What It Takes To Build and Maintain On-Premises File Servers (Hint Hint…It’s A Lot)
Given all the considerations for building and maintaining servers on-premises, your IT team carries a heavy load. Just “keeping the lights on” so end users can do their jobs occupies a good chunk of time and energy.
Servers require specialized expertise and expanded resource time during deployments and upgrades. There’s also a fair amount of on-going maintenance to make sure applications run smoothly and to keep hackers out. IT must also ensure the system remains compliant with regulations and everything is backed up. All this takes time away from more strategic responsibilities such as devising new ways to leverage technologies to drive revenues and run processes more efficiently.
To get a solid understanding of exactly what it takes for your IT team to build and maintain on-premises servers, this article discusses several key challenges that are not easy to manage, but can be easily overcome.
Challenges Start with Storage
Although storage costs are relatively low, getting storage to run as fast as the business and not be a bottleneck is a constant challenge. It’s also necessary to deploy enough hard drives to create redundant arrays in case one of the primary drives fails.
And while the manageable cost may make it easier to buy more storage, the more you buy, the more IT has to manage and maintain. For example, it can be time consuming and complex to map drives so end users can easily find files. When deploying network attached storage devices, IT also has to contend with more points of potential failures, constantly testing and monitoring to make sure storage components do not fail.
Network Access Adds to Concerns
The hassle of managing file servers also encompasses the network. Servers require network access to connect end users so they can collaborate with each other and interact with partners and customers. That means IT needs to monitor those network connections 7×24 to make sure they deliver the necessary bandwidth. Network access is also necessary to allow mobile users to tap into file servers. This involves configuring mobile user accounts so they can pass through multiple layers of firewalls and passwords to gain access. IT also has to configure and then closely monitor Domain Name Service instances, Active Directory and virtual private networks. Only then will end users be able to work securely and efficiently.
Server Logistics Present Unusual Hassles
To make sure servers function properly and have a reasonable lifecycle, IT needs to dedicate time and effort to coordinating a host of logistical issues. These include racks, power, cooling and physical security.
Many deployments and expansions are stalled by servers not fitting into racks. With so many wires and different size boxes, lining up server rails with mounting holes so they fit properly is frustrating, not to mention time consuming.
Power and cooling are other factors that are sometimes overlooked. Server power and cooling requirements have risen sharply in recent years, and many data centers are not equipped to handle them. It’s important to calculate how much power is necessary for your servers in order to obtain the appropriate power supply cooling requirements for each one. Without careful planning, overloads will cause power outages that could impact entire buildings.
Then there’s physical security to consider. If intruders gain unauthorized entry to your data center, they might be able to easily copy sensitive files onto a USB flash drive and steal or compromise valuable data. If such a breach occurs, it creates a whole new set of IT headaches associated with remediation efforts.
In addition to managing multiple logistics and maintaining the hardware for primary servers, backup hardware is also a contributing factor to file server maintenance. IT must go through the same set of considerations for racks, power, cooling and physical security for the back-up data center, which ideally should be located off-site. Yet another logistic to tackle!
Server Software Increases Resource Workloads
Perhaps where file servers consume the most of IT resources is with their software. Implementing enterprise software on servers and going live usually requires months of planning and pre-configuration. When a server is finally ready to go live, it can be a toss-up as to whether everyone can access the new app and conduct business as usual.
Software upgrades are no walk in the park either. They can impact any number of business-critical operations and delay response times to customers or hamper your ability to quickly capitalize on a new revenue opportunity. Aside from the upgrade cycle, on-going software administration can further drain your IT team. Licenses need to be renewed on a continual basis and patches have to be applied frequently.
The action items related to software alone leave little time for other IT responsibilities, which causes some tasks to be either overlooked or set aside for later. These responsibilities include security, where IT must help ensure industry regulations are adhered to for compliance, and back-up and disaster recovery for business continuity. Downtime must be avoided at all costs to keep the business running, which is no small feat.
One Solution That Overcomes the Challenges
There is a solution that overcomes all of these challenges. Sound too good to be true? If you migrate your servers to a cloud collaboration platform, all of the challenges, daily tasks and responsibilities described above are managed by the cloud platform provider.
In addition to offering hardware and software expertise, cloud platform providers handle the logistics to ensure servers have all the space, power and cooling they need. Many cloud providers also have expertise with security and compliance so that any data stored in the cloud will be just as safe, if not safer, than it would be on premises.
However, the greatest value of migrating servers to a cloud collaboration platform is that your internal team can shift its focus to more strategic initiatives and your end users are uninterrupted as they serve your customers and keep the business running.
Now that’s an investment that will payoff almost instantly!