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5 common server issues and their effects on operations

Server problems can spring from inside and outside hardware. Delve into these common issues and learn about the policies to have in place for regular maintenance and prevention.

Technology isn't perfect, but regular maintenance and monitoring helps it run as smoothly as possible. That's especially true for server hardware, which, according to the Uptime Institute, accounts for 80% of all the outages organizations suffer in data centers.

If you're curious about top server room problems, here's a look at five of the most common server issues and how you can prevent or address them. There are factors beyond the server itself that can cause issues, such as facility setup, temperature maintenance, power availability and cabling practices.

1. Power outages

Power fluctuations due to severe weather conditions, poor electrical infrastructure inside or outside the server facility, or blackouts due to high power consumption are problematic. Servers with power issues can cause end-user problems such as decreased productivity and increase data center work as staff troubleshoot problems with devices coming under heavy workloads or are rebooting every time power drops below acceptable levels.

To prevent downtime, deploy uninterruptible power supplies throughout your facilities to handle the transition to back up power sources. Your team should purchase, test and maintain individual on-site generators to run critical systems during these outages. Secure your fuel storage area, test the fuel regularly for contamination from natural disasters and secure it from theft or sabotage.

One way to ensure uptime is to include power backup processes and procedures in disaster recovery plans. This way, you'll account for any hardware and procedures in budgets, testing, maintenance and training programs.

2. Dust and temperature interference

Server hardware and related components require specific components to perform optimally, such as adequate cooling and moisture removal and protection from excessive temperatures. Server rooms that are too hot or cold could cause hardware to malfunction, leading to downtime. Excessive humidity can cause hardware component corrosion. It creates a dangerous workplace for your team, as the hardware could short circuit and electrocute nearby staff.

To prevent environmental factors from affecting your hardware, you can hire a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your server facilities. MSPs typically have well-maintained facilities and staff that can ensure your servers are well cared for and are unaffected from facility conditions. You can work with a cloud or hosting company for any cloud-related hardware and software. These providers have specialized staff, training and resources to provide high-quality and highly available IT services to today's businesses.

3. Failure with regular updates

Server performance can degrade over time as it falls out of date with firmware and OS updates. Legacy hardware might be more challenging to update as vendors might stop pushing updates because of their age.

Servers that continue to work with outdated firmware can develop performance issues that turn into other problems, such as poor database connections or bandwidth bottlenecks. On other occasions, vendors only push firmware updates if customers request them, instead of scheduling updates for all customers.

A comprehensive update process can help your staff prevent update issues overall. Your team should consider how to keep all applications, firmware and OSes updated, as well as build in a process to reach out to external vendors. Staying in touch with vendors ensures that they receive all updates, regardless if they're pushed automatically or not. You should participate in regular reviews of all update procedures and develop a scalability plan that outlines how systems and processes scale up or down as necessary.

4. Physical hardware configuration issues

Data centers located in inadequate facilities, such as ones near high-traffic streets, garages or areas under construction, can strain hardware because they're continually subjected to excessive vibration. Even poor flooring can cause damage to disk drives because they transmit vibration from employees' footfalls through the racks to the devices.

Inside facilities, you should be aware of bad cabling, as tightly bundled ones can cause device failures or performance problems. Staff could also inadvertently disconnect a server if cables aren't labeled, which creates unintentional bottlenecks or overloads other devices as systems reroute data.

Data center managers should provide zip ties or Velcro straps to bundle cables more effectively. You can develop hardware installation and removal procedures to ensure all devices are adequately handled without damage. Your managers should be involved in discussions on new data center locations to provide any requirements to prevent future hardware damage.

5. Cybersecurity concerns

Human error can unwittingly cause outages, such as when an employee with unrestricted network access performs an action that leads to a device reboot or failure, thereby unwittingly affecting the entire system.

Sometimes the security problem comes from the manufacturer. In 2017, specific Intel chips with a security issue that let a device run unsigned code met the market. The firmware error was hard coded into the device microprocessors and chipsets but couldn't be fixed directly on the hardware.

Organizations should also implement secondary protection levels for their network, such as malicious traffic detection mechanisms and methods to reduce lateral communications between servers.

IT teams should create and implement role-based access controls for all systems and employees and remove access for employees no longer at the company. Inside the data center, managers can add physical locks to server cabinets to prevent unwanted and unintentional access, as well as protect areas where cables and wiring enters the facility.

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