The age of storing data only on paper is long gone. In this age, almost everything has become digital. Businesses, services, data sharing—everything has gone online. And servers play a major role in making this possible. Though it might look simple to users, a lot happens on the back end.
Servers have a wide range of applications—application hosting, email management, proxies, file transfers, etc. Different servers specialize in different services. But one of the things all these servers have in common is server management. And that is the focus of this post. We will explain what server management is and what it involves. Following that, we’ll show how server management benefits you and how server management tools help.
What Is Server Management?
Server management is the process of managing hardware and software components of servers in an effort to have the servers function as expected. Whether you’ve termed it server management or not, if you have a server, server management is part of your organization. Server management usually starts when you get a new server and ends when you decommission the server or, in some cases, even after.
There are different tasks involved in server management. Depending on the use case, you might have different specialists taking care of different tasks, or you might have one or a few people for it. You can have different types of servers based on what you use them for, but you can also categorize servers based on where they exist. So let’s look at the different types of servers you can have.
On-Premises vs. Cloud vs. Hybrid Servers
Based on where your servers are located, you can categorize them into three types:
- On-premises servers
- Cloud servers
- Hybrid servers
If a server is located within your organization, it is called an on-premises server. These servers are completely owned and controlled by you. You will be responsible for everything that has to do with these servers.
A cloud server runs on a cloud environment and is provided to you over a network. These servers are located at a different location owned by cloud service providers. The ownership and control of these servers partially belong to you and partially to the cloud service providers. You have to access these servers over a network.
The term “hybrid” doesn’t apply to a single server in this instance. A single server is always either on-premises or cloud. But when some servers are on-premises and some are on the cloud, we call it a hybrid server.
Server Management Activities
The server management process involves various tasks. Some of the most common activities are:
- Setting up/provisioning servers
- Configuring servers
- Monitoring servers
- Tuning server performance
- Implementing and improving security
- Backing up and restoring servers
Now let’s examine these activities in detail.
This is the first thing you do when you get a server. Server setup/provisioning involves:
- Getting the hardware
- Installing software
- Adding the server to the network
- Providing access to the server
These activities are subject to change depending on whether it’s an on-premises or cloud server. In the case of on-premises servers, you usually get the hardware. Then you have to start with installing the OS and all the necessary software. If it’s a cloud server, you have the OS installed. Most of these server OSs come with inbuilt services that you have to turn on to use. If there’s something more you need, you’ll have to install it. Once the installation is done, you add it to the network.
Server configuration is the next step after provisioning. In this stage, you have to configure the server to adapt it to your use case. When you set up a server, it’s on default settings. So you will have to change the configurations, if necessary, to what you want. Once you’re done with server configuration, your server is ready to function as required.
Monitoring is important for any system, but especially servers. Server monitoring is the process of keeping an eye on your server’s activities. You will have to monitor for health, performance, failures, etc. Monitoring is very important to gain visibility of your server. It helps identify issues and room for improvement. The straightforward way to go about this is to use server monitoring tools. Most of these tools come with all the features you need. All you have to do is set them up and start monitoring.
Having a server that’s not performing to its full potential is a waste of resources. Hence, it’s important to tune your server for maximum performance. This part of server management involves identifying any issues with server performance and finding a solution to them. Performance issues can be identified by monitoring different server performance metrics. Once the cause is identified and a solution is found, you will have to make changes to improve the server’s performance.
Security has become one of the most important concerns today. If your servers are not secure, your whole network and applications can go down in seconds. Therefore, server security must be taken very seriously. Most of the cloud service providers have default security features enabled, and you have an option to get more. But if you have on-premises servers, security is completely on you. Most servers and server OSs come with built-in security features that you can enable and use, but they might not be enough. In addition, you can use specialized security hardware or software; using both is suggested for better security. You will have to implement security measures, see how they can be improved, and work on improving them. Security teams can be a big help in identifying issues and providing security solutions.
Backup and Restoration
We can wish for things to never go wrong and servers never to fail. But we must be prepared for when something happens. Backing up servers and restoring them is an essential part of server management. You can have replicas of servers that can handle traffic even if one server fails, but frequent backups are also important, especially if you have a single point of failure. So if things go down, you can still recover by restoring server states.
There’s a lot involved in server management. But when you think of the benefits, it’s worth it. So let’s look at some major benefits of server management.
Server Management Benefits
Server management is a process that streamlines server-related tasks. This helps in the planned execution of these tasks. When you define proper tasks and assign experts to them, there is less chance of something going wrong. You’re improving the reliability of servers, which reduces the risk of things going wrong in the future. Of course, things can still go wrong, but with server management you can also have contingency plans ready.
Server management also saves time and money because, when you plan things properly, you waste minimal resources. And if you choose to use server management tools, you can even save time on building systems to help you with server management.
Monitoring is a crucial part of server management. As a result, you can identify server issues pretty early—if done right, almost instantly. This improves your turnaround time and helps prevent losses.
Role of Server Management Tools
As you might have realized by now, server management is not a one-step solution. There are different tasks involved, and some of them are recurrent. In this fast-paced world, you might not be able to do everything from scratch. You would rarely want to run all commands and configuration items manually every time. Automation and ready-made solutions have made every process faster, and that applies to server management as well.
Server management tools help you with various tasks. They not only make things easy but also provide better visibility over your servers and their activity. You can easily monitor, report, and alert on your server.
Some of the useful features of server management tools are:
- Increased automation and decreased human intervention
- Improved alert accuracy
- Holistic views of your entire environment
- Agentless data collection
- Built-in service checks
- Automatic anomaly detection
Advanced features can also help you improve server performance. Hence, server management tools are a smart choice for organizations that have less time or budget to have everything built in-house.
Where there are servers, there is server management. Servers are an extremely important part of an organization, and it’s important to handle them with care. Server management not only makes tasks easy but also decreases the probability of failures. We’ve gone through the different tasks involved in server management and how we can benefit from them.
As important as server management is for servers, so is a good server management tool. There are many cost-effective server management tools out there that have almost everything you need. Even better: the responsibility of upgrading a system with changing situations can be taken off your shoulders because server management service providers take care of it for you. So if you’re planning to make server management easier, server management tools might be just what you need.
This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar is a cybersecurity team lead who is enthusiastic about cybersecurity, ethical hacking, and Python. He is keenly interested in bug bounty hunting and vulnerability analysis.