The necessity of server clustering


Server Farm

Disaster recovery and backup are elements in a worst-case scenario that businesses have to consider as part of their IT plan. Documents, data, pictures, music … every aspect of our lives and work has been effectively digitized. The personal loss of losing these files to the great unknown would be heartbreaking.

For a business, it can be devastating. Lost customer data, a security breach, and losing the tools that make the company’s engine work … all that is an incredible amount of lost time and money in the blink of an eye if there isn’t a disaster recovery or redundancy plan in place.

Investing in multiple data centers is an incredibly costly option, so many companies are looking to hosted solutions that enable them to reap the benefits of redundant data centers or server clustering without the high price tag.

What is server clustering?

Most companies turn to server clustering in their IT configuration. Whether it’s hosted or on-site, these clusters are often referred to as “server farms.”

The idea is simple: the cluster consists of two or more computers that function, and are managed and seen on the network, as one entity. This makes the network faster; and it safeguards mission-critical applications like email, file and print services, web services, and other essential business applications like databases and accounting programs. Server clusters deliver the performance companies need.

These clusters can be configured to provide this kind of performance by sharing the processing load across multiple machines. Or the secondary machines can be put on standby to provide resources as needed or to act as a backup if the primary machine fails.

Some know-how is needed to accomplish this must-have arrangement. In addition to a minimum of two servers connected to the same network, clustering software is required; and depending on the desired end result, a shared disk (disk array) may be needed for both servers to connect to.

Why cluster?

In a word, companies are clustering because it offers scalability. The ability to add servers to any given cluster and increase resource availability as business demands grow is a huge benefit. Again, we look at mission-critical applications and the fact that companies won’t lose valuable operations time if a server that runs a needed application goes down.

Add that to the fact that server clustering makes it easier to manage an in-house network. IT admins the world over appreciate this technology because it means they do not have to wait until 3 a.m. to do server maintenance on a mission-critical machine. The workload can be shifted to another machine while the maintenance is completed and then shifted back to the appropriate one.

Hosting a server cluster is easier to manage and often more cost-effective as well. The cost of maintaining, cooling, and replacing servers can get prohibitive, and the initial investment in hardware is steep. This need has been recognized by companies like Singlehop, who provide all the benefits of a server cluster without the maintenance and cost.

Having the manpower and the know-how are two very important pieces of the decision to host a server cluster or not. A number of options for hardware and software are available to create a server cluster in-house, but an adept IT administrator is a necessity.

That person or team is responsible for keeping mission-critical applications running at a performance level expected by the rest of the staff. The beauty, performance, and ease of a hosted server cluster make it a savvy business solution for large and small companies.

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