Our 7-Year-Old Server Crashed…What Do We Do Now?
Does your business maintain a robust server management system? If your business suffers a server crash, are you prepared to replace it without significant interruption to your operations or business workflow? How much data will you lose?
You can successfully mitigate these risks inherent to a server crash by implementing a strategic IT asset life cycle management plan, and by maintaining effective data backup solutions and disaster recovery plans. If you are not prepared to act when a server crashes, your business will be exposed to significant downtime, with the potential loss of revenue and damage to your company’s reputation for on-time delivery.
IT Asset Life Cycle Management
IT asset management should consider the full life cycle of your server hardware components and overall system. To find a workable solution to the problem of a crashed server, you need to consider several aspects of asset life cycle management, or more specifically, server management.
MTBF (Mean-Time-Between-Failures) describes how long, on average, a particular asset will function trouble-free. Using this metric to plan for server replacement can help reduce exposure to unplanned downtime and will help with IT budget forecasting. MTBF, in relation to total server life, can vary according to the type of server and duty. For example, a low-cost server may provide 2 to 3 years of service, depending on the workload and stability of power supply. Similarly, a mid-range server may provide 4 to 6 years of service, and a high-end server may provide 8 to 10 years of service.
Replacement Cost – When developing an asset life cycle management plan, we need to consider replacement cost. The total cost of server replacement includes more than the cost of the hardware and installation cost. Downtime experienced during server replacement can affect productivity and business continuity. The cost of these factors can prove substantial unless the system architecture allows for rapid replacement and redundancy. Typically replacement cost to install a new server while the old still working is significantly lower than when replacing when the system is down.
Warranty – New server purchases most often include a warranty to cover the cost of replacement in the event of premature failure. Warranty terms vary regarding warranty duration and extent of coverage. One very important aspect of warranty coverage is the guarantee of response time to replace a failed server. The cost of the warranty may well be less than the cost of lost business and associated financial damage while waiting for server replacement.
Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Successful data backup and disaster recovery plans will account for the cost of downtime. The more sophisticated disaster recovery solutions require a greater investment in infrastructure and/or operating costs, however, they offer quicker and more complete recovery in the event of a cybersecurity attack or some other form of data loss.
The best option for your company depends on the nature of your business. If your business relies on continuous use of technology, or if your business can sustain liabilities due to downtime or data loss, you may benefit from the additional investment as a form of disaster insurance.
Server Hardware Redundancy – Maintaining redundancy of servers and the associated hardware is one way to reduce, or potentially virtually eliminate, downtime resulting from a crashed server. To maintain this ‘hot-swap’ capability requires software support and availability of spare capacity, including all components that could result in system downtime in the event of component failure.
Local vs Remote vs Hybrid Solutions – Both data storage and disaster recovery solutions can be maintained in local and/or remote locations. The best system for your business depends on numerous factors, which we define in some detail in the CIS blog post 5 Ways Hybrid Cloud Can Benefit Business.
Take a Proactive Approach
Unfortunately, servers typically fail without warning signs. Therefore, if you maintain IT systems support via a Break-Fix model, and without hot-swap capabilities, a server crash exposes your business to significant downtime. Conversely, you can significantly reduce your exposure to downtime related to hardware failure by taking a proactive approach to systems design, operation and support, which should include elements of Prevention and Mitigation.
Complete prevention of component failure would require planned replacement of all server hardware at time intervals less than the minimum service life of each component. For most situations, this solution proves costly compared to other options that also limit business continuity interruptions. However, a fully redundant system also has a cost. The best solution for your business will consider the nature of your business workflow and accommodate some elements of prevention (e.g. planned replacement) and effective mitigation (e.g. redundancy for quick repair time when components fail). Finding the best balance between IT investment cost and avoiding business interruption requires IT support personnel (MSP or in-house) to have an understanding of both IT and business operations.
Server Management Services
CIS (Custom Information Services) is an MSP that provides server management services, in addition to a wide range of other IT support services. CIS can help you find the optimum management solutions that we customize to fit your specific business needs.