SysAdmins Want Reliable Servers, not ‘Features’

If a server isn't reliable, what's the point? That's the overwhelming response from a survey of over a thousand IT pros who ranked it their #1 concern.

Did you ever see the movie “What Women Want?” In the film, Mel Gibson gets the ability to read women’s minds, and realizes what he thought they wanted was wrong all along.

Well, if someone had the ability to read a SysAdmin’s mind (What a power!) they’d hear something like this: “I don’t care about server features at all, I just want it to be dependable.” You’d also hear a lot of griping about dumb users and fax machines.

Of course, we don’t need mind powers to know this – just the recent results from a Spiceworks survey of 1,663 IT professionals. After all, statistics is a kind of super power.

Of the survey respondents, 20 per cent said when purchasing a new server, dependability was the most important consideration. Not surprising, considering how much people love unexpected server outages and failures.

The second-most important thing? The cost, at 17 per cent. This also isn’t a surprise, given the often sizable cost for new server equipment.

But what was surprising was how little people cared about features. This came dead last as a consideration, with a paltry one percent of respondents calling this a top priority. Energy efficiency trailed at two per cent.

It seems IT pros don’t care about bells and whistles – just the tech running smoothly.

If your customer support is good, your server doesn’t need to be

Think your customer support doesn’t matter? Think again. A large percentage of respondents said quality support mattered to them more than the actual product.

If you resell hardware, that number is really interesting. It means for a large chunk of your customers, the support you offer is more important than the reliability of the product or the cost you sell it at.

Combine these three elements – reliability, cost for value, and customer service – and you’ve got a magical trifecta. The survey results say this will get you a lot farther than pushing features or energy reliability.

Upgrading your server: when you should do it

It can be hard to know when to replace your server, or one of your client’s servers, with something newer. It’s also a task nobody wants to do – to the person doing the research and replacement, to the money-handler who has to justify the spend.

Because of this, many people just put it in the “too hard” basket and wait until it breaks. But this is a major mistake. Unlike a car, you don’t want to wait until you hear a funny noise and take it in for a service. With server hardware failure, the risks include:

  • Catastrophic data loss
  • Expensive downtime (Complete or partial hardware replacement)
  • Morale loss

On the flip side, you don’t want to fork out lots of money for new infrastructure when you don’t have to. So when do you know it’s time to upgrade your server?

We’ve written a comprehensive guide on when to replace your server, along with a checklist of things you should consider. Read it here.

Dealing with the server downtime and outages

Whether you decide to upgrade your server or not, you’re going to need a server outage plan.

  • If you’re upgrading, you’ll need to deal with the planned outage inherent to server migration.
  • If you’re not upgrading, you’ll potentially need to deal with unplanned outages caused by hardware failure.

Needless to say, it’s best practice to have a plan in place for outages regardless of your server status. Writing one may seem like a hassle, but it’s better than figuring things on the fly.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to writing an outage plan? We’ve written an IT outage best practice guide. Read it here.

Minimizing data loss from hardware failure

Ask yourself, what would happen if your server crashed and all the data on it was lost? If you don’t have another copy of it somewhere, it would most likely be the end of your business.

While making sure you have reliable hardware is important, this doesn’t completely insulate you against hardware failure. It also doesn’t protect you against the host of other data risks – ransomware, user error, malicious insiders, physical damage, theft or natural disasters.

To minimize your risk of data loss, you need to back up your data with backup and disaster recovery software. We recommend BackupAssist, which you can read more about here.

You also need to make sure you have more than one backup, and at least one of those backups is offsite. Why?

  • If you only have a local backup and your hardware fails, you’ve lost all your data.
  • If you only have an on-site backup and you experience theft or physical hardware damage (fire, flood, etc), then you’ve lost all your data.
  • If ransomware infects your on-site backups via a direct connection or a network, your off-site backups will still be safe.

Remember: if server reliability matters to you, then business as usual matters to you – and the business can’t continue if all your data is lost.

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