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Windows Server 2003 Maintenance Made Easy
Here are the critical weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks you need to complete to keep your servers happy.
by Kenton Gardinier and John McMains

November 17, 2004

Maintaining Windows Server 2003 systems isn't always simple. Administrators facing the often-daunting task of maintaining a Windows Server 2003 environment must do so in the midst of daily administration and firefighting. Administrators have little time to identify, prioritize, and organize maintenance processes and procedures until after a preventable catastrophe occurs.


When maintenance tasks are given proper priority in an enterprise, they can alleviate many of the more common firefighting tasks. To decrease the number of administrative inefficiencies and the amount of unscheduled fixes an administrator must go through, it is important to identify those tasks (e.g., service maintenance, log file review, and more) that are important to the systems' overall health and security. After they've been identified, routines should be set to ensure that the Windows Server 2003 environment is stable and reliable.

The processes and procedures for maintaining Windows Server 2003 systems can be separated based on the needs of the systems and the appropriate time interval between procedures. Some maintenance issues require daily attention, whereas others might require only quarterly checkups. The detailed maintenance processes and procedures that an organization follows depend strictly on the particular environment; however, the concept of placing tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly categories works with all sizes and varieties of IT infrastructures.

While these tasks might seem commonplace or mundane, they are often overlooked and they are critical to keeping the system environment and users working productively. As the number of servers and services within an environment increases so does the amount of time required to perform routine management and maintenance. As a result, many organizations are beginning to realize the importance of employing systems or operational management software such as Microsoft Operations Manager, NetIQ AppManager, IBM Tivoli, and others. Many of these products can monitor machines automatically, send alerts to administrators, and execute actions when they discover a problem.

Daily Tasks
Some maintenance procedures require more attention than others. Those that require the most are categorized as daily procedures. These procedures include checking the overall server health and functionality, verifying that backups are successful, and monitoring the Event Viewer logs.

First, pay close attention to the myriad of patches and updates made available by Microsoft and other vendors to clear up performance and security issues. These service packs (SPs) and updates for both the operating system and applications can be critical components to maintaining your environment. There are several ways an administrator can update a system with the latest SP or update: CD-ROM, manually entered commands, Windows Update, Windows Update Services (WUS), or third-party products such as NetIQ Patch Manager.

No matter which method you use to pull down and apply patches, be sure to test and evaluate SPs and updates in a lab environment thoroughly before installing them on production servers and client machines. While the majority of such patches will install without incident, it only takes one serious patch problem to bring down your environment. It is a good idea to keep all system and application software consistent by installing the same patch levels to each server and client machine.

The Event Viewer is used to check the System, Security, Application, and other logs on a local or remote system. These logs can be an invaluable source of information regarding the system health. The event logs present on Windows Server 2003 systems are the Security, Application, and System logs. In addition, the File Replication Service, Directory Service, and DNS Server logs are present on domain controllers.

All Event Viewer events are categorized either as informational, warning, or error. Checking these logs often will increase your understanding of them. There are some events that constantly appear but aren't significant. Events will begin to look familiar, so you will notice when something is new or amiss in your event logs. Some best practices for monitoring event logs include understanding the events that are being reported, setting up a database for archived event logs, and archiving event logs frequently.

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