Maximizing Server Uptime: Best Practices

In an IT world full of elusive goals, there's probably no target as slippery and generally elusive as server uptime.

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This migration process can be configured to be manual or automatic fail over. "Usually, you would want the application to automatically fail over to the next preferred node in the event of a hardware or software failure," Gabiam says, but administrators could initiate a migration to another node if they needed to perform maintenance on a specific node.

Look at hardware quality

Acquiring quality servers rather than cut-rate boxes or blades is an obvious way to enhance long-term server reliability. "There's a decided difference in the longevity of hardware as you move to midgrade or high-grade servers," says Jeffrey Driscoll, director of operations at E-N Computers, an IT services provider based in Fishersville, Va.

Yet in the real world, budget-strapped managers often face a painful choice between meeting their server needs with low-cost products or acquiring better, more reliable systems that meet established performance criteria. What to do?

Driscoll advises shopping intelligently, looking for bargains and, whenever possible, working with management to get a budget that reflects real-world operational needs. It's also not a bad idea to show management the financial damage that can be caused by unreliable servers. "It's a point that can be easily proved with simple figures and projections," Driscoll says.

Know when it's time to cut your losses

Simple common sense may be the best way of ensuring maximum server uptime without breaking the budget. "Hardware is hardware. At some point, something will break," Gabiam says. "It's important to learn from whatever happened and to be ready with a plan if it ever happens again."

Using common sense also means knowing when it's time to cut your losses and move on to something new, regardless of your replacement cycle's current stage. "If your IT staff is spending 25% of its time fighting fires and supporting out-of-date systems, who wouldn't see that as a huge waste of time?" Beddoe asks.

While maximizing server uptime creates some extra work, most managers feel that the final rewards far outweigh the added exertion. "It's hard to say that any effort is wasted when it applies to uptime," Luludis says. "Anything you do can help."

Beddoe feels that striving for the most uptime almost guarantees the creation of a more reliable data center. He contends that an "active environment" -- one that continually encourages staff members to identify and squelch potential problems before they can cause any damage -- is key to maximizing uptime. "In 17 years, we have not had a major outage that has impacted our clients."

John Edwards is a technology writer in the Phoenix area. Contact him at jedwards@gojohnedwards.com.

This story, "Maximizing Server Uptime: Best Practices" was originally published by Computerworld.

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