Like any essential piece of equipment, your on-premises computers and servers need regular maintenance, cleaning, and care to keep them running smoothly and to maximize their lifespan. Small businesses without a dedicated IT staff or the resources to afford a managed server care service need to take regular maintenance into their own hands. This is especially important if your business depends on the continued operation of a server – if, for example, it hosts your company website or your digital product.
Although most server hardware is designed to run for long periods of time, they still receive a fair amount of wear and tear that eventually leads to mechanical issues and inevitably to it dying. A server's average lifespan is about three to five years, according to a blog post by web design company iPoint.
However, this lifespan can be expanded to more than 10 years with regular upgrades and replacement parts. Servers are not cheap, and a big investment for small businesses, so attentive maintenance is key to getting the most for your money.
When your server and the data on it are vital to your business's operations, then you need to have a reliable backup, whether on the cloud or on a separate storage device. If you don't have a backup or for some reason your backup has failed, data recovery services can retrieve your data in the case of a mechanical failure or disaster. [Interested in hard drive recovery services? Check out our best picks.]
Here is a breakdown of the most important steps when performing regular maintenance. Following these steps on a regular basis can prevent data loss and having to replace your expensive server.
Backup your server. Always make sure your server is backed up before doing any kind of maintenance, upgrading and other tinkering. Even when you're being as careful as possible, there's always a chance that something could go wrong, and you end up losing your data.
Pick a good time. Prepare well before undertaking regular server maintenance. You'll need to schedule an optimal time to do it, factoring in the downtime of the server if you don't have a method of running the server's applications elsewhere. It's also advised that you not perform maintenance on Fridays or before holidays, because in the event you encounter a serious or complicated issue, you may need to turn to a professional maintenance service.
Check logs. Use server management software to check the server's logs for various hardware alerts and abnormalities. Check for temperature spikes, disk read errors, network disconnections and other inconsistencies. This will give you a clue on where to start on your maintenance and if certain components need replacing.
Cleaning the inside. Depending on where your server is located, it can gather a good amount of dust on both the inside and outside. Ideally, you want to keep your server in a dust-free environment like a cleanroom or case. Dust inside a computer can have a huge impact on performance and lifespan. Servers run hot, and an increase in dust impedes adequate cooling, forcing the CPU and GPU of the machine to downclock, degrading performance, according to a blog post from StorageCraft.
Before opening the case, power it down and unplug it. The best way to clean the inside of a server, or any computer for that matter, is to use an ESD-safe vacuum. These are specialized vacuums that are safe for use on electronics. Do NOT use a normal vacuum cleaner, as they build up static electricity that can result in an electrostatic discharge, permanently damaging the server's components. If you don't have an ESD-safe vacuum, the next best method is to use compressed air and rubbing alcohol. Do it in a well-ventilated room, using short bursts to blow the dust out of the server's case. Swab hard to reach places with a cue tip or cotton swab dipped in the rubbing alcohol.
Update the OS. Making sure your server's operating system is up-to-date is key to preventing potential security breaches. Hackers discover new exploits in old software all the time. Hotfixes and other patches ensure that certain security exploits are covered. Also, update the drivers and firmware for other components in the server such as the GPU and storage.
Plan for the worst. In the event that your server suddenly stops operating, before going in for repairs, make sure your data is safe and recoverable. Hopefully, you have a backup and can easily get the contents of your server returned, but if not, then start thinking about data recovery options. For logical data loss, which results from formatting or accidental deletion, data recovery software can retrieve data from the server's hard drive – just make sure you have a device large enough to copy the data over to. For more advanced issues, such as hardware failures, you'll need a professional data recovery service. These services replace components to your hard drive and use other forensic techniques to recover your data.