If you have been in business long enough, you may have experienced the heartbreak of a server crash. It’s not until it actually happens that you realize just how much you depend on your server—to share files, run business software, and do a host of other tasks to stay efficient and productive.

If eCommerce is part of your business and you host your website on your server, the problems can quickly multiply. I’ll go elsewhere to make a purchase if a website is down, and I know I’m not alone. Sadly, you can’t eliminate the chances of server failure altogether, but there are some relatively simple steps that can help reduce the disruption to your business:

1. Back it up.

Having your data backed up can mean the difference between a fairly easy recovery and a monumental loss of productivity if your server crashes. You can choose among software programs that allow you to back up data to an external drive or you can explore online services that back it up to a remote location. This provides additional protection in case your business experiences a power outage or other disaster.

2. Designate a resource.

Consider assigning a staff member to take charge of backups to your external hard drive. Have the person pick a day of the week when this will take place, decide whether they will be full or incremental (meaning just the changes are backed up), and determine how many versions will be kept of each file. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to do this on a daily basis. If you back up to the cloud, this can be set up so it is done automatically.

3. Get current.

Be sure the anti-virus software running on your server is up to date. Since servers share data with other computers on your network, a virus that infects one computer can spread through the network and land on your server, meaning downtime and lost productivity. If you would rather not manage these updates in-house, consider a remote support service to monitor your server, update anti-virus protection and security patches, and provide online backup for server data.Check out my previous blog post explaining how to deal with viruses.

4. Tidy up.

Your server may benefit from a light cleaning every now and then, particularly if it is in a dusty area. Dust can trap heat inside the server, potentially leading to damage. Keep the area around your server as dust-free as possible. Some businesses use air purifiers in the space where their servers are kept. If dust accumulates around the vents that draw air in, you might call in a professional to take a look and remove dust from inside the server if needed.

If your server fails …

Even after taking these steps, it’s helpful to have a plan of action in case your server fails. Here’s what you can do:

  • Troubleshoot the problem. Check the simple (and sometimes overlooked) things first, such as loose connections and surge protector switches. Restart the server to see if that fixes the problem. If that doesn’t work, try booting up in safe mode to see what happens. This information can help a technician pinpoint the problem.
  • Call in the pros. If the simple fixes don’t work—and you don’t have in-house IT support—you might turn to a consultant or other third-party service. Describe what happened and any error codes or messages you’ve seen when trying to boot up. The technician can work with you to fix the problem and restore your data once the server is back online.
What steps have you taken to help protect your server and keep your business running smoothly? I’d love to hear your thoughts.