A sound plan for server maintenance

When it comes to servicing the server, there are always different approaches…the question is which is right for you.


The Conservatives like the better-safe-than-sorry route; they replace or upgrade their servers on a planned timeline (ie: every three years) regardless of current performance.  The Risk Takers like to extend server warranties and push the cost of replacement into a future year.  Which do you belong to…and is it the right path for your business?


The chance of server failure increases as a server ages. So how do you determine when you should pull the trigger on replacing that piece of hardware?  Consider these questions to help you determine if it’s time:


  • If you extend the warranty, how long will you be covered vs. the cost of replacement now?
  • Is there a way you can increase the server’s performance, extending the life of the hardware?
  • Do you have more than one server, allowing you to replace only the oldest components and minimizing replacement cost for any one year?


A good IT team will measure hardware performance and report metrics which will give you critical information you need to decide if replacement is required.  If tracking shows server performance dropping steadily, slower response times, or more failures requiring IT time, it is probably time to purchase a new server.  Metrics surrounding downtime, measured in dollars and time required by the IT team to fix the issue will help you know if your return on investment (ROI) on a new server is worth the investment.  But don’t forget fuzzy costs as well…such as your reputation.  If a client tries to interact with you but cannot due to server issues, you pay the cost in damaged reputation.


One of our clients asked us to determine whether it was time to replace their servers or extend the warranty.  The decision had to fit the client’s objectives, their current server configuration, and protect the integrity of their system and data.  The client is a non-profit, so there was a limited budget, and the warranty was about to expire.  Looking at the metrics for the server we found that the performance was still solid, the server-to-user ratio was very high indicating a low burden on the server, and there were other servers in the environment that were not overloaded. 


The solution for this client was to re-distribute the load across the multiple servers and extend the warranty on the single component in question.  In addition, for a little insurance, we made sure to get a new power supply and SCSI card (the two most likely fail points on this piece of hardware).  This would ensure the parts were on hand should the server fail, radically decreasing the downtime of the server.  As the server continues to age, the client can begin to budget for its rotation out of the system as part of a long-term replacement plan.


The most critical part of a warranty extension vs. server replacement decision is to understand your IT environment.  The more you understand how IT ROI functions for you, the more empowered you will be.