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Server Balancing Act: Navigating Traffic while Delivering Data & Applications

Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Lost Ark gamers (among many others) have been looking for answers after being repeatedly forced into virtual timeouts by downed servers. And if server maintenance, overcapacity, and outages can impact a niche entertainment industry, imagine what a downed server can do to the economic viability of your organization.

When a web hosting and cloud infrastructure platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS) suffered from multiple outages within a two-week timeframe last year, gamers were only a small part of a much wider user audience that includes “millions of customers” who host their services on AWS. Enterprise companies like Disney, Ring, Slack, Netflix, Shopify, and Capital One were negatively impacted and left scrambling for solutions while fielding customer complaints.

While AWS blamed a power source problem at a single data center, end-users (employees and customers) were frustrated by the inability to access products and services from a company’s hosted website. Companies suddenly can’t work and can’t produce as expected. 

And who does the consumer blame? 

Not AWS.

What is a Server?

Servers can be physical (on-premise) or virtual (in data centers accessed through the cloud). They perform supportive IT functions like hosting, processing, storing, and managing access to data, applications, and workflows on a centralized device or service. 

Servers and their operating systems are the powerhouses behind an organization's IT functionality and network accessibility. Servers are the central repositories of data, websites, email, Active Directory, monitoring, etc. 

What's the advantage of a virtual vs. on-premise servers? Data centers can host multitudes of servers, providing more cost savings, scalability, reliability, monitoring, and security to organizations; this allows small and medium businesses (SMBs) to access the same enterprise-grade technology corporations use to propel business objectives.

How is a Server different from a Network?

Servers are central processing computers - the brains behind processing a repository of data and applications. Networks are the digital communication and data transmission infrastructure – the bloodstream - that transports and shares essential resources among users who need access to data and applications to run business operations.

Where is my server?

The location of your server depends on the sensitivity of your data and the need for scalability, security, and management. Servers may be hosted in a data center, accessible through an internet connection. In a data center, the data center manages all maintenance, hardware, cooling, and physical security, so you are free to use the services without the hassle and the stress of daily monitoring and maintenance. Data centers essentially pool storage, maintenance, and energy resources to offer customers 24/7 security and on-demand server accessibility. 

For super sensitive and critical operational data, some companies keep servers on-premise and manage them themselves or with the help of a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Other “serverless computing” solutions like AWS, Azure, Microsoft 365, and Google Cloud Workflows are fully managed and eliminate the need for on-premise physical infrastructure. Most organizations use both solutions.

Why do Servers crash?

Servers control, distribute, and protect data and applications and host websites and email. When server performance fails and becomes unreliable, it has a domino effect that causes significant disruptions across the organization and bleeds out onto employees, vendors, and customers. 

Consumers lose patience with repeated website error messages, login glitches, latency, and the inability to order on demand. Repeated outages contribute to distrust and frustration with a company. 

Everyone relies on the stability of the back-end server platform. Slow connectivity is not just annoying – it could be the harbinger of malicious activity on your server.

So what is happening on the back end to disrupt normal server operations? Despite constant monitoring, servers do fail. Components die. Power sources falter. Threat actors force shutdowns with DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. Faulty configurations are commonplace. And you may think that virtual servers are safer – but they too fail, just like physical servers.

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Top reasons servers go down:

  1. Capacity overload
  2. Cyberattack/DDoS attack
  3. Power outage
  4. Configuration mistakes
  5. Hardware failure
  6. No internet connection
  7. Natural disasters
  8. Bugs in applications or operating systems

And server engineers must find and fix the root cause in record time as tensions grow from every part of the organization. Downdetector, a website dedicated to monitoring outages, can assist IT personnel in determining if the outages affecting their organization are widespread (large scale impact) or isolated to their infrastructure.

How to limit crashes:

  1. Create strict governance and processes around server maintenance, security, scheduled downtime, testing updates & patches, hardware acquisition, configuration. 
  2. Keep your servers cool and clean
  3. Continuous active monitoring for abnormalities 
  4. Automate server provisioning and configuration
  5. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

While some downtime is inevitable – it needs to be scheduled downtime. Upgrades and patches are essential parts of routine server maintenance and require downtime. But even when servers are running as designed, with built-in redundancy, key functionality may stall due to the following: 

  • demand is not managed correctly
  • traffic becomes too complex 
  • server health is not prioritized

How to maximize server health

Servers need constant and focused attention from a dedicated IT team to ensure long-term reliability and performance. When organizations prioritize server health, they can enjoy properly configured deployments, reliable power sources, patches tested before deployment, demand load appropriation, and built-in redundancy to manage requests despite single component failure.

Organizations need to choose how to best support business operations and balance growth against the costs of IT resources. Whether your servers live on-site, in a data center, are accessed virtually with serverless computing, or in any combination, you still need to manage server health to ensure performance and dependability.

TBConsulting and Server Total Care

TBConsulting, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) based in Phoenix, Arizona, provides IT growth strategies and solutions to organizations with enterprise-grade tools and certified IT engineers and architects. Server Total Care is TBC's server health solution. TBC understands the criticality of server reliability, security, and performance for business operations, and Server Total Care provides centralized server management, monitoring, and maintenance to minimize downtime and reduce risk. 

With Server Total Care, organizations can consolidate valuable IT resources to minimize downtime and restore the health of their servers with TBC's proactive systems infrastructure management team.

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