How do I keep my server computer happy?

How do I keep my server computer happy?

If your Sumac database resides on a server computer in your office, it's important to keep your server computer happy.

Note: If you are a Sumac Cloud customer, your database resides on the Sumac Cloud servers, not a server computer in your office.

Here are some things to consider for maintaining a happy server:

Heat Dissipation
Computer components produce a lot of heat. If they get excessively hot, they fail. That is why they have fans: to draw in cool air and blow out hot air.

But running too hot on a continuous basis also shortens their lifetime. So take steps to help your computer keep cool:

  1. Make sure the ambient air temperature around the server is not too high. Normal room temperature (about 20 Celcius, 68 Fahrenheit) or a bit lower is ideal. Putting a computer in a closet is a bad idea: the temperature builds up too high.
  2. Make sure all air flow channels are clear. Air flow can be driven by a fan, but it can also be driven by convection. So you really need to make sure that all holes (not just those in front of fans) in the server computer’s case are clear. Note that there may be holes on the bottom – check for them and adjust the position of the computer appropriately.
  3. Make sure that the hot air output of one computer is not being drawn in to the cool air input of another.
  4. Clear the area around the server computer’s case. Fans cause heat to be dissipated by air flow, but a lot of heat is also dissipated by convection. Piling books and papers around and on top of your server thermally insulates its case, preventing heat from being dissipated. The computer is not a bookshelf or bookend. Keep it clear.

Power Cycling
A very high portion of computer failures are caused by connections breaking. A leading cause of broken connections is the expansion and contraction caused by thermal cycling: getting hotter then colder then hotter then colder. Ideally, a server should stay powered on all the time.

Do not put your server in a dirty location. Its fans are always sucking air into the case. If the air is dirty, dirt is pulled in along with the air. This dirt gradually works its way into computer components (e.g. disk drives) and causes them to fail.

Here is a list of places where you should not put your server:

  • The floor. Rub your hand on a typical office floor and it comes up dirty. Dust settles on the floor; people drop things on the floor, shoes bring in dirt that ends up on the floor. Servers sitting on the floor are going to be dirty.
  • Beside a busy printer. Printers that handle a lot of paper emit paper dust. Paper dust is made of very hard cellulose fibres. The dust gets sucked into computer cases and causes damage.
  • Near a kitchen or coffee station. The water hazard is obvious. Less obvious is that food preparation areas frequently have an aerosol of oil particles in the air. Once these are pulled into a computer case, they act like glue, ensuring that any other dust and dirt that arrives will never leave.

Disk Fragmentation (Windows)
If your server is a Windows computer, the disk needs to be regularly defragmented. Fragmentation of a disk occurs because any particular file may be broken into pieces – fragments – that are stored in different places on the disk.

If the fragmentation gets excessive (too many files are stored in several places), performance drops noticeably and the disk drive is strained as it constantly has to reassemble pieces of fragmented files. Eventually, severe fragmentation causes Windows to crash.

Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 enable you to schedule regular automatic defragmentation. Earlier versions of Windows require you to manually defragment. Every month or two is usually adequate.

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