June 2, 2014
If you know how to maintain your server, with just a little time, you can get the most performance for your investment and significantly extend it’s life. Servers can be maintained easily to reduce server outages.
How Servers Work
A server is a standalone computer that provides data and other services to one or several other computers on a given network. The main benefit to a server is that it allows centralized management and monitoring of network access and network data, and servers can have power, hard drive and processor redundancies that are typically not available in a PC.
Types of Servers – a few common examples
A central storage for files, which can be accessed by client computers
A server that responds to security authentication requests (logging in, checking permissions, etc.) within the network. A domain is a concept where a user may be granted access to a number of files, folders, network locations with the use of a single username and password combination and can prevent certain users from accessing other private files.
Remote Desktop (Terminal) Server
A Remote Desktop Server (or Terminal Server) provides secure remote access to office and line of business applications to employees or contractors from one centralized server, instead of having each client computer running software. This makes deploying software and adding more employees very scalable and cost-effective.
Stores and shares websites over the Internet; many individuals and small companies rent web server space from other companies, but for large companies that experience a lot of traffic, a dedicated web server makes sense.
How to Maintain your Server
Some people may be intimidated at the thought of maintaining a server. In reality, maintaining a server is much like maintaining a PC. For those who want to automate this function, be alerted to issues, and get regular reports, you can outsource it to a trusted Managed IT company. Read What are Managed IT Services? to find out more or here’s the list to do it yourself.
1. Verify your backups are working. Before making any changes to your active server, be sure that your backups are working. You may even want to run some test recoveries if you are going to delete data. Don’t forget to try a restore of an old version of a file in case you overwrote one accidentally. While focused on backups, you may want to make sure you have a good backup and recovery solution.
2. Check disk usage. Don’t use your active server as an archive solution. Delete old logs, emails, and software versions no longer need. Keeping your system free of old software and data & limits security risks. So, it’s best to regularly scan the server and remove old files and old version of your software. A smaller data footprint could mean faster recovery depending on your backup and recovery solution. If your usage is exceeding 90% of disk capacity, either reduce usage or add more storage. As your server reaches 100%, it will stop your entire operation, computers freeze, database tables can get corrupt and data can be lost.
3. Check RAID Alarms. If you are using RAID (and you should be), check that your RAID’s error notification system is configured properly and works as expected. Most RAID levels tolerate only a single disk failure. If you miss a RAID notification, not replacing a failed disk quickly could turn into a complete server crash. For those who want to be proactive, RMM (remote monitoring & management) services offer email or text alerts and automatic issue resolution if the server experiences unusual activity, and can address many of the items on this list.
4. Update your OS. Updates for Linux systems are released almost daily, and weekly for Windows. Many of these fix important security issues. At Boost IT, we update systems daily (sometimes even more often). If you do not have a management service or auto-updates enabled, be sure to review your OS for any critical security updates. Get on the mailing list for your OS so you know when critical security patches are released.
5. Clean your server. Use compressed air to remove dust and debris from inside the server once a quarter. Don’t touch any of the components inside but make sure that all dust has been blown out. Also, make sure the server is stored in a well ventilated and cooled area. Servers can run hot, especially during peak periods.
6. Check application updates. Most security issues we investigate are due to outdated web applications, such as Java and Flash Player. After you have updated your OS, be sure to review the installed web applications and update them as well.
7. Check for hardware errors. You may want to review the logs for any signs of hardware problems. Overheating notices, disk read errors, network failures, data not replicating properly, could be early indicators of potential hardware failure. Hardware errors are rare but important since they are indicators of issues that will be very costly if not addressed.
8. Check server utilization. Review your server’s disk, CPU, RAM and network utilization. If you are nearing limits, you may need to do hardware upgrades to your server or migrate to a new one. The longer you wait, the more time consuming the migration to a new one will be.
9. Review user accounts. If you have had staff changes, client cancellations or other user changes, you will want to remove these users from your system. Storing old sites and users is both a security and legal risk. Also, change passwords for accounts that may have been given out to contractors.
10. Check system security. Make sure that you run security tools on your server at least quarterly or monthly monitor it to ensure it’s secure. Be careful which ones you download and make sure they are from a reputable company. Regular security checks in combination with our active security management service serve as a check on system configuration, OS updates and other potential security risks. I suggest this at least 4 times a year if you go it alone and but preferably monthly.
By following these 10 steps on how to maintain your server, the server’s life will be extended by many months and even years. Contact us if you need more information or specifics on the tools available. RMM tools change regularly so the best tools to use can vary depending on timing and your needs.