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It’s a question every IT manager has had to face at one time or another - what to do with a server that’s grown a little too long in the tooth? The inexorable technology march dictates that newer, faster, cheaper more powerful servers are always round the corner and the temptation is to simply get rid. After all, who wants a noisy, slow inefficient dinosaur pumping out a lot of heat and guzzling expensive power?
This is certainly a valid argument but before you put your servers out to pasture, there are a number of ways you might squeeze a little bit more life out of your hardware investment before consigning it to the dust heap.
We've listed some ideas below but before we dive into those, why not get an objective assessment of the server's true capabilities before you write it off? Use our free Live Optics tool to remove any subjectivity and analyse your server's key performance metrics. You'll get an easy to understand report that might show that there are still some workloads the server can handle perfectly well.
Let’s take a look at some other ideas.
1. Virtualise it
Virtualisation isn’t just for newer servers. Many older servers have the specification to run a virtualised platform installed on top of an existing operating system. This lets you repurpose your server to run a variety of applications, extending its life by several years. An entry level tower or rack server you bought a few years ago for example could easily host 2-3 virtual machines running low to medium workloads.
2. Use it as a file or print server
A dedicated file or print server could be useful if you have a small self-sufficient department or workgroup within your organisation and can also help lighten the workload on your main server.
3. Deploy your own homemade firewall or VPN solution
You’ll need two network cards installed in your server. If your server doesn’t have two network ports (most do) you can easily add a second one. Together with an open source firewall software application, you can build a network security solution with capabilities rivalling those of expensive commercial applications. And if you want secure remote access, simply install your OS of choice on the server to enable encrypted logins from wherever.
4. Turn it into a test or patching server
A test server is the perfect place to try out that new operating system or applications you were looking at safely away from your live production environment. It’s a great way to test new features out before you deploy them to your network. And because the specifications of your test server are most likely inferior to your live hardware, it can give you a good idea of expected performance on older systems.
5. Build a mail server
Email is perhaps the heaviest and most-required network service in use so you could easily ease the burden on your main server by delegating this task to an older machine. It needn’t be expensive either, there are plenty of mature open source enterprise mail servers around that can offer similar messaging, anti-virus and spam protection to the expensive Microsoft Exchange.
6. Create a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device
You’ll need enough storage of course but most servers are equipped with multiple hard drive bays so you can easily add more drives if needed. Simply install suitable NAS software and you’ve got yourself a machine you can use for backups, file streaming and more.
7. Set up a dedicated monitoring server
You want to keep an eye on your network and its performance but chances are you’re using monitoring software that’s installed on a server or domain controller that has another primary function. If you’ve got a server that’s due to be retired, why not set it up to map your network, ping, probe and notify you on any outages?
8. Use it as a web server
If you need to serve a modest amount of content to a smallish audience, an old server can easily run as a web server. Be mindful of security though if you’re opening up your server to the outside world. You could also deploy the server as a website mirror to keep a local copy of all your company’s most accessed websites.
9. Run a database server
You wouldn’t want to run anything mission critical on it but if you have the need for a database, this is a service that could easily be hosted on a dedicated box and there are a number of free databases available to choose from.
10. Help find aliens or a cure for cancer
If you’ve got spare processing power, science could use your help in helping crunch the vast amount of data needed to further our research into finding cures for diseases like AIDS and cancer. Other scientific projects you could lend a hand to include searching space for extra-terrestrial life. And even if you’re using your server to do other things, it can chug away while you’re out of the office sleeping. Check out BOINC for more information.
There are plenty of ways you can put an ageing or decommissioned server to good use. We’ve touched on some ideas but there are many more possible applications and, depending on your server’s specification, you might use it to fulfil multiple roles simultaneously. On the downside, reliability, performance, running costs and lack of warranty cover are real issues you need to factor. If you don’t rely on your server to handle anything that’s mission critical, you might be able to repurpose it and extend its useful life rather than consigning it to the scrap heap.
If you have any old, obsolete IT hardware that simply must go, Evaris can help you. We offer an asset disposal service which can help you dispose of old IT hardware and meet your WEEE obligations. We're not just talking about servers either; desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, switches are all eligible - the full suite of IT hardware products. We'll arrange everything including the collection, safe destruction of any data and the disposal. Interested? Simply send your kit list through to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be in touch with a no obligation valuation.
What are your thoughts? Should we have added other applications to this list? We want to hear from you.
Evaris works with organisations of all sizes to conceive, deploy and maintain tailored technology solutions to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today for advice on all things IT-related by calling 0330 124 1245, or email email@example.com.