Hardware needed to run a server 24/7/365
In almost all situations a server will be running 24/7/365. Home servers are accessed across multiple devices at random rates and data center servers are used by people and machines all over the world at any given time.
This is why ‘server grade’ hardware exists. Server specific hardware is built to be operational 24/7 for years on end. This includes ram, hard drives, processors, video cards, motherboards and power supply units.
Why it’s important to have no downtime
No matter the scale of a service on the web, they need to stay operational to stay competitive. This is why sites like YouTube and Facebook house thousands of servers in different data centers. On the same note, the more assurance a data center can provide that their servers will be running, the more trust they will have from customers.
Thousands of people are operating Minecraft servers and receive compensation in fees, donations or promotion. These servers host players from all over the world and need to be running at all times to consistently to build a user base. While these servers can easily be ran inside of a home, having proper equipment would improve up time.
Someone who is using a server for a small business will need to be operational at all times in order to ensure that their PoS doesn’t go down when trying to process transactions. Because of this, software updates can’t be made during business time. Servers will need to stay on overnight for maintenance.
All in all, it’s not a question of whether or not servers need to be operational at all times, but rather how.
Server grade hardware
The most important requirement for running a server 24/7/365 is going to be the components within the server itself. Even with bottom tier server grade hardware it is possible to have up time of well over 99.99%.
- Server grade CPUs – Most modern CPUs are designed for intense usage, but server grade processors take it to another level. They can process significant amounts of data around the clock without issues. Servers can have multiple CPUs, each of which operates many logical CPUs. For high availability servers, having one CPU go bad won’t bring the system down. Intel and AMD CPUs control the sever market, similar to consumer grade processors.
- Server grade RAM – RAM is another key component in any computer system. Modern server ram is hot swappable, so if it goes bad it can be replaced without downtime. This type of ram can also increase performance and reliability.
- Server power supplies – Almost all key servers today will have redundant power supplies. In most cases they will run two power supply units, both of which are active at the same time providing half the needed power. If one goes bad, the other will instantly provide all the power until the bad one is replaced.
- Server grade hard drives With hard drives there are a number of things that need to be in place in order to run 24/7/365. First, it is necessary to have multiple hard drives available so if one has a problem it won’t take the server offline. There are several ways of doing this, one of the most popular of which is known as RAID 5 configuration. With this setup there are at least three hard drives (more is fine), each of which contain copies of the data. If one hard drive fails it can simply be swapped out for a new one without any downtime. When the new one is installed the server will automatically write the required data to that disk, thus restoring its redundancy.
- Motherboards for servers don’t necessarily differ when it comes to being able to run 24/7, but some server grade components won’t fit inside of a consumer board. For instance, AMD Epyc processors are much larger than their Ryzen counterparts, meaning that they require a motherboard with a certain type of socket in order to fit. Additionally, server grade motherboards can house two CPUs, much more RAM and have more attachments for storage.
- Server grade GPUs are oftentimes not integrated into server CPUs, but are necessary for the server to run. This leaves you with two options – either purchase a GPU or purchase a motherboard that has integrated graphics. Unless you are performing some sort of graphical rendering process, integrated graphics or a low tier dedicated GPU will suffice. For instance, even if you are running a Minecraft server, the client needs a GPU but the server does not.
Having all of these components is not entirely necessary depending on how intensive your server operations are, but you still can benefit from them. For instance, Apple used to sell a ‘server’ version of their Mac Mini which consisted of consumer grade hardware but is adequate for a home business or media server.
Still, using as many of these components will increase the capability and longevity of your server. Servers can last upwards of 10 years if specialized parts are used, so it might be a good idea to invest in server specific components.
Location of the server
Once you have the server built and ready to go, it is important to make sure it is housed in a safe and reliable location. Server racks provide a safe environment to help manage temperature and keep them safe from harm.
Servers create more heat than consumer PCs because they are running constantly. Even if their temperatures don’t peak higher than a laptop, hot air with no exhaust starts to build up and create hot spots. This means if you have your server backed up to a wall in your house without proper ventilation, you may experience hardware failure.
Using a server rack can help you direct exhaust from the back and push cool air in from the front. Server racks come in all shapes and sizes for home and data center environments.
Cost difference between home and server components
There are plenty of used servers on the market that will cost less than a gaming PC. At the same time, a new server can cost tens of thousands of dollars if top tier components are used.
If you are running a home server or hosting servers for a small number of people, going with used hardware will likely be the best options. If your business increasingly depends on server functionality in order to be profitable, it will be worth investing more into a high performing and reliable setup.
With there being such a great range of options, it’s impossible to say that server components cost more than home components. That being said, making sure you do research on the market is important to make sure you are getting what is right for you.