The soul of servers

While you may hope that what you buy now will last forever, most likely it will become obsolete. What can you do to ensure constant availability to the vital information that keeps your company running?

Once the choice of application and its relative importance has settled, you as the IT Manager then needs to go, cap in hand to the Finance department, and ask for a spending budget.

With many companies cutting down on IT expenditure, it is important to know how much you are able to spend on a server before you go shopping. You may need to keep some budget aside for any additional setup or running costs.

While you may hope that what you buy now will last forever, the basic fact is that your server may, and most likely will, become obsolete. This may be due to applications being superseded, more staff joining the company, hardware becoming obsolete etc. What can you do to ensure constant access to the vital information that keeps your company running? Some factors you may want to keep in mind are scalability and availability.

Scaling for success

Depending on the server you choose, one of the most important decisions is scalability. This is the ability of the server to grow with your company. Scalability can be a very important feature because it means that you can invest in a system with confidence you won't outgrow it.

Many vendors view scalability as the option for a company to scale out and scale up. Scaling out refers to adding more servers while scaling up means to migrate to more powerful servers.

When determining the scalability of a server, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind during this process.

Firstly, will the performance of your server be able to stand the test of time. The architecture of the server would definitely determine the ability to add more processing power to it, by way of CPUs (both in number as well as technology) and memory. However, equally importantly, the architecture will also determine the ability to add increasingly powerful I/O subsystems to the server, which in some applications assumes equal significance to performance as do processors. The architecture also determines the overall “throughput” of the system – how quickly data can travel between the various subsystems of a server, and therefore the performance. Keep Moore’s Law in mind when making any decision on processors.

Secondly, remember that technology is constantly changing and never static. The architecture of the server will definitely determine how easily a server will adapt to changes in technology. Should a new version of a critical application become available with options that are essential to your business, your server must be able to run it efficiently.

Finally, in addition to the hardware, a key component that contributes to scalability of applications is the operating system, and the ability of the hardware to efficiently run this operating system software. The initial choice of operating system may limit you on the choice of applications and hardware that you may run on your server.

Availability assured
Availability is means having access to whatever they need on the server 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your employees and customers. Should you need to upgrade an application or the server itself, there should be no downtime to either group. You need to think about

The main thing to worry about is redundancy. Always ensure that you have a backup available whether it is for your server, storage or even power supply. This means that should 1 server fail, you will still have another to operate, albeit slowly. Storage means that data should be backed up at regular intervals and that you should have different copies of the data created at different times. You should also be able to add or remove software/hardware without experiencing any downtime. Also keep in mind a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) comes in handy during a blackout. A UPS will keep your systems up and running should the power fail in your area.

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