Your IT Department

Here’s Why and What You Can Do About it.

There are some inevitabilities in life. Death and tax are two. We’ll add IT hardware failure to that list. Because we don’t wish to scare you but your server is going to fail. It is not an ‘if’ it is a ‘when’ and in this article we explain why this is and what you can do to make it less of a disaster.

The reasons servers fail

The expected lifespan of a server is around 5 years. There is a reason that warranties run between 3-5 years, it’s because manufacturers are well aware something is likely to go wrong after that length of time. A lot, and we mean a lot, of people are running much older servers and are shocked when they fail. So the number one reason a server fails is because it is old. The actual failure might be a specific component. You could replace the component, but the underlying problem is that ALL of the components are old. So something else will fail soon.

One of the most common component failures is disk failure. Hard drives average life span is around 4 years, however mechanical drives (still the most common type in servers as they are cheap and provide high capacity) are made up of lots of moving parts. They can fail at any time. Some fail within weeks of installation, most last for years. If you happen to get a bad one, you want to make sure it isn’t the only place you have your data stored.

Virus attacks are another common reason for server failure. Far more common than you think. Cybercrime is that thing that happens to someone else, until it happens to you – and then it’s too late.

Software updates are another problem. Manufacturers design their software to run on the latest versions of the Server Operating systems. If you’ve not got the latest version your software won’t run. You then need to upgrade to the latest version of the server operating system. But if your server is old, this might mean the new server OS won’t install on it. Basically then it’s new server time.

Server Operating Systems have also been known to break servers. You might be able to ‘roll-back’ to a previous version but you’re going to come up with the software problem described above.

There are a lot of other reasons why your server might fail. Overheating is a common one, natural disaster (fire, flood etc.) thankfully less common.

My Server is Going to Fail, What Can I do?

So for one of the reasons we’ve listed above your server is going to fail, but what can you do about?

First, and most important, find out how old your server is. I’d bet the majority of people don’t know the age of the equipment they have, let alone whether it’s still under warranty. Whatever the age start planning for it’s replacement. Whether that’s 4 years in the future, or it’s already 7 years old and creaking. This may be a case of just looking for quotes for a new server, with installation and data transfer. However, it might be an opportunity to look at alternatives to on-premises solutions. The cloud is not the answer for everyone. There are many reasons why you might need a server on site but you should consider all the options.

Look for the signs there is a problem. Overheating is a cause of failure, increasing temperature is a sign that something is wrong. If the server starts rebooting itself, or you are noticing slowness or regular crashes these are symptoms. The temptation (and mistake) is to treat the symptom not look for the cause. If your employees are reporting that their computers are running slowly then the individual machines might not be the problem.

Check everything is up to date. Generally speaking you should be using the latest patch, on the latest version of the Operating System.

Undertake maintenance. Run the tools that are included in your Server OS, disk check being a primary one. Look for disks that are getting close to full and delete anything that’s not needed or add more storage. You should be looking to keep disk usage under 90%.

Finally check those backups. We’ve written a whole other article on this – you know your server is going to fail so ensure that when it does you have copies of data to restore and can get critical systems up and running quickly.

Preparing for failure

Once you accept your dealing with something that will fail then you’re in a much better situation to recover when the inevitable happens.

Maintain your systems well, keep an eye on things and you’ll get the longest life out of your system. Manage you backups and in the event of a disaster you’ll be able to keep going. And plan your replacement in advance. Trust us, replacing your server BEFORE it fails is a lot less disruptive then waiting until it goes wrong. Plus you’ll have the budget in place too.