Microsoft allows up to 10 concurrent connections to files shared from a local PC. This means that a small office can consider using a single workstation as a file server. Here are is our breakdown of the benefits and limitations of such a setup.
Let’s begin by reviewing what a server does. Windows Server is a specific operating system that is installed on a standalone system and performs a number of operations in a small office network that a workstation cannot. These include:
- Central control over accounts, passwords and PCs. This allows users to logon to any PC, but also limits their access to the files within a single local profile. The server also will lock accounts that are under threat from a hacker.
- Implements policies on individual PCs which enhance the overall network security. This prevents user and malware damage to operating systems and files.
- Securing access to files shared from the server and individual PCs. By placing the files in a central location, users can access the data from any device and from any location.
- Servers are built to be more robust with features such as redundant power supplies and the ability to be accessed remotely even when completely offline, and a generally better class of equipment.
Workstation as a Server
One of the main reasons that this strategy is implemented by a small business is the cost effectiveness of being able to use a workstation both as an individual’s PC and as a file server. There is also some cost savings of a few hundred dollars in not having to purchase the Windows Server operating system.
When using a workstation, accounts and access are all controlled locally on each PC. This will typically be done by an office admin as needed. There is additional risk that files stored on a local PC will be accessable to other users. This strategy is more time-consuming because access is adjusted on each individual PC. Without group policies being managed from a server, individual PCs govern their own systems such as Windows updates. As a result, individual PCs are less secure against malware.
When a workstation is used as a file server, it is important to give this system to a key employee, as the files will be locally accessible. An additional risk is that the user is typically interacting with the Internet on a daily basis; this exposes the system to malware and virus threats. It is also important to note that work on the system will require the user to notify all other employees in advance, so that their access to files is not disrupted.