Tech Corner

25+ Common Server Issues: Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide and FAQ

Servers are a vital part of any enterprise network. A problem or failure of the server can bring down the entire network. And you don’t need us to tell you that downtime is expensive – at times, five-figure expensive! It’s best to stay on top of common server issues and address them as they happen. 

Maintenance is vital for preventing many of the typical server issues. From replacing faulty components to installing firmware updates, timely maintenance and monitoring can prevent failure. Still, servers are machines at the end of the day and can have problems.

In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • The most common issues seen in servers, sorted by category.
  • Advice on troubleshooting and resolving these issues.
  • What to know about the role of server maintenance.

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Hardware Issues

Hardware problems are physical issues with the server or one of its components. Hardware issues are perhaps the most consequential because they can lead to complete failure. 

Here are the common hardware issues in servers:

  • Storage and/or RAM issues: A malfunctioning disk or RAM module can result in slow performance and data loss and failure. 

  • CPU Overheating: An overheated CPU can cause the server to shut down. It’s typically caused by improper cooling and ventilation inside the server.

  • Power Supply Unit Failure: The power supply unit of the server may malfunction and fail to keep the server on. This component must be replaced in such a case for the server to run again. 

  • Cooling System Failure: If the server is heating up frequently, chances are its cooling system is not working. For instance, the cooling fan may not be running. Similarly, overheating issues may also stem from inadequate cooling in the facility. 

  • Graphics Card Malfunctions: Graphics cards may face physical issues, resulting in poor visual output and performance. Modern servers for AI heavily rely on GPUs, which may be located on the graphics card. 

Troubleshooting Hardware Issues

Hardware problems can be the most challenging because many enterprises lack hardware expertise. To troubleshoot possible hardware issues, it’s best to begin with a visual inspection to ensure everything is connected as it should. 

Run the diagnostic tool specific to the server to determine which component is malfunctioning. The tool should give you specifics for the part that may have an issue. 

Hardware issues should be diverted to your maintenance provider, whether it’s the manufacturer or a third party. They can provide better support and send in an engineer or replacement should the issue result in complete failure. 

Software Issues

Software programs run and control the server, so an issue in one of those programs can result in performance issues or poor uptime and availability

Here are common software-related issues in servers:

  • Operating System Failure: The operating system can crash or develop an error, which leads to system instability, affecting the overall performance and availability of services. Operating system issues can be both minor and significant. 

  • Driver Compatibility Issues: Incompatible or outdated drivers may result in hardware malfunctions and system errors. As part of maintenance, it’s essential to install updates regularly so drivers are up-to-date and fully compatible. 

  • Software Bugs and Glitches: Bugs in server software can cause unexpected behavior, crashes, or vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Check for updates released by the manufacturer to resolve possible bugs. 

  • Insufficient Resource Allocation: Poorly managed resource allocation can lead to performance bottlenecks, affecting the responsiveness of server applications.

  • Database Performance Issues: Databases are integral for server applications, and issues like slow querying can directly result from an issue with the database.

  • Configuration Errors: Incorrect server configurations may result from human errors during installation or later. Configuration drifts are also a security risk. 

Troubleshooting Software Issues

Detecting and diagnosing software issues can be tricky. Start with the operating system to ensure that it’s configured correctly. Then, move to drivers to ensure they’re the latest version from the vendor. 

If the issue occurs when running a specific application, consider looking into that. There may be compatibility issues or another problem with the application. 

Most server software, whether it’s an operating system or database management system, has diagnostic tools. Run them one by one to get to the problem. 

A server/network monitoring tool may also help identify the possible issue by auditing the event logs. 

Performance Issues

Most performance issues are a result of an underlying hardware or software problem. Nevertheless, some performance issues may just require some optimization efforts. 

Here are the most common performance-related issues you’ll face with servers:

  • High CPU Usage: If the workloads put excessive demand on the CPU, it may not process requests as quickly as it should and heat up. Occasional (ideally rarely), reaching the CPU usage limit is acceptable, but if the problem occurs frequently, you need to upgrade the CPU. 

  • Memory Shortages: Insufficient RAM can increase disk swapping, slowing applications and overall server performance. Again, upgrading the RAM is recommended. 

  • Disk I/O Bottlenecks: Slow input/output operations on storage devices can delay accessing and retrieving data, impacting application responsiveness. Identifying where these bottlenecks are occurring can help solve the problem. 

  • Network Congestion: Heavy network traffic or bottlenecks can result in slow data transfer and communication between servers or clients. This problem may not necessarily be with the server; it’s a network issue. Use your network monitoring solution to identify the cause of congestion and make necessary routing changes. 

  • Insufficient Bandwidth: Limited network bandwidth can lead to slow data transfer rates and impact the performance of network-dependent applications. You can free up bandwidth by scheduling backups later, optimizing the data flow, and removing unnecessary data on the network. 

  • Database Performance Issues: Poorly optimized database queries can result in slow data retrieval, affecting the performance of database-dependent applications. Other possibilities include the database not being optimized to begin with or too many applications accessing it. 

  • Inadequate Load Balancing: Uneven distribution of workloads across servers can lead to overburdened systems and uneven performance.

  • Lack of Monitoring: Poor monitoring and optimization practices can lead to undetected performance issues and prolonged downtime. 

  • Inadequate Virtualization Management: Issues with virtual servers, such as improper allocation of resources or too many virtual machines, can impact overall server performance.

Troubleshooting Performance Issues

Server or network monitoring tools can help detect, diagnose, and resolve performance issues. Set benchmarks for main performance metrics (requests per second, thread count, network bandwidth, etc.) and ensure the server performance is at or near these benchmarks. 

Again, performance issues may also spring from hardware or software issues. So it’s best to troubleshoot those, too, when looking for the cause of lackluster performance. 

Security Issues

Servers are often the target of outside attacks, and a security issue is equivalent to a welcome mat for those threats. It’s imperative to be on top of any possible security vulnerabilities. 

Here are common server security issues:

  • Inadequate Security Policies: Weak access controls, poor password management, or lax security policies can expose the server to unauthorized access.

  • Unpatched Software: Failure to apply security patches and updates in time can leave the server vulnerable to known exploits and attacks.

  • Zero-Day Exploits: Attacks targeting vulnerabilities unknown to the software vendor, often before patches or fixes are available.

  • Outdated or Insecure Protocols: Using outdated or insecure communication protocols (e.g., SSLv2, TLS 1.0) can expose servers to external threats.

  • Unsecured Remote Access: Poorly configured remote access tools or services can create entry points for attackers if not properly secured.

  • Insecure File Uploads: Poorly configured file upload functionalities in applications without scanning for possible malware or other threats can lead to the execution of malicious code on the server.

Troubleshooting Security Issues

While some incidents, like zero-day exploits, may be beyond your control, other security issues can be addressed preemptively. 

Most enterprises use dedicated network security solutions that can monitor for threats and issues with the equipment. Such tools should monitor for configuration drifts, new security patches, and abnormal user behavior to stop exploitation of the servers. 

Connectivity Issues

Various network and connectivity issues may impact your server. While some of these are directly linked to the server, others may have a root cause in another device, for example, the router. 

Server connectivity issues include:

  • Slow network speed.
  • Packet loss.
  • High latency.
  • DNS resolution issues.
  • Firewall configuration problems.
  • IP address conflicts.
  • Subnetting issues.
  • VLAN configuration problems.
  • Router configuration errors.
  • Switch port configuration errors.
  • Network cable faults.
  • DHCP server issues.
  • NAT configuration problems.

Troubleshooting Connectivity Issues

Begin by verifying the physical layer and checking for faulty cables or hardware. 

Use network monitoring tools to assess overall network health, identifying packet loss, high latency, or other anomalies. Confirm correct IP configurations, DNS resolution, and DHCP assignments. 

Review firewall and router settings for proper configurations, ensuring ports are open as needed. Examine VLAN and subnet configurations for consistency. 

The Role of Server Maintenance

If you’ve read the article and reached here, you’ve already realized that many common server issues are linked with maintenance. How, exactly? Maintenance helps identify problems before they escalate, especially hardware and software issues. Devices may also cause performance and network issues when the server is connected. 

Routine checks on hardware components are highly recommended. Similarly, monitoring the server's performance is extremely important for optimization and efficiency. It should form a cornerstone of maintenance. 

Maintenance should solve your problems, not create new ones. Get coverage tailored to your networks and confidence, knowing when something happens, your spares will be there.

If TPM were a house, OneScan would be the foundation. We do the complex thinking for you when setting the foundation for an optimized maintenance strategy, saving you valuable time. 

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What Causes Server Failure?

There can be various reasons behind server failure, including but not limited to hardware failure, configuration error, virus/malware, physical damage, overheating, and un-updated firmware. 

Server failure can result in downtime, which, in turn, causes revenue and productivity losses. It can be prevented with maintenance and monitoring. Actively look for issues and resolve them before they get worse. 

What Is Server Downtime?

Server downtime, also called an outage, is when the server is shut down or fails to perform. It can directly impact network performance and data availability. 

Common causes of server downtime include hardware issues, software bugs, faulty connections, loss of power supply, and even cyberattacks. 

What to Do if the Server Is Unresponsive?

If your server is unresponsive or receiving errors, you may want to troubleshoot a number of common server issues.

Inspect the server’s connections to ensure all the cabling is connected as it should. Next, run a network diagnostic assessment to look for networking issues preventing the server from responding. 

If troubleshooting network issues doesn’t solve the problem, you may have to reset the server hard.


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