The Importance of IT Support and Maintenance for Your Servers
Corporate workloads are increasingly handled in the cloud, but many companies still operate a large number of servers to deal with legacy applications – or to support applications that they prefer to run on-premise. Even where applications are run in the cloud it may well be that your company is responsible for server support and maintenance where applications are custom in nature.
In this article, we outline why it is critical to ensure that your company takes the necessary care to support and maintain its servers – whether on-premise, or in the cloud. We also point to how an IT support company can help your organization to run safe, secure, and optimised servers.
Maintenance is key to persistent server security
Server security is not a set-and-forget exercise. Yes, when configuring your servers, you or the IT services company that do the configuration for you need to ensure that servers are secure – with tight access restrictions and minimal exposure.
But server security drifts over time. For example, new users and permissions are added – but often not removed when out of use. Software security also drifts – hackers discover vulnerabilities over time which can lead to a security breach.
That’s why you or your IT support partner must regularly tend to server security. This includes, for example, tightening down access rights and permissions to minimize the opportunity for abuse.
Why patching matters
At the same time, you need to regularly apply patches and updates that protect against emerging server vulnerabilities. Patching is an aspect of server security that is difficult to get a right day in, day out in part because patches are released at such incredible frequency.
The Linux kernel, for example, is patched countless times every year. These patches cover security vulnerabilities that, if left unpatched, can lead to a very expensive breach of your cybersecurity defences. Yet consistent patching is critical – and must be a priority, whether you perform it internally or get help from your IT partner.
Don’t forget to examine logs
As part of your server maintenance efforts you also need to regularly check server logs. Logs is often where suspicious activity can emerge. Checking logs can help your company identify patterns that point to a hack, or indeed server abuse of another nature.
Logs can also contain specific security alerts which, if missed, can remove the window of opportunity to address a cybersecurity breach that is in progress. In contrast, rapidly responding to a log alert can give your company the opportunity to stop an attack that is in progress.
Regular maintenance boosts performance and avoids failures
Logs matter not just for security: your server logs can also indicate where and why your servers are not performing as expected. Poor server performance is a red flag – poor performance has implications for running costs and could point to impending downtime as a malfunctioning server or service eventually fails.
Keep an eye on server storage
Storage is one of the most heavily used components of servers – and storage is prone to wear. Storage wear is a risk whether you rely on solid-state drives (SSDs) or hard disk drives (HDDs) for storage, though the wear in each case is different. HDDs can suffer from physical wear, so it’s worth checking diagnostics regularly to avoid a situation where multiple drives fail simultaneously.
Likewise, SSDs will wear and may suffer from degrading performance over time: use your SSD tool to check for warning signs. Of course, for both HDD and SSD-based storage it is worth monitoring file system performance to identify signs of data corruption before these become more serious.
Two other important factors to keep an eye on are storage utilisation – and backups. Storage can and will get used up and the last thing you want a sudden server failure due to running out of storage capacity. As for backups, check that backups are in place – and verify that you or your IT support partner can restore backups.
Physical maintenance also matters
Finally, companies often neglect physical server maintenance, but this too matters in the long run if your goal is to prevent server failure. Check that the location where your servers are stored is cool and well ventilated – heat can kill servers over time.
You also need to watch our for dust accumulation, and occasionally check that there are no unexpected issues: deteriorating wiring for example, or connections that appear loose – or which have been disturbed during maintenance or installation.
Server maintenance: DIY, or outsource?
Clearly, server maintenance is a critical issue – for stability, and for security. Neglecting server maintenance might not get noticed in the short term, but in the long run, there is a high probability that your company will get caught out by security vulnerabilities or by failing servers.
You could choose to set up an internal server maintenance regime – assigning an existing team member to regularly patch, maintain, and monitor your servers. Or, you could hire a new team member dedicated to the task.
However, monitoring team performance can represent a difficulty on its own. You may also find that a single team member may be overwhelmed with server maintenance tasks: especially if the team member has to work with technologies that they are not necessarily an expert in.
Where you assign the task to an employee with other duties chances are that they may not have the time or the expertise to maintain your servers to a truly competent level.
Consider enrolling help from your IT support partner
Your IT support partner’s technical knowledge can be a significant benefit when it comes to continuous, smooth server maintenance. IT services providers have the deep knowledge to effortlessly maintain even large fleets of servers – and to do so quickly and consistently.
Instead of diverting your team’s time from other valuable tasks, consider getting help from your IT support company instead. It is likely that you will spend less on server maintenance when you do so, while also benefitting from servers that are consistently rather than haphazardly maintained.