Extending the Life of Your Hardware: Best Practices for Reducing Risk

Jay ButlerJay Butler, Senior Technical Consultant — The economic circumstances of the last several years have forced most of us to make some difficult financial choices in both our personal and professional lives.  Our financial institution clients have been faced with shrinking IT budgets that have had a major impact on how IT is managed.  Some very innovative solutions have emerged to help reduce IT expenses and set the stage for future savings.  IT expenses have also been reduced through some necessary tough decisions that involve increased risk.  One trend I’ve noticed over the last several years among our clients is the choice to keep hardware longer than has been customary.  With less money in the budget and higher priority requirements elsewhere, hardware has taken a back seat in many cases out of necessity. 

For those who must endure the risks associated with keeping older and older hardware, I have a few recommendations to help reduce the risk:

  1. Implement a proactive, continuous, and automatic fault monitoring solution.
    A Windows machine will often report at least some errors to the Event Logs prior to a complete failure.  The logs must be constantly monitored so that proactive steps can be taken by a technician to prevent a catastrophic failure.  Among other valuable network management features, Safe Systems’ NetComply provides 24/7 Windows Event Log monitoring.  Our custom NetComply monitoring looks for critical errors in the logs that may indicate an impending failure.  NetComply generates alerts to our Network Operations Center so that remediation can begin immediately when necessary.  I have witnessed many cases over the years where the monitoring/alerting has enabled our technicians to save a server from certain doom.
  2. Maintain hardware warranties.
    Take the time to check all of your servers’ warranty status. No vendor can provide better support for your hardware than the maker.  Warranties from companies like Dell can include next day, on-site, expert hardware replacement service and telephone support to help with problems.
  3. Employ continuous, real-time backups. 
    A continuous backup enables the recovery of data to its original state up to minutes before the failure occurred.  A nightly backup solution could mean the loss of a day’s worth of data or more preceding a catastrophic event.  Safe Systems offers C-Vault, a fully managed continuous backup and vaulting solution.  When combined with our Continuum service, C-Vault is a complete disaster recovery solution.
  4. Clearly define server recovery procedures. 
    Many of the server-down support calls we field begin with an evaluation of your recovery plan.  A detailed plan is the critical first step in executing a speedy recovery.
  5. Provide a computer friendly environment for your servers. 
    Computer electronics need a well-ventilated, climate-controlled environment.  A cool (about 68 degrees), dust free environment will extend the life of computers.  Occasional inspection and cleaning of server ventilation fans and internal components is also beneficial, but care must be taken to avoid damage.

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