Best Practices for System Administrators
Being a good System Administrator for your dedicated hosting service can be a tedious and time-consuming chore. However, If you follow some basic principles and keep yourself organized, communicate with your users, and provide consistent service, then you can make it much easier for you to manage your dedicated hosting server. Here is a basic guide to help you keep your server and service in order:
Establish Operating Procedures
When you invest in a dedicated hosting service, you're not only obtaining a server and providing services, you may also be creating an organization and a set of rules needed to interact with you and your server. Creating standard operating procedures helps to produce consistent and repeatable results. This helps to promote understanding between you and the people who use your hosting server. It also provides accountability which in turn leads to trust for the server and the services that you provide. Creating procedures and providing accountability also requires that you communicate and document interactions with your users. If you are providing services that require several people involved in the process, then it is also important to create an internal support hierarchy so that people know how to properly communicate when they have needs that involve you and your services. Creating the standard operating procedures, internal support organizations and communication channels go a long way to help keep your users happy. They also promote productivity and a positive return on the investment of your dedicated hosting server package.
Plan Disaster Recovery
One of the mantras in using computers that everyone should follow is, "Backup everything." Create a disaster recovery plan before you implement the server and services of your dedicated hosting packages. This allows you to quickly and efficiently recover from data loss and loss of productivity in your organization. Remember that Disaster Recover doesn't necessarily only mean backup services. It may also mean looking at how your organization uses or gets onto the internet and providing an alternate solution should it be needed.
Monitor Your Server
Gathering information about how your server performs should be integral to your use of your dedicated hosting server. The performance data helps you to gauge the performance of the server in relation to your server needs. Data that is gathered may include: CPU usage, memory usage, network traffic, hard drive space, server load, etc. All of this information can be used to calculate growth and future usage needs so that you can predict when and if you need to upgrade your dedicated hosting server package. Monitoring your server goes hand-in-hand with your operating procedures and internal support organization. For example, if you have a customer requesting the addition of another website, or the removal of old users and the addition of new ones - how do you handle these requests? How will the resolution of these requests affect your server? It is important that you pro-actively respond so that you keep up with user needs and available server resources.
Provide Good Service for your Users
If you are the only person using your server and you don't have to provide services to others, then this last recommended practice may not fully apply to you. You should still maintain organization of your server, have a disaster recovery plan, and monitor your server so that you efficiently use your dedicated hosting package. Basically, providing good service means providing good communication, interaction, and management of your hosting server solution. If you don't provide one of these, then another aspect of your service may not be succeeding. For example, you may have a great organization and sound procedures for using your server, but if you're providing good communication with your users, then you may not know that people are having problems with your service or that they're not even using them. Providing good service may seem like a "feel good" requirement, but it is an important overall aspect of the service you are trying to provide. If you are providing good service, then your fulfilling your user service needs, making their job easier, more efficient and productive. It makes your dedicated hosting service package valuable to the organization and helps to justify costs the investment of the server and your services.
Keep the Server Secure
Keeping your server secure is a part of all the previous paragraphs above. Security not only requires clearly defined operating procedures, active monitoring, good backup plans, and efficient communication with your users, it also requires keeping up-to-date (read next paragraph) with updates on all of your systems, your server traffic, and possibly increasing or adding to security options on your server. When you are hosting multiple websites, make sure that your users are aware of security requirements and that they maintain go secure habits in creating passwords, maintaining software updates that you do not control. Additionally, your security plans should include a fall back and emergency procedures should the worst happen. This will not only provide you confidence in the security of your server, but also boost your reputation and reliability for your current and future customers. Internet software used on your server is continually updated specifically for security reasons. Due to these changes, make sure that you and any administrator of websites hosted on your server maintain the versions of the software used.
Keep Software Up-to-Date
In this day and time, successful software companies keep their software "alive" by continually improving and maintaining their solutions to keep pace with the ever evolving internet landscape. As the administrator of your dedicated hosting server, it is in your best interest to keep up with these changes because they not only involve updated functionality, but often changes that are required in order to keep the software secure. If you are hosting multiple websites and you have multiple users responsible for their sites, make sure to keep a clear policy of maintaining updates. Otherwise, your own efforts and others who maintain good security practices could still be compromised by a user who fails to keep their website up-to-date and secure. Keeping your software up-to-date is also important due to changing functionality. If add-on software on a website changes, it may possibly require changes to security rules in order to properly operate. Keeping your server updated is a best practice as it affects not only you, but your customers, and your service reputation.