Server Management Basics for 2019 What Is Server Management? The Components of Managing a Server What Tools Help With Server Management?
Server Management Basics for 2019
Enterprises rely on servers for most of their IT functions—file storage, web hosting, email, and applications. At this point, many businesses have shifted to cloud services, using servers in massive, faraway data centers, but a significant number continue to maintain in-house servers or use a hybrid environment. To avoid downtime, security breaches, and inefficiencies, organizations that run servers must ensure they are managed effectively.
Managing a server means staying on top of hardware, software, security, and backups. In this overview, we’ll explore what it means to effectively manage servers today.
What Is Server Management?
Server management is the process of monitoring and maintaining servers, so they operate at peak performance. It encompasses the management of hardware, software, security, and backups. The goals of server management are to minimize—and hopefully eliminate—slowdowns and downtime, build a secure environment, and assure that servers continue to meet an organization’s requirements as it evolves. Anyone who manages servers needs to be familiar with a wide range of IT topics and have the right software tools at their disposal.
It’s worth noting that virtualization is a major trend in today’s server environment. Where a traditional physical server is a single server running on a single machine, a virtual server allows multiple servers on one piece of hardware. Virtual servers—also known as virtual machines—increase efficiency by enabling more to be done with less hardware. They can be more complex to manage than physical servers, but the same management principles apply to both.
The Components of Managing a Server
Server management basics include hardware management, software management, security, and backups. There are a few types of server monitoring tools in the marketplace that facilitate server management. The following are some elements of server management that your IT strategy or software solution should address:
- Central Processing Unit (CPU): The CPU is a server’s brain, performing all the calculations that make programs run. CPUs should be constantly monitored to avoid overuse. If a CPU is running close to 100% utilization for an extended time, it’s overtaxed. There’s no excess capacity for users to perform additional tasks, which risks everything slowing to a crawl. To deal with an overused CPU, you’ll likely need to upgrade the chip, add CPUs, or halt unnecessary programs that are gobbling up system resources. A more complex option is tuning the performance of other system elements to put less stress on the CPU.
- Random Access Memory (RAM): RAM is a server’s working memory. It’s a form of temporary storage that runs much faster than permanent hard disks. Programs running from RAM will perform better given this speed advantage. The more RAM your server has, the better its performance. Server managers should keep an eye on RAM usage and consider adding more when it nears capacity.
- Hard Drive: The hard drive (or hard disk) is a server’s permanent storage. This is where programs and data are saved even when the machine is shut down. Performance can degrade when a hard drive nears maximum capacity. Server managers need to keep track of hard drive storage space, adding new drives or deleting superfluous data when they fill up (or deciding to invest in a cloud storage solution).
- CPU Fans: Cooling fans are a critical component of a physical server. They draw in cool outside air and expel hot air warmed by the CPU. If a fan fails, the server can overheat, causing permanent damage. Make sure to monitor fan speeds to avoid temperature spikes.
- CPU Temperature: Servers generate a great deal of heat. Fortunately, they come with thermometers to gauge whether the temperature is in the normal range. If the CPU temperature gets too high, shut down the server immediately and assess the problem.
- Operating Environment: Server managers should also to pay attention to their hardware’s operating environment. A server room must be kept at the proper temperature and humidity—with air flows maintained—for peak performance and reliability.
When choosing server hardware, carefully consider the specifications you’ll need. It’s best to build in some excess storage and processing capacity so the server has room to grow with the business. However, choosing components that are far beyond your current requirements will result in wasteful expenditures and energy usage.
Just like hardware, software needs monitoring and regular maintenance. Make sure you understand dependencies within your infrastructure so you can better locate and tune performance issues. And remember to use basic best practices with applications—existing software, firmware, and operating systems should be regularly updated for both performance and security, as poor performance can drag down other parts of the system. Some server monitoring systems track these updates, so you don’t forget to install them in a timely manner. It’s also good practice to uninstall old software that’s no longer used.
Server managers are responsible for maintaining a secure network. Antivirus software must be installed and kept up to date. Put firewalls in place to keep out unauthorized traffic. Use a password policy or access control software that only allows secure passwords and requires users to regularly change them. Be sure to encrypt sensitive data storage and external network connections.
A server manager’s final responsibility is regular backups. Losing important data can be a disaster for an enterprise. Fortunately, there are several robust backup solutions in the marketplace, including cloud and hard drive options. The server’s power supply should have a backup as well, so data isn’t lost during a power outage. Note that tools exist to let you quickly perform backups and recoveries, and easily monitor backup status to avoid data loss.
What Tools Help With Server Management?
Businesses that have servers need to choose whether to manage them internally or contract with an external server management company. If your enterprise has sufficient personnel, managing your own servers has the advantage of providing total control. Of course, it’s crucial that team members who manage servers have the right software tools at their disposal. Server management tools exist for system administrators, who rely on features like automated reports and preemptive alerts to stay on top of server health. Some tools simply track performance, while others have more sophisticated abilities that streamline workflow and even allow for a more proactive approach.
For your business, look for server monitoring software that monitors the operating system and IT architecture you have in place, including the cloud. Does the platform monitor across applications, systems, and any XaaS services you already have in place or plan to use? Does the system allow you to discover root causes of server issues, with built-in analytic capabilities? There’s a lot to stay on top of, but fortunately, server management software has come a long way and some solutions on the market today can do all this in a single package.