14 questions to ask before upgrading your servers

    Servers are almost always used with specific objectives in mind. Regardless of whether the server is installed in a small business or large enterprise, the server’s role can change over time and sometimes start fulfilling other services and responsibilities. Therefor, it’s important to reviewing a server’s resource load to help ensure the organization improves performance and avoids downtime. 

    What do you do when your servers are obsolete and ready to be retired? Unfortunately, server upgrades aren’t as easy as just dropping in more RAM, they require extensive planning. 

    The server is essentially the backbone of a businesses’ IT functionality. Acquiring and installing a new server is a large undertaking for any business. Choosing the correct server is important to the value of an organization’s future.

    So, what should you consider when it’s time to upgrade? To make matters a little easier, we’ve put together a list of 14 things to consider when upgrading your servers to ensure your organization’s systems perform at the highest levels.

    Does it fit your needs?

    First, let’s make sure that the new server is able to meet your organization’s IT needs. Determine the necessary requirements, compile this information, and work from there.

    Is integration possible?

    Check if you are able to integrate sections of your existing server into the new server. This could potentially save money on new technology and provide a level of consistency in terms of staff knowledge on the existing technology. Upgrading doesn’t mean that you need to throw your old equipment in the trash.

    What are the costs?

    Once you understand the performance requirements, the next step is to gauge which servers meet this most closely. Technology can be very expensive, so you shouldn’t pay for any technology that won’t be of use to your organization’s output.

    What maintenance is involved?

    Even the most current technology needs to be maintained and any length of downtime could be disastrous for an organization. Ensure that some form of maintenance cover is put in place. Usually, there is a warranty included, but it comes with an expiration date. Make sure you ask about extended warranty options if they’re available.

    What about future upgrades?

    Considering the future is critical when it comes to working with new technology. The fast pace at which technology develops means that you may need to consider growing your server a lot sooner than you expected. 

    Do you have a data backup?

    Never make any changes or upgrades to a server, no matter how minor, without having a data backup. When a server is powered down, there is no guarantee that it will come back online. 

    Should you create an image backup?

    Manufacturers tend to offer disk cloning technologies that streamline recovering servers should a failure occur. Some provide a universal restore option that allows you to recover a failed server. When upgrades don’t go as expected, disk images can help recover not only data but a server’s complex configuration.

    How many changes are you making to your servers?

    Don’t make multiple changes all at once. Adding disks, replacing memory, or installing additional cards should all be performed separately. If things go wrong a day or two after the changes are made, the process of isolating the change responsible for the error is much easier, than doing a myriad of changes all at once. If only a single change is executed, it’s much easier to track the source of the problem.

    Are you monitoring your logs?

    After a server upgrade is completed, never presume all is well just because the server booted back up without displaying errors. Monitor log files, error reports, backup operations, and other critical events. Leverage Windows’ internal performance reports to ensure all is performing as intended whenever changes or upgrades are completed.

    Did you confirm the OS you are running?

    It’s easy to forget the operating system a server is running. 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.

    Does the chassis support the upgrade?

    Server hardware can be notoriously inconsistent. Manufacturers often change model numbers and product designs. Whenever installing additional resources, you should read the manufacturer’s technical specifications before purchasing the upgrades.

    Did you double check that it will work?

    Whenever upgrading new server hardware, don’t automatically think the new hardware will plug-and-play well with the server’s operating system. Since the upgrade is being completed on a server, confirm the component is listed on the OS vendor’s hardware compatibility list. It doesn’t hurt to check the server manufacturer’s forums either.

    Does the software need an update?

    Make sure to keep up on any upgrades requiring software adjustments. You must also update a server’s virtual memory settings following a memory upgrade. 

    Did you get the most value for your money?

    Sure, less expensive disks, RAM, power supplies, and other resources are readily available. But when it comes to servers only high-quality components should be installed. While these items may cost a bit more than others, the performance and uptime benefits more than compensate for any additional expense.

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