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Server Maintenance Plan

  • I am new in my role and trying to assess our technology situation and propose upgrades and maintenance improvements. Can anyone provide me with an example of a good server and user maintenance plan (windows environment) as well as the typical lifespan of a server?

    Thanks!

  • Most computers have a average lifespan of about 5 years. This can vary greatly however, but generally people want a faster machine with more resources. And hardware problems become more likely as the machine reaches this age.

    I'm not sure if you are talking about a plan that you can follow or something like a service agreement with a service provider.

  • I am looking for a plan that I as the administrator can follow with our IT consultant.

  • As far as lifespans go, depending on their role, a good quality server can last a heck of a long time. Lifetime for any particular usage is really dependent on it being able to keep up with its normal tasks and be able to handle required software updates. We've still got some legacy Windows XX (insert letters) crap that are 12 years old and due to some irreplaceable and antiquated software we still need another 5 - 10 out of them. For something like a domain server, it could last a really long time because there really isn't a huge amount of innovation as far as domain controllers go. For something that processes data or a large terminal services setup, the lifespan may be much shorter to keep performance at an acceptable level. You could say something arbitrary like 5 years for a server, but most servers should still be running fine after 5 years and it comes down to performance and software.

    Desktops 5 or so years which is an average IMO, you get some that will never die and others that can't make it 2 years. Higher-end workstations often have the highest turnover because they typically need to be at the higher end of performance for running software properly. Usually they can be downgraded to a desktop after their workstation life is done.

    I'm assuming from your question, you do not have a service contract and this is a in-house IT administration. And, you're basically starting from scratch on developing the whole IT plan for the organization, correct? Are there any major concerns right now and how well is everything managed right now? Also, how many servers, computers, etc., are going to be administered. Hard to make a specific recommendation without knowing the whole scope of what you are going to be working with and what you currently have.

    Broadly speaking, I would suggest auditing everything from hardware to software to group policies to network setup. From there start with the most broken and the most important and make a short and long term plan for correcting, optimizing, maintaining, and replacing.

  • One thing to keep in mind about servers, is the longer you run it, the more risk you run of having something break on it.  Hard drives can die, fans can stop spinning...etc.  If you run the risk of keeping the server running after 5 years, just be careful and have the data backed up nightly or you could be in for a disaster.  With that being said, here is how our org handles replacement of hardware.

    Servers:  We try to replace physical servers after 5 years, or at the very least have it in the budget for replacement.  Lately, we've been replacing physical with virtual servers, so that plan is a bit antiquated.  We will replace the virtual hosts though on that cycle.  Our oldest server is our print server, which only does printers, so we've let that server go beyond its expected life.  If it breaks, no big deal.  We can replace it relatively quick.  

    Desktops:  We try to replace 20% of our machines each year, so that we are never left with a large amount to replace at once.  This year will be an exception for us, as one of our software vendors laid a bomb on us and said we need to have Windows 7 64 bit on every machine to make their software work.  

    Network Switches:  We leave the switches alone if they run without any faults or errors.  We keep spares on-hand just in case something should fail.  

    Phones:  We have a few spares on-hand in case one breaks.  Other than that, we are slowly updating our Shoretel phone system from analog phones to IP phones.  I think we buy a case of IP phones every quarter.  

    I know this isn't a formal plan, but hopefully you can take something from it and devise your own plan that works for your org.  

    Best of luck,

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
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  • Thanks everyone! This has all been very helpful in creating a strategy from scratch!

  • New to TechSoup.  Like  mtaskey, I too am in the beginning stages of formulating an IT plan for our little museum.  We have only 1.5 staff.  As the "1" staff it will be on my shoulders to keep us up and running!  So, I appreciate the answers you have all provided here. glamontagne and jestep - especially helpful for my starter kit.

    I'd also like to ask:

    1)  If we were to decide to find an IT maintenance plan or IT service company that we can call on for support (i.e. physical visits or virtual access) what kind of pricing should we expect to be reasonable?  I assume prices will be hourly per service call, but I am not sure what pricing is reasonable for our size and needs.

    2) We are constantly experiencing disconnects, inability to print, slow responses, etc.  I assume this means we need some server maintenance or perhaps even to start from scratch with a simplified network set-up.  Any thoughts?

    We have 5 desktops, 1 laptop, and 1 Xerox printer, and two desktop printers on our network.  We have a Windows server (over 5 years old).

    Appreciate any feedback!

  • Hello casa,

    1) Pricing varies based on geographical area, as well as the expertise that the service company can provide.  If I could guess, a median cost would be $100 per hour in my area.  

    2) Before starting from scratch, I would look for where the slowness issues are coming from.  It could be your aging server, or your aging network.  What kind of network infrastructure do you have in place?  

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
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  • There are 3 basic ways to go for computer service:

    Time and Materials - You contact a service provider or bring the equipment to them. You pay for the time and materials needed to perform the service. Note that equipment may have a warranty but it may not cover the cost to have someone come to your location.

    Advantages: You are not committed and if your equipment doesn't break you save money.

    Disadvantages
    : If they are busy you may have to wait, cannot budget for repairs easily, and you get no discounts.


    Service Contract - You contact with a service provider to respond when you contact them to perform service on all equipment listed in the contract. This is normally for a set cost for a period of time like a year. Options that will affect price include:

    - Is the equipment covered by manufacturer's warranty?

    - Response time. Do you need them to be there in 2 hours, 4 hours, or tomorrow?

    - Do they need to provide a spare machine if they cannot fix yours quickly?

    - Other options that you may or may not need covered.

    Advantages: You can negotiate a package deal and get good pricing that you can budget for. Most of your equipment is not going to break and companies know this. They can discount and still make good money most of the time.

    Disadvantages
    : Like other kinds of insurance, you may be paying for coverage you don't need especially if equipment is under warranty.


    Service Agreements
    - Not as well known as service contracts, but has certain advantages. You negotiate with the provider as you would with a service contact, but it's for them to provide certain services at a lower than normal price. If you need service you may pay more than with a contract, but less than with T & M. And you can ask for some service level promises that you don't have with normal T & M. Companies like this because they have you "locked in" as a customer and it only costs them a discount.

    Advantages: You get a discount if you need service and can request special options if you need them. If you don't need service you save a lot of money. Unlike having a contract, I would advise that you don't include anything in the agreement that REQUIRES you to use the provider. Give yourself the option to use someone else if the provider has problems with service or something else.

    Disadvantages
    : If you need a lot of service for old printers and computers, it's going to cost more.

     

    Note: If your equipment is under warranty, your provider may be getting paid to do the repairs if they are authorized to do so. However this payment generally doesn't cover an onsite repair. I think Dell is one exception to this, but check your warranty to know for sure. Don't pay a provider a second time if they are already getting paid. :-)