February 18, 2021 by Michael Diez
So you use some kind of Management software, whether an EHR or CRM. You may want to save money by not having to pay for a subscription for the cloud version of the software or maybe your connection to the internet is not good enough, whaterver the reason, you decided to go with an on-premise server.
I'll leave the discussion about cloud vs. on-premise for another article.
In this article, I'm going to discuss the features you want in an on-premise server for small businesses like a Chiropractic office with a staff of around 10.
Here is the TLDR: Monitoring Reliability Long term support
The two main objectives when maintaining a server are reducing downtime and preventing data loss.
Even for a small business, downtime and data loss have a significant impact on the business. I mean think about it. Say your server goes down. You call a tech, then he tells you that the server will take a couple of days to restore. What's the cost of productivity loss? And data loss; well it hurts when you lose those baby pictures, but it really hurts when you lose patient records.
In accounting, the standard for MACRS depreciation for computer equipment is 3 to 5 years. This kind of gives us a good rule-of-thumb.
The biggest factors affecting the lifespan of server computers are:
If we assume no changes in regulation and technological advances, a server usually receives about 5 years of support from manufacturers. Then with regular maintenance of software and hardware and proper operating conditions, we can add over 10 years to the lifespan of the server, giving it a total of 15+ years of use.
But if you buy a cheap, unreliable server with poor support and inability to monitor it’s health, then its lifespan is significanly reduced while increasing downtime and risk of data loss.
Finding out that your server has crashed always happens at the worst time possible when you are not monitoring your server.
This is because you are usually unprepared, and the server has been neglected significantly.
A good server allows you to monitor hard drives, memory, fans, and power supply.
Hey, replacing a hard drive with a few bad clusters is way easier than one that is making clicking sounds.
Get a server with a remote access controller, like the integrated Dell Remote Access Controller ( iDRAC ) that EMC servers come with.
A server that allows you to monitor the internal components significantly reduces downtime by allowing you to perform preventive maintenance. This way you deal with small problems rather than catastrophic ones.
Good server monitoring allows you to plan maintenance expenses as opposed to deal with sudden emergency expenses.
When we talk reliability of a server computer, I break it down into the reliability of the following critical components (in order of reliability):
One of these breaks and the whole system is down.
Two useful metrics for gauging reliability a server are the Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair/Replace (MTTR).
The less moving parts the more reliable.
The most notorious moving parts in a computers are fans and hard drives. These components tend to fail sooner that the rest.
Next to these, is the power supply.
While these components have the lowest MTBF, they also have a low MTTR, meaning they are easy to replace in case of failure.
One way to increase the reliability of a server is through redundancy. A server that allows for redundancy in hard drives and power supplies is more reliable.
Now reliability is a moot point if replacements aren’t available, and that takes us to the next point.
Your server needs two kinds of support during its life-time: Part Availability and Technical Support.
Here is a chart from the Dell EMC End-of-Service Life Policy
Bottom line is, if you want to reduce the strain on your business caused by downtime and data loss, get your business a reliable server with good support and monitoring capabilities.