Server Upgrade/Replacement - Lessons Learned

Last weekend we completed a much needed server replacement. Our 10 year old server did a great job for many years, but was definitely unsteady and on it's last legs. 

With the help of our IT consultant, Network Results, Inc. the replacement went very smooth. As good as I could have hoped for. That's not to say there were no problems, but any issues were very minor in the grand scheme of things. I learned a few lessons along the way, and hopefully these lessons can help others.

  • The first one should be obvious. If you are not a dedicated IT professional with advanced knowledge, hire a consultant to help. Work with them to plan the ideal setup for your budget, and let them guide the purchase of the equipment.
  • There is lead time to purchasing a server. Use this time to gather the information about your current network, workstations, users, and peripherals. Hopefully you have kept all of the information in a safe place along the way, but if you haven't this is the time to gather IP addresses, usernames, and as much information as possible on other equipment associated with the network. 
  • The IT professional/consultant should build the server prior to installation on the network. They can use all the information gathered to setup users, printers, peripherals, etc. The more complete the information you provide, the better job they can do setting up the server. 
  • Inform your users of the approaching upgrade. Don't just spring it on them. Let them know what to expect when they turn on the workstation. In our case, we had to setup a new network domain, which required new user accounts/profiles on the server and workstations. 
  • Prepare a map or signage in your office to help the IT staff navigate if they have to do any setup on the workstations. We don't have name plates on the cubicles/offices. I printed signs and taped them to the cubicle walls. 
  • Prepare an effective way to provide the username and password information for users the first time they log in. In our office, I was able to make little cards with the login credentials and leave them on the desks. You could do this in sealed envelopes if you need more security. 
  • The IT professionals/consultants should be available the first working day after the installation, to answer questions or sort out bugs. 

As with all the work we do, communication is the key. Communicate with the IT staff and with your staff.