IT Server Maintenance Basics: How to Get Started

Millions of businesses rely on servers to remain operational and continue serving their customers. But without a good server maintenance strategy in place, it’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.

What are the most important elements of IT server maintenance? And how can you improve it for your business?

How Servers Work

A server is basically a specialized type of computer that “serves” data and specialized services to other computers that are connected to it on a network. It’s a way of centralizing network operations, distributing both data and services much more efficiently than you could with a traditional PC.

Servers are critical components of data centers and enterprise networks, serving as a kind of backbone in your IT infrastructure.

Types of Servers

There are many types of servers, even though they all belong to the same category. Different types of servers require different considerations and implementation strategies and a different approach to optimizing for peak performance.

File servers are primarily intended for file storage and retrieval, and they’re especially important for cloud storage applications. Domain controller servers are typically used for checking permissions and addressing other authentication requests. Remote desktop servers are designed to provide remote access to applications, rather than installing and using software on each individual computer in the network. Web servers store data relevant to a website, essentially allowing that website to function as intended.

Why Is Server Maintenance Important?

Why is server maintenance so important?

Server functionality and longevity

First, maintenance is a way to ensure consistent server functionality and longevity. If you proactively maintain your servers, they’re less likely to face issues, and you can prevent or mitigate most issues before they affect your users. Additionally, keeping your servers in good shape allows them to last longer, potentially extending their lifespan by many years.

Security and integrity

It’s also important to practice server maintenance to improve security and your data integrity. Without issuing the latest software patches, running antivirus scans, and inspecting potential security breaches, your business will be much more vulnerable to malware, hacking attempts, and other security issues.

Backups and redundancies

Server maintenance is also a practice that forces you to examine your backups and redundancies. In the event of a catastrophic system failure, do you have reliable data backups and contingency plans to ensure continuity? This is essential if you want to keep your business running.

Long-term planning

Practicing server maintenance also gives you a chance to analyze performance and speculate about future performance, so you can make better decisions in future server upgrades and expansions.

The Elements of Server Maintenance

There are many options for practicing server maintenance. Depending on your needs, you may enlist the help of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), or you may have your own internal team handle server maintenance. More commonly, enterprises are turning to the help of third-party IT support for their server maintenance needs.

There are many advantages to using third-party IT support. It has the potential to save you money, it improves your scalability, and it gives you access to hardware and software support even after end of service life (EOSL).

No matter how you approach server maintenance, you’ll need to include the following:

  • Installing software patches and updating OS
  • Physically cleaning servers
  • Checking for hardware errors
  • Checking and evaluating server log files
  • Reviewing available hard disk space
  • Reviewing folder permissions
  • Monitoring network temperature applications
  • Checking and implementing system redundancy plans
  • Assessing (and improving) security
  • Reviewing user accounts and activities
  • Analyzing security alerts for suspicious activity
  • Updating antivirus software and critical service packs
  • Establishing and reviewing backups
  • Changing passwords

Additionally, it pays to follow these best practices:

Automate what you can

Automation is critical in the IT world because it reduces the risk of manual effort, reduces the need for manual labor, and improves overall consistency. You can’t automate every element of server maintenance, but you should make a concentrated effort to automate whatever you can.

Stick to a schedule

In a similar effort to improve consistency, it’s important for you to stick to a schedule. Server maintenance isn’t something that you do on a whim; it’s something you do religiously, and in an ordered, predictable process.

Formally document

Spend time formally documenting all your server maintenance efforts. This increases accountability while simultaneously giving you backlogs you can review if something goes wrong in the future.

Act on your findings

Some of your findings when practicing server maintenance are going to require action – especially when they relate to your security. Be prepared to take action quickly.

With better server maintenance in place, your servers will last longer, they’ll perform better, and you’ll end up saving money in multiple different ways. Review the server maintenance options available to you and choose the best fit for your business needs.