What is a Network Server, and What Does It Do?
Network servers provide services such as file services, identity management and security, print services, application services, data storage, automation, and more. Many organizations today still benefit from having a physical network server installed at their place of business, and it’s usually driven to serve a specific set of needs. Organizations that have a specialty line of business application that doesn’t have a cloud-compatible option, organizations that have a significant quantity or investment in people and computer equipment on-site, organizations that have significant data storage and processing needs, and need high-speed, local-area-network access to that content are all valid reasons to have one or more on-site network servers at an office.
Network servers are just specialty pieces of computer equipment and are usually placed in a secure closet or office area. They provide services to all the computers and people that use your office network. Network servers can either be freestanding towers or mounted in industry-standard 19” wide equipment racks in a server closet in your office with your other network equipment.
Configuration Elements We Consider When Installing Network Servers
Because we support and have implemented many network servers, we’ve developed several best practices that we use in network server installation.
- Business Goals
- What are we trying to achieve? What does success look like?
- Target State
- User Identity and Security Roles the server will be responsible for
- Network services the server will provide, such as addressing, name resolution, or computer provisioning
- Line-of-business software applications and utilities that the server will host for your organization
- Specialty vendors who will be involved in your new server implementation, such as an application consultant
- Files or databases that the server will store and provide for your organization
- Specialty roles or services that rely upon a network server to function properly
- Server operating system, applications, and user licensing requirements
- Reliable, Supportable Outcome
- Best-practices backup and recovery solution in place, monitored and managed by Aldridge
- Server roles, functions, and applications configured to Aldridge best practices for reliability, anticipated growth, and management
- Health monitoring and server platform management in place to alert Aldridge on exceptions
- Supported server operating systems and licensing in place for all features
- Applications configured in cooperation with their specialist vendors to appropriate best practices
- Physical Configuration
- Rack or tower mounting
- Capacity sizing (processors, memory, and storage)
- Internal redundancy and availability (memory, power supplies, internal storage)
- Remote management and flexibility (hypervisors and virtualization, out-of-band management, hardware health monitoring)
- Network connectivity (number and speed of wired Ethernet interfaces)
- Manufacturer hardware warranty and on-site hardware support/repair
- Physical Environment
- Electrical power protection and short-term continuity, versus brownouts or blackouts
- Backup and recovery readiness, and best-practices backup appliances or equipment
- Safe, clean, and HVAC-managed operating environment
Network Server FAQs
What’s the expected lifecycle of a typical network server?
On-site network servers are physical equipment, and they do have wear and tear of both mechanical and electronic parts, but they also eventually become functionally obsolete as technology requirements evolve through the years. We currently plan on most new servers having up to a five-year operating life. That’s also the period of time most server hardware manufacturers permit warranties to be maintained or renewed, and it’s critical for such an important piece of computer equipment for your business to always be protected for repair by the manufacturer.
Realistically, some servers are installed for shorter-term needs. Some servers continue to operate network servers for six or seven years, though again, it’s important we’re always maintaining an active hardware manufacturer warranty on the equipment. If it’s not worth carrying a hardware service warranty on, it’s probably not worth operating at all, and it’s an outstanding risk for your organization.
Just like hardware, server software and operating systems have an effective lifecycle, too. Fortunately, we install most servers today to support the addition of new software and operating systems without having to completely replace the physical equipment. While there are future costs associated with updating your network server’s software environment, it’s often less than the cost of replacing the server equipment and extends the server equipment’s useful life to its highest economic value.
Do I need an on-site network server? What about “cloud”?
Today, for many loads and for many organizations, the answer is no. Cloud services, subscription services, high-speed internet, and advances in software, remote access, mobility, and cloud hosting have all significantly reduced the need to run and maintain your own on-site network server equipment.
With the growth of technology and high-speed internet, we’re anticipating that many servers installed today will be replaced by cloud technologies by the time it’s considering replacing them again in the future. For the other needs, though, when it makes sense for performance, risk management, flexibility, or local access, a network server still fills an important role.