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Treat Your Server Like A Server

Wednesday June 1st, 2011 by Extensis

Not long ago, we treated servers like celestial beasts. Cavernous rooms or entire floors would be sacrificed for them to work their magic. Vast amounts of power and air conditioning would be provided to cool their mood lest we were to suffer the wrath of a system crash. Battalions of the most qualified staff would be deployed to monitor and appease their health, feeding them copious amounts of backup tapes, tractor feed paper and very expensive software, sometimes off the shelf, often custom written.

Nowadays we can purchase equivalently powered server hardware that require a fraction of the resources at a fraction of the price. Apple sells Mac minis preinstalled with OS X Server. NAS devices which used to be manufactured by IT giants like Sun Microsystems and IBM are now available from your local computer retailer.

The dwarfing of server technology means that even the smallest companies and organizations can now implement server based technologies like web application servers, video streaming and remote access without needing to commit the same financial and human resources required several years ago.

What can get overlooked sometimes are best practice procedures that still apply to both large and small-scale server installations to ensure optimal performance and availability for all users.

Extensis Universal Type Server and Portfolio Server customers can benefit by implementing some of these procedures as both fonts and media files are critical resources for their daily workflow.

1. Provide a backup power and surge protection

It goes without saying that without power, servers won’t run. In a power failure situation that could render Universal Type Server or Portfolio Server unavailable. The Universal Type Client automatically goes into an offline mode when the server is unavailable, and client users have access to the fonts cached on their machine. With the server offline, Portfolio client users won’t have access to anything on the server.

Sudden power failures can also result in critical data loss or data corruption. This could mean having to spend time restoring backups or recreating jobs.

Using a UPS device (uninterruptible power supply), ensures that your server has immediate backup power available so that there is enough time to perform a graceful shutdown or keep things running until the main power comes back online.

In addition, some UPS devices also offer surge protection from electrical spikes. This prevents damage to the sensitive electrical parts inside your server.

2. Ensure optimal disk performance

Servers are most commonly used for distributing digital files like images, documents and fonts to users within a network. This can put a lot of workload on hard drives that can sometimes results in mechanical failure that can result in data loss and company downtime.

By implementing a RAID solution (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) you can both optimize the speed of the data being read and written to the disks and build failure tolerance which prevents data loss or corruption should a hard disk failure occur. There are many different types of RAID solutions on the market including some external devices that can connected via Firewire or USB without the need to open the server’s casing.

3. Remember to backup

Backing up data can be performed manually on a scheduled basis or automated through software or in conjunction with external devices like Apple’s Time Machine.  Most of us know that backing up data is easy to perform but quite often we know ( to our cost ) that’s it’s also easy to forget.

Universal Type Server contains an automated internal backup system that creates a TAR backup of the complete server data including fonts, users and permissions. As part of any backup strategy, it’s important to remember to occasionally move a copy of any backup files to a remote location as an extra layer of protection to cover cases of catastrophic failure.