Sunday, September 05, 2010

Need for Server Management Support

by: Kathryn Dawson

Server management is one of the most important functions of any organisation that wishes to maintain a solid presence on the internet. However, these servers are used for much more than just web services. For example, they can also be supporting the back-office functions, running databases and a huge range of database applications, such as ecommerce and customer relationship management systems. Without careful management, these services could suffer from poor or insufficient administration, leading to deteriorating quality of data, out of date software, incomplete backups, poor security standards and so on. This could put a business at a range of risks, from their systems becoming slow and inefficient to full-blown outages due to the lack of disk space or even security breaches by hackers.

Server Management – A Common Scenario

Many companies believe that by creating special roles in their workforce for server management, they have everything covered. They couldn't be more wrong, as is apparent in this scenario of a manufacturing firm in Sussex. The company in question had been using a UNIX powered server for managing all its databases, including updating the daily shipping records. The role of server administrator was held by the person who originally designed the server. For several years he held this role, during which time the server showed no shortcomings. However, the employee stopped working there suddenly, leaving the company in a tight spot.

The server still ran for two months without any problems and everyone at the company breathed easy. One day, without any warning, the server crashed. Bewildered, the company immediately hired a server management firm. In their survey, the networking experts found that the server was completely outdated and had no data recovery policies in place. What this meant was that the manufacturing firm now found itself in a situation where it risked losing all crucial data like customer contacts and sales figures.

The one thing that this example brings to the fore is that even if your server is not currently causing a problem, it is not reason enough to ignore it. It is not a signal to relax. There are still very strong chances that it could be lacking in vital software updates (for example). In the case of the company above, the problem did not arise because of an individual's incompetency, but because of the lack of proper supervision.

Going Down the High Availability Path

The main advantage of carrying out regular server management is decreasing the risk of downtime (from one cause of another). Looking at this from another angle, state of the art systems can be used to provide High Availability. This makes use of technologies such as load balancing and content delivery networks to make sure that your web or offline services are available quickly and all the time.

Basic Server Management Steps:

1) Installing Typical Software: Well managed server hosting is possible with the application of specific software. These server administration tools help keep the server online and in case of a failure or a deterioration in services, alert the system administrator.

2) Upgrading the System: By updating the servers from time to time, server management vendors ensure that the website or server is always abreast of the latest additions in network technology.

3) Common Administrative Tasks Carried out by Skilled Professionals: This is the point where the server management vendors become almost indispensable. Their workforce boasts of employees with technical qualifications such as:

a) Microsoft Certified administrators for Windows Server troubleshooting

b) Cisco Certified technicians for networking

c) Linux Certified administrators for Linux/UNIX troubleshooting.

d) Experienced certified programmers and database architects.

By using a combination of people, process and technology, outsourced fully managed servers are almost guaranteed to meet all of an organisation's online or offline needs.

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