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What Is Server Management?

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted April 12, 2019


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Server management, an essential activity for data center administrators, is a challenging topic. This is because the term server management can be used to refer to managing physical server hardware, virtual machines or many types of application servers and database servers. All of these needs to be managed – constantly.

Adding complication, there are many types of server management tools and server management services that can help administrators to keep servers of all types working properly. The best server monitoring software applications provide system management application capabilities that serve an array of different use-cases. Let's look at server management in-depth.

Understanding Server Management

At its core, server management is about having control or access to a physical, virtual or application server in order to perform different types of administrative or maintenance operations. Server management also involves server monitoring and visibility into how a given server is operating to help improve and optimize performance.

Server Management Basics

Regardless of the type of server that is being managed, there are a number of basic fundamentals.

  • Access. In order to manage a server, a server management tool, server management service or server management software needs to be able to access the server it is trying to manage.
  • Updates. Among the most basic server management functions is the ability to help start and install software or firmware updates.
  • Setup. The ability to setup new software, add-ons or functionality is often a core feature of server management.Monitoring. Providing the capability to monitor different types of servers for status, performance and anomaly detection.
  • Optimization. Some server management tools and services will also provide optimization capabilities to improve server efficiency and overall operations.
  • Capacity planning. A more advanced feature is some cases is capacity planning which provides a forecast of server utilization, helping administrators to plan for when additional resources will be required.
  • Alerting. The ability to alert an administrator, via email, SMS, slack or some other messaging system to different errors and incidents is another helpful component of server management.

Server Management Services

Server management services help administrators to offload the direct responsibility for managing certain attributes of a given server. Depending on the type of server, there are different types of services that can be offered.

For hardware, server management can involve a fully managed service, where the service provider is responsible for the physical and software management of the server.

For web and application servers, server management at a hosting provider or in the cloud involves the management and maintenance of the core server software. It can often also include security as well as backup services for stability and overall resilience.

Server management services can also help organizations to identify the best server applications and perform server software comparisons.

Why Should you Use Server Management Services?

There are a number of different reasons why you should consider using server management services. The best server monitoring software is only as good as the skill of the person using the software. And when some server management is shifted to a service – that is dedicated to managing servers professionally – there are multiple benefits to be had.

Among the benefits of server management services:

  • Skills and Experience. Finding the right staff with the required skills and experience for different server management tasks can be challenge.
  • Operational Costs. Many server management services are subscription based with a monthly or yearly operational cost that may well be more cost effective than ramping up an internal capability.
  • Scale. Managing servers at large scale can often require monitoring and management at scale as well, which is something that a server management service can provide.
  • Support. On call support with guaranteed response times is often a core benefit offered by the best server management services.

Server Management and Monitoring Tools

There is no shortage of different server management and monitoring tools that organizations can choose from. Depending on the use case, and the type of server or server application the organization is looking to monitor there are varying critical attributes that should be considered.

Critical Attributes for Server Management

Coverage

  • Identify what types of servers and applications that will be managed.
  • Make sure the tool or service covers the server you need to manage

User Interface

  • Basic server administration can be done via a simple terminal.
  • Some tools provide advance visualization capabilities that can make it easier to manage

Alerting

  • The ability to set performance or other thresholds that can generate alerts.
  • Consider different alerting options, including email, SMS and slack

Support

  • Server management can be complicated, having support is often critical to success.

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