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Chapter 6: Server InstallationAfter completing this chapter, you will be able to:
- Plan a server installation and verify a server installation plan
- Verify server hardware compatibility with network operating systems
- Verify power sources, space, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), and network availability, and verify that all necessary hardware and software components are available
- Understand the process of completing a rack installation, ensuring correct positioning of equipment and correct cabling practices
- Install external devices and define the correct power-on sequence
The installation of a new server can be simple or complex depending on the purpose of the server, the necessary hardware, the installation location, and a number of other factors. The involvement of the server administrator may take place at any stage of the installation process, but often occurs after someone else has defined the installation plan and timelines. As far as the Server+ certification is concerned, the focus here is that the individual be able to support and implement the server installation plan, rather than have the skills to develop a plan.
Tip: When you're installing servers, there are many considerations, but one is more important than any other: safety. As you examine and interpret installation plans, you must always consider the safety of yourself and others particularly when moving equipment or dealing with electronics.
Planning a Server InstallationA successful server installation or upgrade is not done by accident; rather, it is a result of hours of preparation, planning, and attention to a seemingly endless number of important details. Depending on the size and complexity of the server installation, the planning process can take weeks and even months. Even the simplest implementation, though not as time-intensive, requires detailed planning. Regardless of the complexity of the server installation, all successful server installations share some common factors. These include having a person or an IT team accountable for the process, having and following an installation plan, building good relationships with hardware suppliers, and verifying that hardware components are correct and are compatible with the network operating system.
Knowing Who Is in ChargeWhen it comes time to assign those in charge of the server installation, there really is no single strategy used. Some companies elect to put a single person in charge of the process. This isn't to suggest that one person has to do all of the work alone; rather, it provides a central point of management and—if things go wrong, as they sometimes do—a central point of accountability. Depending on the size of the network, the person responsible for the server installation may delegate tasks to other people to ensure that the installation gets done in a timely manner.
Other organizations choose to have a team of IT professionals handle the installation. Even in such environments, a team leader will have the final say. Whichever method is used, the task at hand remains the same. The installation plan must be verified and executed in accordance with specifications.
Dealing with Hardware SuppliersEven after the server and the peripheral equipment have been purchased, suppliers continue to play an important role in the server installation process. Establishing a strong working relationship with the supplier can be the difference between a stressful and unsuccessful installation and an uneventful and easy one. Suppliers can provide quick replacement parts, technical support, and, whether you need it or not, an empathetic ear for your stories of late-night installation woes. The person responsible for the server installation will be well advised to choose a supplier carefully, not only for the hardware but also for the vendor's ability to provide support.
Verifying the Correct HardwareWhen the server hardware has been delivered from the supplier, someone has to unpack all of the equipment and verify that the components are as ordered. This sounds easy, but equipment often does not come as ordered, and it is not always easy to identify incorrect deliveries. For instance, if a server was ordered with two 128MB RAM modules but comes with only a single 256MB RAM module, the person in charge will have to return the 256MB module and ask for the correct parts. Whether such an event would delay the server installation would be the decision of the person managing the installation. It may be more prudent to delay the installation and wait for the correct hardware than to continue and then have to take the server offline to replace the correct parts. Taking delivery and checking components before the installation date can prevent such problems.
Of course, this example is obvious, but you might notice something a little more hidden, such as the fact that the RAM to be installed in the server is not of the correct type, or that the server is supplied with only a 100Mbps network card and you will be plugging into a 10Mbps network point. As the implementer of the server installation plan, you have the responsibility to flag these issues.
Tip: Purchasing a server typically requires considerable time and energy because you've got to ensure that it's suitable for an organization's needs. Everything, from the server's chipsets to RAM and the storage devices, has been carefully chosen. It is necessary to ensure that all of these components are as specified when they're delivered. If they are not as specified, they should be returned to the supplier and the correct parts procured.
Handling Installation DetailsIn addition to ensuring proper hardware and dealing with manufacturers, there are many easily forgotten or assumed details that are often overlooked. These details can run from the obvious—such as whether the new racks you just purchased physically fit into the server room—to the more subtle considerations—such as whether the security system is off on the day you are doing the upgrade. Though these details and others like them seem obvious, they are missed more often than you may think. How many times have you heard of someone buying a new 52- inch TV or couch only to find out that it doesn't fit through the door and the person is left pondering how hard it would be to remove a living-room window?
Some of the more common server installation details include the following:
- Ensuring that all hardware and software have been delivered. Many times after
an installation has started, server administrators discover that they are missing a
vital component. In many cases it is the small items, or those taken for granted,
that cause a problem. Many an installation has been delayed through the lack of
the correct network or power cables.
- Informing all users and administrators of timelines involved in the server
installation, including making people aware of time periods when a server or
the network will be unavailable.
- Ensuring that the server room is physically ready for the installation—for
instance, that the room has the proper power, physical space, and security.
- Making sure that any necessary access measures are in place. Larger companies
have full-time security personnel who will not admit employees or contractors
outside of normal office hours. in these instances,it will be necessary to get
management to authorize anyone who will be working outside, outside of
hours, to access to the building.
- Ensuring that all necessary network connections are in place.
Developing an Installation ScheduleSuccessful installations follow a specific order and installation plan. The general purpose of the installation schedule is to keep the process in motion and provide a means to gauge the progress of the installation planning. Remember, even server administrators are accountable to someone, and the installation schedule is often used to keep management and other administrators informed of the installation progress or lack thereof. Most installation schedules include such details as the timelines for each installation task, the person who is responsible for the completion of the task, and often the necessary procedures required to complete the task.
The installation schedule is often developed over a period of time and includes provisions for some of the following:
- Delivery of hardware
- Verification of hardware compatibility with your chosen operating system
- Verification and testing of equipment delivered
- Pre-installation site inspection
- Physical server installation and setup
- Post-installation tasks such as documentation
Matching Server Specification with Customer RequirementsAnother aspect of your role is that of analyzing the intended implementation to see if it fits with the customer's or organization's requirements. At such a preliminary stage, this evaluation will be more of a high-level process than a detailed examination. For example, you know that the server being installed is intended to act as a firewall and as a router. You also know, by looking at the installation plan, that the server is listed to have only one network card. From your knowledge of server roles, having only a single network card in a server means that it is unable to perform the role of a router. So, you make someone aware of your discovery. In short, to develop or supervise the installation plan, you need to have a clear idea of what the function of the server is going to be. Remember that servers can perform a variety of functions, and the hardware and therefore the installation requirements can vary greatly.
Installing the ServerOf all the considerations for installing the server, perhaps the most important is when the physical installation is to take place. Depending on the size and function of the network, the timing can be very difficult to agree upon. The general, and most obvious, rule of thumb is to install or upgrade servers when network usage is low. This rule can be implemented easily in companies that do not necessarily use the network in the off hours, but it becomes far more difficult when organizations use their systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
For smaller organizations, server installations will take place in the evenings or on the weekends. The trick with these installations is to have everything tested and working before Monday morning and to have a rollback plan that allows you to return the network to its original state should an unforeseen problem occur. Though a weekend to install something as complex as a network server may seem like a tight schedule, it really isn't. With the right plan in place, the installation should go relatively smoothly....