Server administration: key aspects and tools

Server administration

Server administration is essential to guarantee high performance and business continuity, as servers often host valuable data and mission-critical applications. So, either internally or externally, it must be carefully addressed.

What is server administration?

Server administration comprehends all tasks related to managing, optimizing and monitoring servers, networks and systems in order to ensure they work properly and safely. It requires 24/7 availability and monitoring to guarantee business operations at all times.

Although some routing tasks can be completed during regular business hours, other tasks such as server fixes or system upgrades must be performed during off business hours to minimize the impact of the service.

Server administrators

The role of server administrators is to install, manage, optimize, monitor and solve problems (if necessary) in the company’s servers and related components. To ensure high performance and security, server administrators are responsible for completing a wide list of tasks, including:

  • Hardware management and maintenance.
  • Application maintenance and updates.
  • Backup scheduling.
  • Server and system monitoring.
  • Performance optimization.
  • Access management.
  • Technical support and ticketing management.
  • Implementing security barriers against cyberattacks.
  • Data protection.
  • Data center safety, when opting for on-premise servers.

On-premise or off-premise servers

Whether they decide to host servers on- or off-premises, companies must take responsibility for the server administration to some extent. However, in case of outsourcing their infrastructure, they also get to outsource some server administration tasks, such as:

  • Hardware management and maintenance.
  • Hardware monitoring.
  • Physical security measures.

Besides, it is worth mentioning that the level of redundancy, security and efficiency offered by service providers is difficult to achieve in an in-house datacenter.

Important aspects in server and system administration

The server being the core of operations, server administration is essential to properly manage and protect digital assets. Here are some aspects that cannot be neglected to ensure the best performance and business continuity at all times.

Security

Security is a top priority for all server administrators. According to Check Point, in 2021, there was a 50% increase in overall cyberattacks per week on corporate networks, compared to the previous year. Therefore, having a proactive approach to cyber security is more important than ever, and proper server administration is key on this matter.

Beyond defining and implementing security barriers, server and system administrators are in charge of constantly monitoring and analyzing potential vulnerabilities and threats. So that they can proactively implement the necessary security patches and barriers. In fact, as more companies are becoming aware of the importance of cybersecurity for business continuity, new security solutions and trends are on the rise:

Moreover, considering cyberattacks are on the rise, it is also highly recommended to rely on an infrastructure which provides redundancy at all levels.

Every element within our infrastructure is redundant to provide a fault-tolerant service. From the most common elements — power feeds, cooling, routers and aggregation switches —, to the most difficult ones —the access switches to all computing nodes, the storage and the nodes themselves.

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Updates

To guarantee the highest security level, it is also important to keep the server’s applications updated. That is why, server administrators keep track of new updates and security patches to minimize the risk of a cyberattack.

Monitoring

System and server monitoring is essential to avoid and solve any problem even before it shows up. Not only to detect vulnerabilities and bottlenecks, but also to improve services.

Monitoring CPU, memory or bandwidth usage, as well as having access to real-time data and logs, is extremely useful for sysadmins to optimize performance and security.

Backups

Designing a suitable backup schedule is indispensable. It should be adapted to the RPO and RTO goals defined in the company’s Disaster Recovery plan.

Automatizing storage and datacenter backups and snapshots protects businesses in the event of a failure or emergency. Besides, it is recommended to store at least one backup in a remote location.

Server administration tools

There are many system and server administration tools IT teams use to manage and monitor their infrastructure. Here is a list of some of the most popular tools in the market:

  • Cacti. Network monitoring and graphing tool.
  • Grafana. Data analytics and interactive visualization platform.
  • Graphite. Performance monitoring tool.
  • Graylog. Log management software.
  • Nagios. Network and server monitoring tool.
  • NetData. Real-time performance monitoring tool.
  • Pandora FMS. Software for monitoring systems, applications, TCP/IP services, network systems, etc.
  • Prometheus. Event monitoring and alerting tool.
  • Splunk. Data platform for searching, monitoring and analyzing data.
  • Wanguard. Network monitoring and protection tool.
  • Zabbix. Network monitoring tool.

Why do administrators delegate server administration?

Companies can choose between administering servers internally or delegating its administration to an specialized managed services provider. One of the main benefits behind delegating server administration is relying on an expert team without the need for building a team of specialists in house. This is especially interesting considering that the demand for tech talent grows faster than the number of IT professionals in the market.

Besides, fully or partially outsourcing server administration helps companies boost performance and productivity, while saving time, money and human resources.

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