We are big believers in prevention being much less costly than the cure when it comes to technology. Here are five common things that can turn into emergencies for your business but are pretty easily avoided.
1. Running out of disk space on your server: Believe it or not, computers are writing information to their storage drives on a continuous basis. If the drive fills up, the computer can no longer run properly. You can avoid this condition by monitoring the disk usage percentage (amount of free space on the drive divided by total drive size). We like to see at a minimum 10% free disk space on a computer. There are free tools such as Netwrix Disk space monitor that you can implement that will notify you when drive space runs short.
2. Hardware failures: We all know stuff stops working, especially stuff with moving parts. Computers are no exception. But most computers have the ability to, in car terms, turn on a “Service Engine Soon” light. The main place to ensure this warning is turned on and configured properly is on your server. Both HP and Dell offer software that runs on their servers that can notify you of things such as a drive looking like it will fail, a power supply having issues and even failures to complex components on the motherboard.
3. Power outages or surges: Computers need power to run. Most of us get that concept. The part that is often overlooked is the damage power, or sudden loss of power, can cause to a computer. If the power suddenly goes away, a computer that was in the middle of working does not shut down correctly. Files it had opened could end up being corrupt. While inconvenient for our desktop computers, this could cause your server not to start up properly and in some cases require restoring data from a backup – or losing work. Get a good, server grade battery backup unit that will not only switch to battery power if the main power is lost but also shut down the server properly before the battery runs out. Make sure to get a server grade unit as it also conditions the power for your server. An example is the APC SmartUPS line of battery backup units (uninterruptable power supplies). See our article on power protection for further information.
4. Proper temperature and ventilation: Many times servers are stuck in a closet because they are somewhat noisy and people don’t often have to physically interact with them. The biggest problem we see is that the closet is dirty and has no cooling. Remember, computers generate heat. When the temperatures warm up, the temperature in an uncooled closet with a server running can quickly reach levels where the computer overheats. When it does, it hopefully shuts itself down nicely but in some cases may just stop. This can damage not only your data but the hardware components of the server. Since the closet is dirty, the computer components usually are caked with dirt and dust causing even more heat issues. Get a room air conditioner for the closet, keep the server up off of the floor and at least once a year shut the server down and clean out the insides, typically with compressed air, to keep things running cool. Even computers need spring cleaning.
5. Not having a good recovery plan – A common saying is the only guaranteed things are death and taxes. I would add technology failures to that list. Things will go bad – how hard it hits your business depends on how prepared you were. Many businesses close due to disasters that they could not recover from. The more days to recover your data, the more likely your business is to not recover. Getting a good backup and disaster recovery plan in place sounds hard but like other things just takes time and thought. A good starting point may be the government disaster preparedness site and our whitepaper on business continuity.
Now that you know some of the top items for failure and some ideas about how to overcome them, what is your next step? Information is just that until you implement what you learned. If you feel in over your head, there are many good IT service providers that can help you in all of these areas to protect your business operations and let you focus on what you do best. If you are not going to do these items yourself, I would encourage you to get some help.