Server Management and its Best Practices

IT plays a significant role in the efficient functioning of businesses in today’s world, where businesses exist and operate on a global scale.  Hence, for the optimum performance of a company’s IT resources it becomes vital to manage these resources properly. One such important IT component that is used extensively is a server.  A sever is essentially either a software or a hardware device that accepts requests, which are made over a network and responds to those requests. “Client” is the term that is used for the device, which generates these requests and receives the server’s response. A server (hardware or software) provides functionality to clients (devices or programs) by utilizing the client-server model. Servers are of many types and provide various functionalities, which are referred to as services. The main types of servers are mail servers, database servers, print servers, file servers, proxy servers, application servers, game servers, web servers etc.

In the context of web servers, these are used by web hosting companies for the purpose of storing the files of websites. Websites become accessible when these files are delivered over the Internet. All the technologies and the services that are needed to keep websites up and running, are provided by web hosting service providers through the service of web hosting. The most well-known web hosting c” ompanies are usually referred to with terms such as the “Best Website Hosting Company, the “Best Cloud Hosting Company”, the “Best Windows Hosting Company” etc.

In a corporate environment, a server is usually stored in a glass house or a closet, along with other network equipment. It helps to isolate these sensitive IT resources from such people who are not supposed to have access to these. Servers which are not hosted on-site and are remote, exist in a data center. Many businesses have migrated to cloud services, wherein servers that are located in huge and distant data centers are used, but there are numerous companies which still utilize in-house servers or rely on a hybrid environment that consists of in-house and cloud servers.

Servers are typically always on and working because these provide such services which are needed constantly. Businesses rely on their server infrastructure for many functions. These include but are not limited to data storage, hosting websites, applications, emails etc. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that servers nail fail and work uninterruptedly, which is taken care of by server management.

Server Management

Server management is a process which involves monitoring servers and maintaining them properly to ensure that servers always deliver peak performance. The management of software, hardware, security as well as backups is included in server management. Server management provides access to servers for carrying out various maintenance and administrative operations. An effective server management process aims at minimizing and eliminating server downtime and slowdowns, creating server environments that are secure and ensuring that servers meets the evolving requirements of the businesses that these cater to.

Some of the recurring tasks with regard to server management include accessing the server, installing updates, setting up new and/or required software, add-ons etc., monitoring the server, ensuring optimization capabilities, forecasting server utilization through capacity planning and issuing alerts.

For carrying out server management the first step involves having unhindered access to the server that has to be managed. This access is needed by a tool or a service or software that is meant for conducting server management. The most basic function in server management has to do with the installment of software or firmware updates and setting up of new and essential software, add-ons and/or functionality. Servers need to be monitored constantly for the detection of any anomaly as well as for gauging their performance and status. Certain tools and services for server management provide capabilities with regard to optimization for ensuring an improvement in the efficiency of the overall operation of servers. An advanced task of server management is capacity planning. In it, a server’s utilization’s forecast is provided, which enables administrators to plan in advance with regard to additional resources’ requirements. Server management also offers the advantage of issuing alerts to the administrators through messaging systems (emails, SMS etc.) regarding various errors and reportable incidents.

The Main Features of Server Management Tools

Server management tools differ from each other in many ways but there are certain key features that need to be present in every efficient server management tool. These features include providing adequate coverage along with an intuitive user interface, the ability to generate alerts and ensuring the availability of professional support.

It needs to be ascertained that the server management tool which is being considered is capable of providing proper coverage to each and every type of server and application that is being used. Such a server management tool should be used which has an intuitive user interface along with visualization capabilities for rendering the management of complex functionality easy. Another key feature of any effective server management tool is the ability to generate alerts. The tool should be able to set thresholds and issue alerts. Since server management is a complex task, it is essential to have one’s vendor’s professional support available at all times to ensure the success of server management.

Server Management’s Best Practices

The best practices with regard to server management include reviewing event logs, archiving logs, monitoring performance along with software and hardware, enabling disaster recovery, carrying out disk defragmentation, ensuring adequate levels of antivirus and malware protection and asset management. An effective server management plan must include these best practices.

Event logs need to be reviewed regularly. The systems, applications as well as the security logs need to be checked for error and warning messages that have to do with unauthorized access, service startup, application etc. A centralized infrastructure should be set up for collecting the information of multiple servers, when more than a single server is being managed. Logs that are stored on the servers must be archived for future reference. Security-related logs should be archived based on the company’s security policy. Moreover, certain logs need to be retained as per law.

Following measures to ensure disaster recovery is extremely important. Backups need to be carried out regularly for each server for this purpose. Keeping backups of critical data is essential. Routine restores need to be carried out for ensuring the validity of backups. An ideal backup strategy needs to be followed, wherein backups are maintained on and off site.

It is essential to monitor regularly system performance along with the performance of hardware and software. Monitoring should be started post establishing a performance baseline, and statistics with regard to the performance of server, hardware and software should be collected and reviewed regularly. This aids in determining how well the server and the associated hardware and software are functioning. It also aids in predicting the possibility of a server crossing certain thresholds. Moreover, any hardware failure (fans, hard drives and any other component) will impair the server. Hence, hardware monitoring is essential. Network availability, services, scheduled tasks etc. should also be monitored.

Another best practice is to defrag a server’s hard drives regularly. This is especially needed for file servers. Fragmentation leads to degradation of the performance of hard drive. Hence, defragmentation, which is a process that decreases fragmentation, needs to performed regularly.

The antivirus and malware protection software should be regularly updated. A central management server should be used to manage this type of an environment easily. In it, the agents report to a central data store. Additionally, routine scans of hard drives should be carried out. It is important to be aware of one’s vendor’s schedule with regard to the public distribution of patches, service packs and hot-fixes. The available patches should be thoroughly tested prior to distributing these to all the servers. Another important best practice involves always assigning and using strong and complex passwords. Asset management is an integral part of server management. Servers need to be managed from the time these are procured to the end of their life cycle. In the absence of relevant software, a manually maintained spreadsheet should be used, which contains information about warranty, hardware serial numbers, location of the server etc.

These are some of the main best practices that need to be followed for ensuring efficient server management and maintaining an optimal performance of servers throughout their life cycle.

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