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IT Outsourced  

Server awareness

Servers are widely used in business today and allow organizations to centralize storage of data to one location, as well as offer various services to the organizations. Popular services include horizontal or vertical applications, email, remote access services and security. Horizontal applications are considered to be programs that many organizations would use (ie accounting). Vertical applications are designed for a specific industry (medical billing software). Servers used to be fairly expensive, but have dropped in cost in recent years and many places use them today. They have become very reliable and their importance to the organization is becoming critical to the ability to provide service. There are a lot of common problems and mistakes that are made, and I wanted to give you some recommendations.

A server should always be dedicated to the users, and never used as a workstation. Too often I find that server issues are caused by improper installation of software or over use which causes complexity. Complex servers are fragile, since not all software is designed to work well with other software.

Servers are fantastic repositories for data. All of the networks I look after have the data centralized to the server. Workstations are difficult and time-consuming to monitor and backup. Centralized data storage allows for easy backups and management. Loss of a workstation becomes an annoyance since it is much easier to simply configure a new or second workstation with access to the server. Data recovery from a failed workstation can take days. Unfortunately, it is a fairly common occurrence to find data lost because it wasn’t backed up. Monitoring one backup of the server is much easier than monitoring 10 individual workstation backups.

Accounting and other horizontal applications are critical to running a business efficiently. Collecting accounting data afterwards takes additional time. Many restaurants have installed centralized systems which gives them much better information on their business. In fact, one of my clients is running at full production into next year, and is beginning the process of collecting better information from production so they can detect and correct inefficiencies within their business by adding workstations to the factory floor.

Most servers are Windows servers. Microsoft eliminated most competitors by providing superior product. Windows Server looks very much like a typical windows workstation, and this familiarity has made it possible for many people to install and use servers. In fact, there are a lot of servers installed by people who shouldn’t be installing server…but that’s a different article. Here are some things you should have in place If you;

  • Don’t have a full time support technician
  • Use a small, third party contractor
  • Don’t have an existing support contract with a network management company.

This is a partial list – talk to your IT support people.

  1. Have a written procedure to access the server as administrator (test!).
  2. Be capable of restarting the server. (Really test this!)
  3. Monitor basic server metrics like available drive space and updates.
  4. Backup completion, size and duration should be documented.
  5. If you have a centralized antivirus system (which I would highly recommend) you should be able to check if it is updated and the health of workstations.

If your present computer company or individual is reluctant to provide this information, it would be in your best interest to switch to a reputable network company who will be happy to assist with this process.



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About the Author

Mark Smed started as a self-employed consultant, integrating computers into small business in 1989.  The range of work expanded into installing networks and consulting with businesses on the fast paced changes in technology.  As his career progressed he taught Network Administration at a small business college and continued to build his base of clients. 

Today, Mark works for Northern Computer Inc. (http://www.northerncomputer.ca) as a consultant, specialist and technician.  His client base continues to grow and many of his clients have worked with him for over 10 years now.  In 2001, Mark joined the Network Professional Association (http://www.npa.org) and now sits on the board of directors and is responsible for publishing the Network Professional Journal for the association.

Mark can be reached at [email protected].



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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