Upgrading a Server: What to Know
Server hardware is a significant investment for any business. Maintaining it and maximizing its potential helps a business stay competitive, especially when purchasing new hardware isn’t an option. In this case, a server hardware upgrade can help keep a server relevant.
When upgrading a server, most people tend to focus in the RAM, believing it will make their computer run faster indefinitely. While this may be true for the short term, it’s much more efficient to upgrade the CPU or hard drives. This will increase the speed of operation and, in some cases, make more cores available so you can multitask with ease.
Sometimes upgrading the drives will give you better performance, as you may get a faster read/write speed on your drive, which will make the access time on it faster. Additionally, upgrading to solid state drives will give you a considerable server upgrade in access time.
In short, server upgrades always require proper planning.
Here’s what you should remember to ensure your systems perform best:
Back That Thing Up
Your data, that is. It should be standard practice to back all data up prior to an upgrade of your server. A general rule: Never make changes to a server--even a minor upgrade--before confirming there is a verified data backup. Whenever you power a server down, there is no guarantee it will come back online.
The Power of One (Change at a Time)
You may be tempted to complete multiple upgrades simultaneously in a single shutdown, but tasks should all be performed separately. Should something go wrong a day or two later, the process of isolating the change responsible for the error is more difficult when multiple changes were made at once. If a single change is introduced, it's much easier to track the error.
Keep Close Watch
After upgrading a server, never assume it went off without a hitch just because it booted back into its OS with no visible errors. This is a critical time to monitor log files, error reports, backup operations and other functions more closely than ever. Leverage internal performance reports or third-party monitoring utilities to ensure everything is performing as it should.
Confirm the Operating System
Don’t forget the operating system a server is running. This is especially true when multiple boxes host a collection of operating systems. By performing a quick audit of the system to be upgraded, you can confirm the OS is compatible and will be able to use the additional resources being installed.
Don't Assume Everything Will "Just Work"
Whenever installing new hardware, don't assume the device will plug-and-play well with the server's operating system. Before ordering upgrades, search online and visit the server manufacturer's forums to find out what issues other users encountered when installing the same component on the same OS. Also, confirm the component is listed on the OS vendor's hardware compatibility list.
Always Keep Records
Be sure to maintain log files for each server. Within the server documentation, make a note that the component was upgraded. Include the manufacturer, vendor and even the order number and serial numbers, whenever possible. It is also helpful to include warranty and support information. The more documentation you have, the easier it will be to isolate and repair issues that may arise in the future.