– Rachel Gillevet, technical writer for WiredTree, says:

Your server is akin to a well-oiled machine. In a perfect world, this means that all the parts work together flawlessly, delivering whatever services you require of them at maximum performance. Unfortunately, the world’s not quite perfect. Like any machine, a server is only good as the task it was originally designed for.

To expect anything more is to risk failure.

Eventually, your business is going to grow, and its computing demands are going to increase. Eventually, the hardware your server is equipped with will fall behind. In other words; eventually, you’re going to need to upgrade. While there’s not necessarily any harm in an unnecessary upgrade (it gives you a bit more room to grow, at least), most businesses don’t want to spend anything more than they have to on hosting costs. As such, it’s a good idea to avoid upgrading your server unless it’s absolutely necessary – stick with what you need. You’ll lose more than you gain by over-spending.

So, on that note…how can you tell when your server needs an upgrade?
Not surprisingly, the most obvious indicator is that you’re running at or above your maximum capacity the vast majority of the time. If you ever notice that your server is using nearly 100% of its resources, then it’s time to investigate. Ideally, a server should never hit anything over 50% (70% during peak hours).

Another clear sign that you need an upgrade is poor performance. Glitches, slowdown, and lockups are all warning signs that there’s something wrong with your server – though this could easily point to a whole array of other problems beyond hardware. If you notice your website is slowing down to a crawl or your staff can’t access the data they’ve stored on your platform, first consider cleaning up the software – delete any unnecessary applications and data, and do a thorough sweep for any malware that might be hiding amongst your apps. If, after doing all of this, you’re still experiencing performance problems, it might indicate failing hardware.

Last, but certainly not least, it may be a good idea to upgrade your server once the warranty expires – these warranties usually last somewhere around three years or so, meaning that if something goes wrong, the repair costs will be on you. While this isn’t exactly catastrophic, it’s still a cost that I’m certain many organizations would rather avoid.

Your server is a well-oiled machine, and you are its operator. Part of that job involves knowing when the parts aren’t performing as well as they could – and understanding when it’s time to replace the old with the new. Failure to do this could lead to slowdowns and bottlenecks at best, and a catastrophic failure at worst.

About Rachel Gillevet – Rachel is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and vps hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like them on Facebook and check out more of their articles on their web hosting blog, http://www.wiredtree.com/blog.