Column: Server crash backlash

In the past I have commented that server crashes are your fault, which raises quite a few hackles among those with servers that frequently crash. The prevailing view among the critics is that Windows NT is an inherently unstable operating system that even the best network manager can't keep running without frequent crashes.

But roughly half of those critics talk about how reliable their NT servers are.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that I'd much prefer to run NetWare than NT as my server operating system. However, application requirements (Exchange, SQL Server) sometimes dictate running Windows NT as an application server. If that's the case on your network, then it behooves you to understand the NT operating system as well as the NetWare or Unix system running on your other servers.

Too often, long-time IS shops are ready to trash NT after a brief trial because it doesn't hold up as well as the "other" operating system they've been running. Typical was the note from one person that began: "In the 13 years that I've run Unix servers, they've never crashed. But the NT server we've had less than a year is always crashing."

In my experience, my new Unix servers crashed frequently their first year (I'd had flawless performance from NetWare for many years), but once I took the time to learn the new hardware and software, they also performed without error.

To those of you with much NetWare and Unix experience now faced with an NT server in your mix, don't waste your time moaning about Microsoft. Learn the new operating system, get the right hardware and monitor the server's health just as you would for your older network operating systems.

If you've really been trying and your server still crashes frequently -- get rid of NT! Find an application that does the job, provides your company with the features it needs and runs on a different operating system. Most SQL Server applications will also run with an Oracle back end. Lotus or GroupWise can replace Exchange. Stop the whining and teeth-gnashing, and get the problem solved.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at

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