Server Monitoring Essentials

JBOD enclosure

If you’ve ever owned the same computer for more than a few years, you’re most likely very well aware of the kind of performance loss that occurs to them over time. More often than not, a majority of this performance loss is caused by a lack of maintenance. Consumer electronics do not reap the benefits of being owned and operated by trained technicians in ideal environments where they are constantly monitored and pampered. So even the top-of-the-line, high-performance computer eventually becomes sluggish as a data pile up time wears them down. Servers are built with more longevity in mind, but they are not so much different from everyday PCs when it comes to keeping them in shape. Proper maintenance is essential when it comes to running a datacenter efficiently and effectively. When monitoring a server system, consider each of the system components individually because they all add up to the bigger system performance picture. Here are some of the main components to consider when monitoring a server system:

CPU – The Central Processing Unit is essentially the brain of your server. It is the CPU that processes the instructions of server programs and initiates the various operations required to execute them. The CPU is a key factor in nearly all of the activities performed by the server, including server monitoring, and portions of its processing power are divided up amongst the many processes that are being carried out at all times. In CPU monitoring, you want to determine the CPU’s maximum workload capacity and compare that against its average usage over time. If the CPU ever reaches 100% usage or sees high percentages for dramatically extended periods of time, it may be time to take action. CPUs in these conditions should either be replaced, or partnered with new CPU/s that can share the processing load.

RAM – Random Access Memory is a flash-based form of temporary storage on the server that can process certain parts of programs much faster than the server’s slower spinning disk storage can. Much like the CPU, it is imperative that a server maintain available RAM. Servers that run out of RAM repurpose parts of the disk storage drives as virtual Ram centers. When this occurs, it can have a very heavy negative impact on system performance that sometimes has the potential to crash the system. When monitoring a server’s RAM, look out for large spikes in usage and eliminate their root causes. Software errors, inadequate CPU, and many other irregularities can cause these types of spikes.

Hard Drives – Server primarily use hard disk drives to store permanent data (available after reboot unlike RAM). Hard disks are necessary for almost all tasks performed by the storage server or JBOD enclosure since most applications require the writing and storing of some form of data or another. There are many different forms of disk-monitoring software that exist, each with unique strengths. Often, these programs will check your disks for forms of fragmentation, which commonly occurs when disk space is low or other software errors are causing file corruption. Consistent monitoring of the hard disks is crucial given their direct connection with whatever valuable information your server is processing.

Temperature / Environmental factors – Heat is a serious issue in the data center that should not be taken lightly. Server motherboards and other system boards have manufacturer temperature standards that must be met. Excessive heat can cause irreversible damage that will have a negative impact of system performance. Similar damage can be caused by excessive moisture or dust in the air that occupies the data center. It is important to have an effective cooling system in place before running a server array. Monitoring temperature and humidity levels can prevent the performance loss that can occur over time as a result of poor environmental conditions.

Power Supply – If the CPU is the brain of the computer, the power supply would then be the heart that keeps it running. PSUs are subject to a whole slew of environmental factors that can affect performance. Furthermore, the failure of the power supply can result in irreversible catastrophic system failure. When monitoring power supplies, you’ll want to periodically track the amperage and voltage, the amount of watts being pulled, and the overall temperature of the power supply.

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