“The server has crashed!” These words can strike fear in the hearts of network administrators and users alike. Just as good parents keep an eye on their children even when there is no apparent threat, so should a good network administrator monitor the servers to capture potential problems before they occur. Outsourced IT support is key to the success of any business that relies on a network of computers for its day-to-day operations.

Here is a step by step guide to proper server maintenance.

1. Design a standard server troubleshooting and maintaining routine. In order to maintain your server more efficiently, you need to have a standard troubleshooting procedure that you will follow each time you are maintaining it. Use a checklist to aid in your troubleshooting and maintenance process. This will prevent you from skipping essential steps or overlooking something.

2. Start from the bottom: Troubleshoot the physical component

Your first step in maintaining your server should involve determining whether the physical component is functioning properly. This includes checking the hardware, cabling system and any attached peripheral. Switch off the network cables and cards to help identify any faults in the hardware. If there is any new hardware in the server, then be sure that it is compatible with the operating system.

3. Traffic control: look out for addressing and routing errors

Once you have given the hardware a clean bill of health, shift your attention to the configuration of your operating system. Typical business networks run on TCP/IP, thus an incorrect TCP/IP setting results in address and routing problems. Always ensure that your server’s TCP/IP configurations are correct.

4. Identification: Troubleshoot name resolution problems.

Your computers’ names must be resolved to your IP address. Thus, if you are experiencing connectivity problems, then try ‘pinging’ your computers using their names and the IP address.

5. Troubleshoot application problems.

Server applications are usually different from applications that are installed on workstations. Server applications are installed on top of the operating system and they allow you to maintain and monitor your server as well as the computers in the network. You need to ensure that these applications are compatible with the underlying operating system.

6. Paper chase: Troubleshoot print server problems.

While troubleshooting the print server, ensure that your printer is in sound working condition and that all connections are secure. Also, ensure that the printer drivers are correctly installed. Finally, ensure that the print spooler service is running smoothly.

7. Troubleshoot email server problems.

Email is the most used network application in organizations. Problems with the mail server can result from connectivity problems that have been discussed above. To fix this, ensure that the Mail Exchange (MX) resources in the DNS entries are right. Also, ensure that there is adequate disc space for user mailboxes in the mail server.

8. Terminal condition: Troubleshoot terminal services problems.

The “thin client” solution is increasingly gaining popularity now that Microsoft is incorporating Terminal Services into its Windows 2000 and .NET server operating systems. Be sure to check this terminal server.

9. Problems with the dial: Troubleshoot dial-up/ remote access server problems

Through the remote access server, users can dial in and establish a connection with your network through a VPN. However, if users cannot connect to your remote access server, then you need to check the general connectivity issues mentioned previously.

10. Listen for the zebras: Look for any other sources of trouble.

The saying “When you hear hoof beats, expect horses, not zebras” is very true when it troubleshooting and maintaining your server. Thus, always consider the regular sources of trouble. However, if you have checked through the common sources of problems but are still unable to fix the server, then look out for the uncommon sources of trouble like the server security settings, client licenses and the routers. This might be very challenging hence you might consider IT consulting at this point.

Whichever way you look at it, server failure is all but fun. However, you can make the experience of maintaining your server a lot less traumatic for you as well as your users by following the steps discussed above. However, if you do not have the resources and skills, then consider hiring a network support company to help you get your server in a sound working condition.
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