by on April 5, 2024

As an IT admin, managing server towers is a big part of your job. But with so many features packed into today's server towers, it can be tough to know where to start. 

Did you know that most tower servers have over 30 internal components? It's easy to feel overwhelmed when first opening up a server case, but don't worry—we're going to slowly go over each internal part and its purpose. The power supply delivers electricity to everything inside the tower. Hard drives and SSDs store all your important data.

Let’s cover 9 essential server tower features you need to understand to excel as an IT pro. Stick with me through this in-depth look at what your server towers can do.

1. Manage Server Storage with Hard Drives and SSDs

The storage function is crucial for a tower server, so it is necessary to understand the different types of disks, which include a hard drive and an SSD. 

  • HDDs provide cheap bulk storage, while even though SSDs are faster, they cannot be compared to the usability of HDDs. 

  • SSDs can read and write data significantly faster but usually do not come with the same storage capacity as hard drives. 

  • You will also need to gain knowledge of RAID configurations such as RAID0 and RAID1, which multiply the drives, thus giving the machine better speed and duplication. 

Be sure to specify the right RAID level and drives for your server‘s performance.

2. Boost Performance with the Right RAM and Processors

Processor and RAM act as a watershed on a server's performance in a significant manner. Having more RAM boosts using a larger number of programs and data since these can be kept loaded at a faster rate. 

The modern Macbooks have jumped to the frontline with multi-core processors that are powerful enough to accomplish tasks much quicker than the older single-core chips. Pick new qualifiers according to parameters such as clock speed, cores and cache size. 

Moreover, the correct RAM type should also be installed; it is not advisable to use DDR4 and DDR3 RAM together. If an organization uses the services offered by faster components, its servers will run fast.

3. Configure Multiple Network Adapters

Most tower servers have at least two network ports, and you can add more with expansion cards. Take time to understand what each port is used for. One port may connect to your internal network while another attaches to the internet. You can also set up port trunking or teaming to bond multiple adapters together for increased bandwidth. Be sure to configure IP addresses, subnets, and VLANs properly on each adapter. Networking is key for servers to communicate.

4. Monitor Hardware with IPMI and Remote Access

IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) allows you to monitor and access server hardware remotely without logging into the host OS. This is handy for out-of-band management when the OS won't boot. You can power on and off the tower server, view sensors, and access virtual media through IPMI. Be sure to set strong IPMI passwords too. Remote access tools let you manage servers from anywhere via browser or dedicated apps. Features like KVM access allow remote control of servers as if you were in the data center.

5. Manage Storage with iSCSI and Fibre Channel

If your servers need access to large centralized storage, look into iSCSI and Fibre Channel. iSCSI uses your regular Ethernet network to connect servers to SAN storage for low cost and simplicity. Fibre Channel is faster but requires special cables and HBAs. Both provide block-level access, like local storage. Learn how to configure targets, LUNs, and multipathing for high availability and performance. Proper storage configuration is key for database and virtualization servers.

6. Virtualize with Hypervisors like Hyper-V and ESXi

Virtualization allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical server, saving costs. Hypervisors like Hyper-V, ESXi, Proxmox, and Xen let you create and manage VMs. Learn basic virtualization concepts like VM hardware, storage, networking, and snapshots.

Some key virtualization concepts to understand include:

  • Networking: Virtual switches connect VMs to each other and to the external network. Network adapters are assigned to VMs and can be configured with VLANs, firewall rules, and other network settings.

  • Snapshots: Point-in-time images of a VM and its disk state can be taken for backup, recovery or test/development purposes. Rolling back to a snapshot is useful for undoing changes.

  • Live migration: Using shared storage, the running state of a VM, including memory contents, can be transferred seamlessly to another host server without noticeable downtime. This keeps VMs available during server maintenance.

  • Hypervisor management: Tools like vCenter Server, Proxmox VE, and XenCenter provide centralized control and monitoring of hypervisors, VMs, hosts, storage and networking. Automated workflows improve operational efficiency.

7. Automate Tasks Using PowerShell and Python

Don't waste time repeating manual configuration tasks. Automate repetitive jobs using PowerShell on Windows servers or Python scripts on Linux. You can write scripts to deploy OS images, apply patches, back up data, and more. Even simple tasks, like renaming  tower servers or updating DNS entries, are good candidates for automation. Learn some basic scripting to save hours of tedious labor every week. Automation is key for managing large server fleets efficiently.

8. Secure Servers with Hardening, Firewalls, and Monitoring

Security should always be top of mind. Learn how to harden servers by closing unneeded ports, applying patches, using strong passwords, and more. Configure firewall rules to allow only the necessary traffic. Monitor logs, services, and system health proactively using tools like Nagios, Zabbix, and Splunk. Rapidly detect and respond to anomalies before they become bigger problems. Keep servers locked down and always watch for suspicious activity.

9. Manage Server Lifecycles with Deployments and Retirements

Servers have a lifespan that requires planning. Learn how to deploy new tower servers efficiently using images, cloning, and automation. Standardize configurations across your fleet. Have a process to decommission old hardware and securely wipe drives before disposal. Keep accurate server inventories and document changes. Manage software licenses and support contracts too. With the right processes, deploying and retiring servers should be simple and low-stress.

In Summary

As you can see, there is a lot more to server administration than just keeping machines running. Take time to truly understand all that modern server towers are capable of. Having a strong grasp of these 9 essential server features will take your skills to the next level. Stay curious and always keep learning; the more you know, the easier managing your infrastructure will become. Keep practicing, and you'll be a pro in no time!

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