3 Things NOT to Do When Your Server Crashes

Posted by John Feucht on Oct 30, 2014 7:58:00 AM

keepcalmImagine it’s 11am, everything is humming along at your office when suddenly your network stops working.  You can’t get your email to work or access any of your shared files. The server hosting most of your software applications and client files has gone down. No one is able to access them and all work, and your business, grinds to a halt.

What you do next and whether or not you prepared beforehand can mean the difference between a relatively quick fix, or actually losing all that data. While this scenario may be imaginary, the reality of the dangers of data loss is not. Studies show that 70% of small businesses that suffer a major data loss will be out of business within a year.

Server crashes are inevitable – hardware gets old, it’s just a fact of life.  So what do you do when disaster strikes and you’re stuck in the water?  If you don’t have an experienced IT team in-house, probably the worst thing you can do is try and fix it yourself!  We’ve seen this happen and it often just complicates the problem.  So here is some practical advice from the guys’ whose job it is to deal with server crashes:


1. Don’t panic—it might be okay.

The first step to recovery is… don’t panic! Many server crashes are caused by something shockingly small, such as a process stuck running in a loop, and just that one compontent of the server may need to be restarted to get everything back running smoothly. A server crash does not necessarily mean your data on the server is lost.

A server crash can be caused by a variety of hardware and software factors. It could be due to a corrupted Windows update, virus or spyware, an out-of-control process, or another software error.

On the hardware side, it could be caused by a power surge, outage, or other power quality issue, an overheated motherboard, failing RAM or most likely, a failing hard drive. Hardware failure is inevitable. Over time, every hard drive goes out, it’s just a matter of when.

If the server’s hardware has failed, that’s it for that server. Depending on your backups, it could be days before you’re back up and running at full capacity.


2. Don’t mess with the server!

It’s tempting to jump right in and try to fix the server yourself, especially when you want to be back up and running as soon as possible. But don’t act on impulse! Without the proper expertise, attempting to manually restart your server can lead to valuable infrastructure being damaged, the server being restarted incorrectly or with the wrong options, data loss, or an even worse, a larger outage.

It may just be that a process crashed, and it’s an easy quick fix. But if you mess with it, you might need to have to take down and reinstall everything on that server.

Obviously, if you have an IT provider, get them on the phone immediately. If you run the server in-house (which is most likely), it may not be a good idea to let your IT person handle it. An in-house IT person may not have the necessary experience and can make it worse.

You may need to start looking for outside help. Even in an urgent situation, when screening candidates to fix your server, make sure you they have a good track record. Can they show that they’ve fixed this kind of issue before, and have references to prove it?

If you don’t have recent, comprehensive backups, the worst thing for a crashed hard drive is to keep working on it. Don’t let someone fool around with it.


3. Don’t be caught unprepared.

As we said earlier, when it comes to server crashes, it’s not a matter of “if.” It’s a matter of when. Your server will go out at some point, so don’t be caught unprepared. No company can afford to assume it won’t happen to them. Server outages on the enterprise level can cost upwards of $90,000 an hour or more. And while the dollar amount may be less for smaller businesses, depending on the level of backups and preparation, the cost can be even more devastating.

Accidents happen, but you with proper planning, you can avoid disaster. Working with an experienced IT partner may be a good idea. A knowledgeable partner can help you proactively develop a disaster recovery plan and implement a strong backup solution, both of which can save your business in an event such as this. Be sure to have off-site backups and test them regularly.

To learn more about what to look for in an IT partner who can prepare you for the worst so your business comes out unscathed, download our quick guide on Top 10 Things to Look for in a Technology Partner.

Topics: IT advice for small business owners