Deciding when to replace your server is a real balancing act. If you replace it too soon, you’ll be tossing out a perfectly good (and very expensive) piece of hardware.
Leave it too long? The server crashes and you lose more in downtime and lost productivity than a brand new server would have cost – AND you’ve got to buy a new server anyway!
Well, wonder no more. Here’s exactly how you should decide if you should replace your server completely, or keep it for just a bit longer.
1. More than 3+ Years Old
If your server is three years old (or more), you should seriously consider replacing it.
“But I just bought it”, I can hear you saying. And you may be tempted to eke out a bit more life out of it. And you definitely could do that – perhaps you already have!
But the reason you want to ditch a server after three years out isn’t just to avoid a potential server outage.
According to IDC, the moment your server hits its fourth birthday, support costs raise by approximately 40%. In its fifth year, this raises to 200%. And if for some reason you get to seven years without replacing, you’re looking at a 400% increase in costs.
And your users often won’t report the troubles they’re having with your slow server – employees are notorious for working around these issues. If a process takes ten minutes like booting something up or running reports, they may make a coffee or chat with other employees.
But that lost time adds up. Several minutes for a process for one employee, spread across a whole department, adds up to a lot of lost time and money. A slow server can lead to you getting nickel-and-dimed to death.
2. The Warranty
If you get one takeaway from this article, it would be this: your server should never outlast the warranty it came with.
Unsurprisingly, this warranty will be approximately three years, though some will go up to five years. The reason you will want to replace your server after the warranty runs out is very simple – this is the period that if it crashes, someone will bail you out.
At the point in which the manufacturer is not going to do this, you should take this as a sign that your server has reached its use-by date.
It’s worth noting that just because you’re within a warranty period, it doesn’t mean your server won’t wear out! There are other factors that can bring about its end of life a lot sooner, such as a high workload.
Choosing Your Warranty: When you’re choosing your new server warranty, it can cost you a lot of money, and they often come in different levels to fit your needs. Typically, it covers replacement parts and an onsite tech to replace those parts.
3. Hardware Support
When you’re considering replacing your server, you should check to see if it is still being built.
If your server is still in production, that’s great! If something goes wrong, it won’t be that hard to find replacement parts.
However, if it’s not, that means you’re not going to be able to fix it quickly if there’s a hardware issue. The parts you are going to get – if you’re lucky enough to get them – are going to be more expensive, second-hand, and take a while to get to you.
That’s why if your server is out of production, it’s good to make sure you shelve it as well. That way you won’t be hit as hard by hardware failure.
Much like with a warranty, if your manufacturer has decided to shelve the server, it’s likely you should too.
4. Your Server is Acting Up
Sounds obvious, but a lot of people try ignoring a temperamental server instead of just replacing it. And the longer you leave it, the worse the symptoms get – as well as the effort to replace it.
There are some things that can’t be fixed no matter how many parts you replace. While switching out a bad stick of ram or a new drive might fix some issues, if this strategy isn’t working, then you may need a whole new server.
As mentioned earlier, your server may be acting up right now and your users may not be reporting it – they’ll often just work around issues and grumble to themselves. If you’re seeing persistent issues on top of that, then a replacement is likely on the cards.
5. You Need More from Your Server
Organizations grow. And when they grow, the demand on your server increases. When use of your server reaches 70% of maximum, or drive space is running low, you’re going to see a drop in server performance.
This is where virtualization can come in handy. If you’ve got two or more servers – or you suddenly have the need for them – you can purchase one really good server and run virtual machines off it. (See our ‘Going Virtual’ article series)
Since you can scale VMs to your needs, this means you can change your infrastructure to fit your growing business needs.
If your organization is opening new sites, this is also a big flag to consider upgrading your server.
6. Significant Advancements Have Been Made
Advancements in server technology are being made all the time, aided by Moore’s law. Engineers are constantly working to shrink the transistors and other internal components that make up the underlying microprocessors.
These kind of advancements lead to faster and more powerful processing, often with less energy being used. So why not take advantage of this to speed up your business?
A common fallacy people make is waiting for a new model that is two to three times faster than the model you have. While advancements are great, this sort of boost is unlikely. But as stated earlier, even a 10 minute boost is a big business saver – and a return on investment.
It’s worth reiterating that since your server is constantly in a state of decline, the speed your server is now is likely not what it was when you first bought it. That means the upgrade after a while leads to a significant boost, even if you exclude new advancements.
7. OS / App Support
In the end, server hardware is just there to support the OS and applications that you’re running off it. And if it’s not doing that well, it’s time to upgrade.
If your rig is barely running Windows Server 2008 properly, then how is it going to handle it when you move up to 2012 or 2016? The short answer: it’s not.
When you’re upgrading your OS, it can be the perfect time to upgrade your server as well. Yes, it does mean a lot more work, and you’re probably going to want to do it as a staged process. But in many ways, it’s best to tackle two birds with one stone.
You may also find that new operating systems and software packages you are running have minimum hardware requirements. While you shouldn’t use minimum requirements as a baseline – you’re setting the bar really low for productivity – it’s still something to look into.
8. Industry Regulations
When laying out the timeline to replace your server, another consideration is industry regulatory requirements that may put added constraints on your server lifespan. Continue to check on industry standard requirements and follow those guidelines in conjunction with your manufacturer’s warranty.
You may find if you are storing people’s information, you need to have a certain level of hardware stability to meet your GDPR obligations. You can read our articles on it here and here.
9. You Don’t Have a Server
It’s alluring to completely discard in-house infrastructure these days, when cloud computing is coming to the fore. After all, why manage your own infrastructure when you can make it someone else’s problem?
There are definite pros and cons to having cloud servers over in house servers – and the answer to which one is best depends on your business model.
If these things are of concern to you – and you don’t have an in-house server already – then you may want to get one:
- Having physical control over your business data.
- Keeping critical-data in house so no third party has access to your information.
- Not needing an internet connection for access to your data.
- You care about user experience being limited by internet speeds.
- You don’t want to monitor your cloud provider to make sure they’re meeting industry regulations (E.g. GDPR) to avoid personal liability.
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