Article

The Backup Server

December 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

What would you do if your DMS server failed? Would you be able to write deals, deliver cars, process repair orders? What is your recovery plan in the event your internal network fails? These are all important questions. Do you have the answers?

Server technology is a wonderful thing. With built in hard drive redundancy, proper power monitoring and protection, battery backups, etc., these devices seem fail safe, but are they? Well, nothing is ever failure proof. The complexities and redundancies designed into your dedicated server can make diagnosing a problem time consuming, leaving you without computing resources for an indefinite period of time. Therefore, you should devise a plan for runtime backup in the event your dedicated server experiences problems.

The first solution for a backup server is to buy a system exactly like your production server, providing a simple and quick solution in the event your production server experiences problems. With this approach, you can switch over to your backup server and then have your production server repaired offline without losing valuable computing support for your dealership. Once repaired, this machine can be moved into the backup server position without ever taking your network down. While this is the easiest solution, it is also the most costly, as you will be required to invest in duplicate hardware, operating system licenses, client licenses, etc.

You can implement the redundant server solution, but scale down the requirements of your replacement server—sort of like a space saver spare tire. Like a spare tire, you are not expecting to be using this system for an extended period of time, are willing to operate with less speed and must limit your computing to the mission-critical processes that sustain your dealership. If you invest wisely in a backup server, your cost will be significantly reduced, your down time will be minimized and your recovery will be easier.

Alternatively, you may be able to contract for replacement server resources from your hardware vendor. Meaning that if your server goes down, it will be replaced with a functional duplicate within an acceptable timeframe. You will experience more down time than having an onsite duplicate server, but you are saving some cash by requiring your vendor to provide your backup server. Whole system replacement service is often an option offered in your hardware maintenance agreement for an additional fee. Be sure a guaranteed response time is included in your maintenance agreement, and limit the repair time before replacement to an acceptable timeframe.

If you wish to avoid these issues completely, you may choose to outsource your server computing completely by utilizing an application service provider (ASP). In an ASP environment, your provider will maintain your server resource offsite at their facility. Using an ASP can save you initial investment in computing infrastructure and provide peace of mind. In such an arrangement, the ASP is required to provide all server maintenance and should be able to switch you to another server in the event of failure, as most vendors will have redundant servers readily available should you experience a problem. In exchange for reducing your initial investment, you will pay a higher monthly fee for ASP services than you will for maintenance of your own internal network, often a worthwhile trade off.

Whatever your approach, you should plan for some method of assuring that your computing needs will be met and your dealership can continue with normal activity. The cost of downtime can significantly outweigh the expense of providing for continuing operation. The time to plan is now. Don’t get caught with your server down and wishing you had taken preventative measures.

Vol 4, Issue 10

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