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Tips for Successful Server Maintenance

Tips for Successful Server Maintenance

Servers are amazing things. They buzz along 24/7, usually without issue, but like any machine, they do require some maintenance. Few events bring a company together like a server outage. Email is the lifeblood of most organizations, and outages are no laughing matter. Simple monitoring and maintenance can often prevent a server failure from turning into a server disaster.

Server Maintenance Matters

Servers are amazing things. They buzz along 24/7, usually without issue, but like any machine, they do require some maintenance. Few events bring a company together like a server outage. Email is the lifeblood of most organizations, and outages are no laughing matter. Simple monitoring and maintenance can often prevent a server failure from turning into a server disaster.

Server Maintenance Matters

Server maintenance is the means of keeping the server updated and operating to ensure that the organization’s computer network is working properly. Your system administrator typically does this, and it is essential to the performance of the business. Without an IT service plan in place, the server software will not run as expected. In severe cases, the network can even experience partial or total failure leading to severe losses in your business.

The cloud has kept server outages to a minimum, but it certainly doesn’t stop them from occurring. And even if your company has moved portions of the infrastructure to the cloud, however, there's a chance you’re still running some servers on premise. There are few steps you can take to keep those servers running smoothly.

Keep your OS Updated

Keeping your Operating System (OS) updated seems obvious. A no-brainer. And yet all it takes is a threatening piece of malware like the WannaCry worm to stop all from working. This worm did most of its damage to unpatched Windows 7 computers, but the worm also attacked servers running Windows Server 2003. So how do we prevent a menacing a virus from attacking our software? Always validate that you are running a version of Windows that Microsoft supports with regular patch releases. Second, stay on top of patches to ensure your OS is up-to-date. At the time of the WannaCry worm, too many people had no idea that Microsoft had stopped support for users running Windows 7.

It's too easy to think since the server is running properly, let's just leave it alone. Turning off the Windows Update service is an action that could lead to disaster. Microsoft has released buggy patches in the past. You should always work towards keeping all your systems up-to-date. It may be years before you run into any issues but using unpatched servers will catch up to you. The newest versions of Windows does give users more control over how and when updates are applied.

Physically Clean Your Server

Larger servers generally have strong fans to keep air moving over and around critical CPU components. But the powerful airflow allows the fans to suck dirt and dust into the case. A few years ago, I visited a doctor's office to help upgrade the server. The doctor told me he never removed the server from a fancy glass enclosure he kept at the back of the office. The server ran all the patient management software and was randomly rebooting several times a day. I asked when the last time was that he cleaned the fan and filters. I knew that cleaning never happened when he simply looked back at me with a stunned face. When I removed the server from the case, I found his fans and filters full of gunk to the point the server was choking itself because of the heat inside.

Using compressed air to clean both desktop and rackmount server cases is common. Be careful when blasting compressed air through the fans that you don’t damage them. If your server case has filters, remove and clean them using a vacuum or brush. Newer cases may have filters that remove from the bottom or may have top and rear mounted filters.

Virtualization Helps Server Maintenance

Millions of dollars have gone into the research and design of heat dissipation and control in the data center. But the cold, hard fact is, all of those servers generate heat. Here's an idea. Use fewer servers by adopting Virtualization. Virtualize your servers, and you're using less physical hardware. Having less hardware and you generate less heat. Generate less heat in your data center, and a host of issues go away.

Virtualization is also causing customers to rethink their backup strategies. Not only can you do full backups of your virtual server, but you can also do backups and snapshots of your virtual machines. These virtual machines can be moved from one server to another and redeployed easier and faster. Snapshots can be taken throughout the day, ensuring much more up-to-date data. And because firing up a snapshot is even faster than booting a typical server, downtime is dramatically cut.

Keep in mind that not all servers can be virtualized; sometimes hardware, licensing, and performance prevent virtualizing.

Check Logs for Hardware Errors

Bad components can break a server if left unchecked. Hardware errors often show up after POST and after Windows has started all its services. Reviewing the system logs for hardware issues must be a part of your server maintenance strategy. You may find that updating a driver for GPU or RAID card fixes the issue. If the error persists, you’ll need to replace the component.

Verify Your Backups

So you have routine server backups scheduled and weekly, you are confirming the backup service is running properly. Are you sure the backups actually work? Verifying the integrity of your backups is often the most overlooked step of a server backup process. How do you do this? Randomly, you’ll want to run some test recoveries until you feel the process worked. Better to be safe than sorry.

If your backups are being outsourced to a cloud provider, make sure you know how they go about verifying backups. Understand such things as the backup location, schedule, and recovery times and document this information in your backup plan.

Conclusion

Many factors help to keep your servers running smoothly and with as little drama as possible. Be sure to use tested and trusted solutions when your reputation is on the line. Companies such as ours offer backup solutions that work with all types of servers, including products for virtualized environments. Remember, prevent a server disaster by having a maintenance plan and take the time to do the simple tasks.


Peak I.T.

A Division of Valley Office Solutions

Peak I.T. offers a wide range of technology, network, and information backup services, including FileMax Data Back-Up Systems, network maintenance and installation packages, hardware monitoring, and more.

Peak I.T.

8534 South Ave.
Youngstown, OH 44514

Phone: 330.259.3454
Toll-Free: 866.444.7144

Fax: 330.726.2810

Valley Office Solutions

8534 South Ave.
Youngstown, OH 44514

Phone: 330.729.1000
Toll-Free: 800.686.1163

Fax: 330.726.2810

Tips for Successful Server Maintenance

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