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What do I need to know about remote server management?

The ability to manage servers requires evaluating WAN connection options, available repair staff and software capabilities. This tip offers insight into how it all comes together.

For many organizations, remote server management offers convenience and automation to day-to-day IT operations, but IT must secure and maintain a reliable connection to remote servers.

The availability and reliability of the wide area network (WAN) connection between the main computer and remotely managed systems are critical to effective remote server management.

Remote server management generally exchanges limited amounts of data, and only when admins must actively manage those remote systems. This means that network bandwidth demands are usually light and admins can perform some management tasks with moderate latency that might be troublesome for other enterprise applications.

The WAN connection is the lifeline between the management system back in the office and the remote systems. Internet outages stop remote server management in its tracks. Thus, outages can be devastating for remote server management because they prevent administrators from detecting issues, migrating workloads, provisioning and troubleshooting. Organizations may want to consider a backup or secondary WAN option to avoid unnecessary outages.

Keep management secure

Security is a major concern for remote server management, as well. An unauthorized intruder with access to remote servers can potentially access or delete critical data, alter system configurations, apply malware, and engage in other damaging activities that can leave workloads -- or the whole data center -- unavailable. Organizations must use encryption and secure login credentials, as well as apply firewalls and gateways to restrict management sources and destinations.

Remote server management can handle many tasks, but it cannot address everything; physical tasks need direct human intervention. A remote administrator can detect a problem reported by a remote virtual machine and restart or migrate it to another remote server. If that server fails, however, a technician must still visit the site and perform a hardware repair or replacement.

The same is true for other tasks such as hardware upgrades and routine maintenance. On-site visits play a vital role in keeping data centers healthy, so organizations should not ignore or skip them.

Finally, organizations might need more than one tool for remote server management. Tools based on virtual network computing or remote desktop protocol use software that allows one computer to control another. It is important to remember that many computer systems employ embedded, hardware-based service processor subsystems, such as HP's Integrated Lights-Out or a Dell Remote Access Controller, to manage each server at the hardware level.

Such embedded subsystems allow administrators to remotely reboot a server, cycle its power to implement critical configuration changes and recover from more serious problems. Ideally, remote server management tools should offer integrations with these embedded hardware selections.

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