Servers are of the utmost importance to a Dental practice and while cloud-based systems are becoming more common, physical servers are still the most common route for most offices. It is important to establish some best practices for your office should you choose a server-based network. While we would love to tell you all the things you can do with a server, sometimes you must get negative to stay positive.
What is a Server?
Servers are specialized systems with more advanced error detection and clearing. Servers are designed to provide services or automated processes to other computers, not to utilize active software daily. Think of them as the Brains: they do the thinking, and remembering, but not the actual action of the body. Workstations are the action points, much like arms and legs (bionic arms and legs). Servers are critical to the operation of your network and as such there are several things that you should not do if you’d like to maintain a high-functioning practice:
Don’t Restart a Server Daily
Most computers function better with a daily restart. Servers however DO NOT. Servers are designed with advanced error detection and clearing systems and are designed to provide automated services. The buildup of errors in the server is not as high as in a workstation. They are designed to always remain POWERED ON, even when the office is closed. A restart should only be attempted under the direction of your IT partner.
Don’t Unplug a Server
Because of the specialized nature of Servers, they require a constant power flow even in the event of errors. The very last thing anyone should be doing is unplugging a server without guidance from their IT partner. Unplugging is called a hard shutdown and can cause severe issues; unexpected stops to running services may result in data loss and hard drive corruption. A hard shutdown should be the last resort and only initiated at the request of a trusted IT partner.
Don’t Provide Inadequate Power Supply to a Server
Inside of your server room, you have a bunch of wires and a slew of hard-to-identify, blinking devices doing their thing (making your office function). All of these devices, server included, require a constant and adequate power source. First and foremost, if your server and network equipment are not plugged into a battery backup (uninterruptible power supply) address this asap. An Inadequate power supply for the Server and networking equipment will result in poor and inconsistent performance, and worse, in the case of a power interruption, you could lose data. While workstations can be plugged into a battery backup of 425-450VA (volt-ampere) your server requires more power. A 1500VA battery backup is recommended for servers and will allow you to save and close out of necessary programs in a data-safe manner should your office experience a power interruption. If you have your server and networking equipment on a power supply that is less than 1300VA, this should be addressed immediately. The higher voltage of the 1500+VA backups makes it easier to account for power fluctuations in the equipment as well as the much higher power requirements for those devices. If you find yourself with an inadequate power supply, please contact your IT partner – do not replace it on your own.
Don’t Place a Server on the Floor or Carpet
Depending on the layout of your office and the needs of the building, you may be tempted to put the server on the floor (or carpet). While this may seem like a Marie Kondo-approved tactic for decluttering your office, carpets have a build-up of static electricity. A static discharge can, and often does short out the delicate electrical components of a server. If you need to touch the case of the server for any reason, it’s always better to ground yourself on a piece of metal prior to touching the device.
Floors represent different issues; physical concerns such as accidental kicking, tripping over, and impact from objects can often cause physical damage to the system. A good knock on the case can be as bad for a computer as a hard hit to the skull can be to a human brain (computer concussions, like real ones are hard to recover from).
Another concern is the possibility of water damage. If there is a flood or water leakage in the server room your equipment does not have a life raft or umbrella/poncho. Raising the Server higher than floor level can at least mitigate damage caused by flooding. Servers are expensive and not quickly replaced, (read: downtime and lost revenue) making sure to take care of the hardware is a great way to keep an eye on your investment.
Don’t Open the Case of a Server
Computers are a self-contained environment. They manage their own internal functions, air movement, and cooling. The case is necessary for proper functioning of all computers, especially servers. If you notice the server case open, contact your IT partner immediately. Do not attempt to close the server, as it may be open for a reason. There are a few reasons why those cases should be open, but your IT partner can advise you on how to move forward. If the case is open it can introduce pollutants like dust and dander into the fans, mess with the cooling and airflow, and generally disrupt the normal function of your server.
Don’t “Mess” With Server Drives
Most servers are difficult to get into without tools, they are designed that way to prevent accidental movement of internal components. Accessing the inner components is one of the biggest risks to your server. Much like oral surgery, internal server work should ONLY be done by a trained professional (or, unlike oral surgery under the direct guidance of a trained professional). Many practices have external hard drives connected to a server with high-speed cables. Moving these cables without assistance is very risky, interruption of function can result in lost data as well as permanent damage to the drives and server. As above, please contact your IT partner to determine how to move forward should you experience an issue with your drives.
Don’t Update a Server Without Guidance
Like all computer systems, Servers need updates from time to time. However, the update process for servers is vastly different from the update for Workstations. Servers are extraordinarily complex and individualized for the practice they serve. Updating the server operating system without investigation of bugs or impact on all office systems can severely damage the server and make it near impossible for your practice to utilize its Dental Management, imaging, and other 3rd party software. It is with this in mind that you should consider a Dental-specific IT partner. Being aware of the impact updates will have on all of the software that a specific office utilizes is unlikely for a general IT firm or individual IT consultant/employee.
Don’t Plug Anything Into a Server
Brains have several layers of protection, such as bone, cerebral fluid, and skin to protect from infection and damage from the outside world, the same is true for servers. Servers should live behind various protections including those provided by an actively managed firewall. However, physical security is a big component in a working environment. Plugging in any device that is not cleared by your IT partner is a major risk. A USB, external hard drive, or even a mouse or keyboard could have malicious code hiding in the device just waiting to infect the system and bring your practice operations to a screeching halt. Malware, spyware, and ransomware can all infect your server in an instant, please never plug in any device that you are not 100% sure of (cleared by your IT partner) even if it is from a source you trust.
Don’t Get ‘Happy Fingers’ and Press Buttons on a Server
As a computer is a machine, it has buttons; power buttons, eject buttons, reset buttons, all sorts of buttons. All of these buttons are critical for the operation of the Server however, they should not be pressed without guidance and confirmation. Reset buttons and Power buttons will start either a graceful or a hard shutdown of the device which, can cause damage and will always prevent operation of your network until the server is back online. Servers can take several minutes to restart after a shutdown. 2 to 10 minutes or more of downtime is common and if damage occurs due to an unexpected shutdown the extent of the damage cannot be assessed until the server is back up and running, at which point remediation may take a significant amount of time.
Finally, Don’t Use a Server as a Workstation
As noted above, Servers are designed to be used for automated data retention and retrieval, sending out services or automated programs to the network. They are designed to do repeated tasks with minor variation which limits the errors that pile up on the server in the background. Workstations, however, are designed to input and retrieve data, rely on the services provided by the server, and are much more of a working tool. With those added abilities comes an increase in errors and memory usage. Therefore, we recommend a daily reboot of all workstations at the end of the day to “clean up the system”. However, that is not recommended for a server. If you use your Server as a workstation, it will bog down the system and create errors that cannot be cleared out by the advanced error detection programmed into the server operating system. As the Server is the brain of your office network, the slower the brain is the slower the workstations will be and the slower and less efficient your office will become.
Darkhorse Tech has grown mainly through referrals to serve nearly 750 dental practices in all 50 states. We have earned our reputation as leaders in delivering managed IT and cybersecurity services for both start-ups and established dental practices.
Let’s get started. Call us today at 800.868.4504 for a free consultation.