Server Management – What Is It All About?

Server Management – What Is It All About?

Nowadays it is really easy to set up a server, with much of the essential server management functions you need available via auto-install. Servicing your server is a different matter, keeping tabs on maintenance plus performance and utilization levels can be time-consuming. It gets even more difficult to perform server administration when your operations include multiple servers. Tapping into a single vendor can trap you, consider using a mix of vendors for your server operating systems.

Manual management across big installations is time-consuming, you simply cannot manually log into server administration consoles on a machine by machine basis. Server management software are therefore crucial to successful management procedure. Most of these tools come with remote administration and machine monitoring, enabling you to manage machines across a range of sites in an efficient manner.

Server types

It’s worth noting that the term “server” is used in a broad context, covering different things. It can be about application servers, web servers, email infrastructure servers, as well as file storage servers – classified as network attached storage. You may use the term “server” also to identify the hardware part under your application layer.

On the basis of everything mentioned above, your management tasks and the performance evaluation you need to keep tabs on will be different depending on the each separate case.

Cloud services have completely changed server monitoring and administration routine. If you use cloud services – the applications, e-mail and storage facilities you use will be offsite and will be owned by another company entirely. Indeed, keeping track of all these co-located servers can become a real server management nightmare.

Server monitoring

The first step in making sense of your infrastructure management is to get a single interface that can help you monitor all of your servers from the comfort of your workstation. It’s important to get real-time data on your hardware, your server checking software should show you instant facts covering processor use, memory utilization, and disk space availability. On top of that, you must be able to see which processes are operating on the server, including what amount of resources each of these processes consume.

Typically, your management team will have one person keeping a casual eye on server monitoring data but essentially you need to rely on a tool which can provide alerts based on live data evaluation. On top of collecting data, your checking tool must be able to automatically flag issues to someone who can respond to these issues. This could include notification via e-mail or SMS.

Finally, we would highlight that it is key to keep on top of utilization: if you see that your applications are increasingly taxing your machine you can take the opportunity to add capacity before a spike in demand causes problems for your customers.

Server management

Once you start thinking about planning the capacity of your server you move into the area of server management. You never want to provide an excess of machine capacity as doing so can mean that you waste hardware resources, pay too much for utilities and spend too much on support. However, you do need to plan for surges in demand, so a bit of spare resources is always a good idea.

Note that provisioning for computing requirements involve also provisioning other areas such as your physical network (or indeed your virtual network) while providing physical space for equipment including power supply is also important. You also need to account for staff requirements. These are variables that create a unique situation for your business which means that you need to pick a server management tool that fits your company the best.

Server management software should make it easy for sysadmins to keep an eye on hardware availability alongside the expiration of software licenses, patches that are due and automated alerts when unauthorized software installations are performed.

The roles in server administration

Senior staff is generally responsible for infrastructure management, while day to day maintenance and checking can be allocated to more junior staff members or indeed fully automated using management software.

Depending on the size of your company and the number of people employed in an administration role you will have more flexibility or less flexibility in terms of how you can define user roles and how you can restrict access to system data. Small businesses, for example, may have just a single person in charge of machines, with a single associated user role and a single user account for your server management tool.

On the flip side, larger groups can benefit from allocating specialized tasks to individual employees, which in turn makes managing access to management functions a priority. To effectively manage your infrastructure you need to use a range of software, including remote server administration tools.

Choosing server management tools

You are likely to continue using the management tool you choose for a long period of time, so it is worth carefully considering your choice. Factors you should keep in mind include:

Vendor compatibility

Yes, you may be satisfied with your current hardware provider, but as you upgrade and renew your machines you may change providers or introduce a mix of providers. Don’t choose a server monitoring tool which restricts you to a specific provider. Even if all your equipment is from a single vendor try to ensure long-term flexibility by buying a tool that is compatible with multiple vendors.

Server monitoring overheads

Every piece of software consumes resources, including server management and checking software. Vendors are often very open about the size of business that their tool is aimed at though some vendors will try to make a tool that fits all sizes. Nonetheless, in most cases, a tool is likely to fit clients with operations that are a certain size. Importantly, you should avoid getting a tool which slows down your operations or which generates too much traffic on your network. Not sure what the resource impact of a tool will be? Many vendors offer trial periods on their software, try it out first.

Match your server administration requirements

Different software come with different features, try to match the tool you buy to your company’s oversight needs. Thought an extremely comprehensive package may look attractive, you should be careful not to buy software that you will never use. For small environments buy a simple tool, for larger environments consider a tool which can deal with the complexity and which includes group-management functionality. However, never buy a tool that is too complicated as you may end up not using it.

Server management roles

It is useful to be able to grant restricted access to management consoles, even if there is just a single sysadmin looking after servers. You can, for example, give management staff the ability to directly view reports so that they can draw their own conclusions. Or, you may in future employ an assistant in which case you would need your junior employee to access functionality without giving full control to your assistant.

Scaling server monitoring

Your computing requirements may change in future. Smaller outfits should consider buying a cut-down edition of a tool which is made for large operations. Should you need to upgrade you can simply step up inside the product family, so you don’t need to retrain. Packages which only work with smaller environments may mean that you will need to switch vendors later on which can involve a learning curve.

Automating server management processes

With the complex server environments so common nowadays the mere ability to perform checking is no longer enough. Instead, you need to be able to automate the regular server administration tasks that are so time-consuming. Good software can reduce much of the server administration tasks down to simply checking logs. It’s a job that gives the opportunity for interns to gain knowledge while freeing up the time of expensive sysadmins.

Server monitoring options

There’s no question that overseeing your infrastructure is important, but you don’t need to spend a large amount of money to get really good insight into your servers. One way to obtain good value is by combining software, including application and network control.

At a basic level, software will simply show you the state of your servers including facts such as processor use and disk space utilization. These are important facts, but they do not always give much insight into the actual user experience. Note that just focusing on machine statistics may mean that you don’t see other important factors, including network performance or the uptime of your cloud service providers.

In essence performance oversight is a large remit and it is worth using a complete system which can take care of all your IT requirements so that you have a better idea of all the tweaks you need to perform to ensure your infrastructure is in good shape.

You will be doing a lot of reading as you search for a machine monitoring package but you will never really understand a server monitoring system without giving it a try, first-hand. Thankfully most server management/monitoring software give you the option to try them free of charge so that you can test the tools included. As a result, you can make a much more accurate assessment as to whether a particular tool is a good fit for you.

Yes, the evaluation process can be time-consuming as you will need to spend some time setting up a server management tool. Even if you have to perform this tedious task several times to get to the right to the end-goal of finding the right fit is crucially important.

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Elvis Plesky
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