Eventually all IT systems age out of their usefulness, marked by frequently required maintenance, mandatory end of life from vendor support, and increased costs for your business. You may even run into some downtime.
IT infrastructure that is on the verge of failure may still appear to be working fine — but it still leads to sneaky problems, including higher operational costs, lower reliability, limited agility, and less opportunity to embrace new applications or technologies. Legacy infrastructure can also be much less secure.
But how do you know when your infrastructure is truly about to kick the bucket? Here are six major warning signs that it’s time to bite the bullet and modernize your IT.
Downtime is the most obvious sign that something is awry with your legacy systems. As time marches on, your servers have to work harder for increased workload while their physical hardware degrades. Software and applications may be forced to work alongside newer deployments, even if they aren’t officially compatible. New network and storage technologies might not work with your legacy infrastructure, leaving you stuck on IPv4 or 10 Mbps network speeds.
Downtime could arise from poorly planned or managed upgrades, as well. By adding servers unsystematically, you may squeeze out some additional performance, but the problem will be compounded when you finally do decide to upgrade the entire server room or migrate to the cloud.
You could just be running out of room as your business scales up, certainly. But running out of physical space or power allotment could also be a sign that you have some unnecessary or aging equipment taking up too much space in your data center.
Poor inventory and lifecycle management can lead to forgotten servers wasting away, running nothing at all or workloads that aren’t even connected to the network. That’s costing you money and dragging down the servers around the vampire server, too. Increased data center temperatures, stress on your power and network backbone, and constraints on your ability to rapidly adjust to a new IT initiative or opportunity are all real costs if your facility is overloaded.
Regularly inventory and plan your IT infrastructure to minimize waste and vampire servers.
You shouldn’t be manually setting the IP addresses of your servers, switches, and other data center equipment. Nor should you be using a spreadsheet to keep track of your provisioned IP addresses, unless you’re really, really attached to that method or use it has a backup document.
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) servers assign IP addresses and network configuration, based on your policies, to every device on the network. You want this server to be configured with high availability so it doesn’t fail, but gone are the days of manually setting IPs yourself. If you’re still doing so, your entire infrastructure is probably out of date, too.
What you might want to use a spreadsheet for is tracking your service and support intervals for hardware and software, including operating systems. There is software available for this as well, including some varieties that will scan your entire infrastructure to discover the version, any updates/patches that are not installed, and when they will reach end-of-life.
Whatever method you take, you need to stay on top of the latest updates to avoid critical vulnerabilities or other failures. When a system or operating system reaches its end of life, it needs to be upgraded or decommissioned. Anything older than five or six years is probably not worth running any longer, and is also likely well past its supported date from the vendor, meaning it is officially vulnerable.
A server that is running very hot is likely not in good health and could encounter downtime at any moment. While best practices for data center floor temperature have increased in the past few years, a very hot CPU is still bad news for your workloads.
Power supply, overtaxed memory or CPU, and hardware problems like broken fans or clogged intakes/exhaust can all lead to an overheated server (which is why you should also have a regular cleaning schedule for your hardware.)
Increased noise is a pretty sure sign of hardware vs. software issues. If performance is dragging AND your server is very hot and noisy, it’s time to check the physical server.
If you can’t integrate new software and applications with legacy infrastructure, your older systems are probably on their last legs. They should work with a wide variety of end clients, including mobile devices, and function alongside or even feed into any newer applications and operating systems in use across your business.
Not everyone can stop everything and jump all-in on cloud computing. Your organization still needs to function smoothly throughout the transition — not to mention, software and hardware are both expensive to procure, test, and implement!
As soon as one system starts to exhibit signs of failure, do your best to diagnose the problem and how far it extends into your infrastructure. From there you can draft a budget solution to replace the application or server in question. Piecemeal upgrades are possible as long as you are aware of the future possibility of compatibility and interoperability problems.
Start modernizing and upgrading servers to the latest possible version of operating systems and software. If the software is no longer supported or sold, it’s time to find a replacement.
Continuously train and reward your IT team for learning new processes and technologies. You might be surprised with the kind of creative solutions they offer up to modernize and streamline your infrastructure.
Finally, look to cloud resources, including Software as a Service as well as Infrastructure as a Service, as a great way to add on new, modern applications as needed, without having to administrate and maintain the backend hardware.