three copies of your data on at least two mediums, with one of those mediums offsite.

The reason offsite copies of your business files are recommend is that fires, floods, viruses, accidents and other such problems are hard to guard against. Unless you’re building your own climate-controlled, secure offsite data center to host your server, keeping everything on a server without a fallback plan means putting your business at risk.

Online backup is slow, but it also provides a level of data redundancy and security that’s hard to beat with an onsite server. Thanks to plenty of competition, you’ll find some pretty good prices on online backup, too.

The top options you can read bout in our IDrive for Business review and CloudBerry Backup review. We have an article on the best server backup to help guide the way. Many of the same options can also be used to backup NAS devices. Or, you can check out another article we’ve penned dedicated specifically to finding the best online backup for NAS.

Five Best Affordable Servers for Small Businesses

Servers:Server Type:Approximate Price:
Lenovo ThinkServer TS140NAS$750
Dell PowerEdge T30NAS$600
NetGear ReadyNAS 424NAS$550
Synology DiskStation DS916NAS$650
QNAP TS-453ANAS$1600

Lenovo ThinkServer TS140

Our first pick is a popular one: the ThinkServer TS140. Lenovo’s tower server is inexpensive and upgradeable, meaning it can grow along with your business.The TS140 comes with four empty 3.5” bays, which means it can support RAID 0, 1 and 5. You can mix and match SSDs and HDDs, too, if you want to cut costs by only using an SSD for your server OS.

Base configurations are pretty minimal: dual Intel Core i3-4130 3.40GHz processors and 4GB DDR3 memory. However, you can opt for a higher-end model running with an Intel Xeon and 32GB of RAM if you’re don’t mind spending more. Or, you can upgrade later.  

Four PCIe slots open up additional expansion and upgrade options, including swapping your hard-interface from SATA to SAS, should that become a need. The TS140 already has an Intel HD Graphics 4400 card and a DVD-R optical drive. 


Model:TS140:TS140 (Intel Xeon):
Approximate Price:$500$750
Bays:FourFour
Processor:Core i3-4130Intel Xeon
RAM:4GB DDR34GB DDR3

Another advantage in buying the TS140 is that it’s whisper quiet at just 26 decibels, so won’t disturb your while you work. If you ever decide to move onto a different server, you can also repurpose your TS140 into a pretty nice gaming rig. Granted, that might disrupt your work some.

Now, let’s move onto the main event and take a look at the top five servers that are suitable for small businesses. The below list is not extensive; however, it contains my favorite server picks, considering the combination of features and low prices on offer here.

Dell PowerEdge T30

LIke the TS140, Dell’s entry-level server comes in a tower case with room for upgrades. However, it’s base configuration also packs a bit more punch than our previous entry, seeing as it comes standard with a Intel Xeon 3.3GHz Quad Core processors and 8GB of RAM.

There’s also a pretty affordable 16GB version.

The T30 comes with a 1TB hard drive, but has space for up to four 3.5” HDDs or six 2.5” ones. That means you can support up to RAID 5 if that’s a business need. Four PCIe slots and six USB 3.0 ports will come in useful for expansions.


ModelT30:T30 (16GB RAM):
Approximate Price$450$600
Bays:FourFour
Processor:Intel XeonIntel Xeon
RAM:8GB16GB

The unit is also compact and quiet, so should fit in the corner of your office nicely (just not by the water cooler). While not as popular as the TS140, the T30 certainly has better specs, minus the fact that it doesn’t come equipped with an optical drive or graphic card.

Synology DiskStation DS916

The Synology DiskStation DS916 is our top recommendation for SMBs looking for a NAS device. It’s a bit pricey and if you’re looking to save, the DS216 is quite a bit less, but also only has two drives to the DS916’s four.

That means the DS216 isn’t capable of RAID 5. The DS916 is and you can even scale it up to nine drives with Synology’s five-bay expansion unit, the DX513. Doing so would increase your storage capacity to 72TB.

The base model comes with 2GB of DDR3 RAM, which you might want to upgrade. The quad-core, Intel Pentium N3710 processor should be plenty powerful enough, though. While you can store and stream HD movies if you want, there’s no question the DS916 is built with information technology needs in mind. A maximum of 200 users can use the DS916 at a time — a testament to the power of its hardware.

Synology also uses an AES-NI hardware encryption engine to keep your files secure. The ability to read encrypted files at speeds of over 225 MBps and write them at over 209 MBps is another compelling reason why it might be beneficial to your business to keep files locally in addition to in the cloud.


Model:DS216:DS916:
Approximate Price:$350$550
Bays:TwoFour
Bays:Intel Celeron N3060Intel Pentium N3710
RAM:1GB2GB

Finally, Synology packages its NAS devices with some great apps that will appeal to business users. That includes mobile apps to connect to your NAS while on the move and a surveillance station app if you want to wire your office with IP cameras for that friendly, big brother feel.

NetGear ReadyNAS 424

While we’d recommend the four-bay version of the NetGear ReadyNAS 420 series, as with the Synology DiskStation, there’s also a two-bay version if you don’t mind decreased capacity and data redundancy. Alternatively, you can can also pick up six-bay and eight-bay versions for a reasonable cost.

For those looking for a little more power, there’s also a 520 and 620 series. The 420 series uses an Intel Atom dual core processor to keep things moving. The 520 and 620 series both use the Intel Xeon. Both higher-end models also support virtualization, which the 420 doesn’t.

The ReadyNAS has some nice applications that make it a quick addition to your SMB network. That includes ReadyCLOUD to quickly set things up and remote management and monitoring apps.


Model:422:424426:428
Approximate Price:$300$400$550$650
Bays:TwoFourSixEight
Processor:Intel Atom Dual Core Intel Atom Dual Core Intel Atom Quad CoreIntel Atom Quad Core
RAM:2GB2GB4GB4GB

It can also automatically backup to several cloud storage options, including Amazon AWS, Google Drive and Dropbox if you’re looking to implement hybrid backup and don’t want to use a service like CloudBerry Backup. According to the specs, the ReadyNAS 424 can only support up to 40 concurrent users. However, that should be enough for most SMBs. 

QNAP TS-453A

QNAP makes some of the most popular NAS devices for both home and business users — and makes a lot of them. For professionals, the QNAP TS-453A is our top pick, but there are a few different directions you could go in, including the higher-performance QNAP TVS-671.

The TS-453A runs an Intel Celeron N3150 Quad Core 1.6GHz processor and comes standard with 4GB of DDR3L RAM, which you can bump to 8GB.

This NAS also supports server virtualization, including VMWare and Hyper-V. According to QNAP it runs faster than our Synology recommendation, with speeds up to 412 Mbps even running AES-NI encryption. Dual HDMI outputs let you expand or mirror your storage locally.


Model:TS-253A:TS-453A:TVS-671:
Approximate Price$450$550$1600
Bays:TwoFourSix
Processor:Intel Celeron N3150 Quad CoreIntel Celeron N3150 Quad CoreIntel i5 Quad Core
RAM:4GB4GB8GB

Best of all, if you’re looking to after-work karaoke parties for your business associates, the TS-453A is your machine thanks to QNAP’s Ocean KTV app.  In fact, it’s all around great media server, making it an ideal addition to your home theater setup, too.

Honorable Mentions

We passed on a lot of great server and NAS options in putting together this list. Some of the best include: Buffalo TeraStation (NAS), Supermicro Workstation (server) and HP Proreliant Microserver (server).

Final Thoughts

Finding a server for your business today is both easier and harder than ever. While there are many cheap options on the market, finding one that isn’t going to be more trouble than it’s worth can take some work.

For SMB owners looking for a quick solution for file backup and collaboration, there’s no reason not to consider a NAS device like the Synology DiskStation, Netgear ReadyNAS or one of the many great QNAP options. Advanced business users looking to use Windows Server or Linux Server are going to need a more traditional solution.

For affordable choices that don’t skimp on power, Lenovo ThinkServer and Dell PowerEdge are the two brands you’ll want to look at.

Even if you opt for upgrades,  any of the server options listed above should cost under $800 and in most cases under $500. Just be sure and make sure you backup your server to the cloud, too. The best approach to disaster recovery is a hybrid strategy, an approach supported by many of the best online backup for business services now available.

Thanks for reading, and please post your questions and comments below.

7 thoughts on “5 Best Affordable Servers for Small Businesses”

  1. Why don’t You add IBM servers? Some can be used how home server. And they have server computers for an affordable price.

  2. Hi Rafel,

    That’s basically because they’re as little out of the range, in both price and power, for most SMBs.

  3. I sublet office space and don’t have access to the router – only access to the wireless. I need a file sharing solution for maybe 3-7 people (digital assets – videos / photos / proposals, etc.).

    Since we don’t have access to the router – what solutions are there for this situation?

  4. We are looking to run intuit’s QB enterprise solutions and their hosting is around 400.00 per month for 7 users. This is the only application our offices need to share on the web. Is the TVS-671 a good option for us. How would you recommend we set this up? We have two locations at the moment but are looking for expansion capabilities.

  5. We are a four person Office – 2 tax preparers, one bookkeeper, one receptionist. Only the three of us preparer and bookkeeper have a PC connected to the network which is on a server. Currently we are running our office at major risk which due to confidentiality we need something done ASAP. We have an archaic server on its last frayed thread – it’s 17yrs old and a gazillion bandaids to keep it working cuz we can’t trust that we are getting a correct quote and our IT guy keeps saying he fixed in a round about way. Honestly it doesn’t sit well with us and his reply is well you can’t affird a hybrid cloud/server of $20k for replacement. We talked to two other IT companies and have quoted $2k all the way to $80k. It’s so extreme!!! We have a Tax and accounting practice. We prepare tax returns using Lacerte and bookkeeping using QB online and QB desktop versions as not all our clients use the online QB. We save 3-7 years of data with the three most current on our server and the previous 4 years backed up at an offsite location – our IT guys house, don’t understand how that is. Anyway, We want to hold our own offsite server at our house (home office). At our business Office, we want to use the cloud for files and email, then the server for our programs and data that cannot be put into the cloud. Not sure if I’m saying that right. Now I don’t understand all the compatibilities and ram and GB stuff but I do know that we have to have a network so that we can share info in real time, I also know that we want the cloud for files and email so that when we work from home we can access files; and we need a server for our Tax and bookkeeping programs because you can’t download the software to the cloud for the Tax software and the desktop versions of QB. We have about 650 clients. What do u recommend for hybrid? why are we quoted a price from one extreme to the other? Your assistance is appreciated as no one’s able to answer our question. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenna, thanks for commenting.

      Its difficult to quote pricing without knowing how much data needs to be backed up, but $20k certainly seems like too much! $2k seems reasonable to me. I would recommend one of the servers mentioned above, along with Cloudberry Backup, which can perform hybrid backup and is really easy to use. With Cloudberry, you’ll need to purchase cloud server space separately, but Cloudberry also works with over 50 different services, so you’ll have many options to choose from. Amazon S3 is a popular pairing with Cloudberry for hot storage (meaning, for files you need to access often), and you can save money on files you don’t need regular access to by archiving them to Amazon Glacier. Backblaze B2 and Wasabi are two other solutions. Both are much cheaper than S3, but they don’t have the same global server network. B2 costs around $0.005 per gigabyte and Wasabi is $0.004. So with Wasabi, for example, it would cost you just $4 per month to store 1TB of data in the cloud. We have a Wasabi review coming out this week, I think.

      I realize that’s quite a bit to take in. Here’s a primer on how to setup hybrid backup that might help: https://www.cloudwards.net/how-to-set-up-hybrid-backup-for-smbs/

      Good luck!

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