Friday, 23 July 2010

The Top Ten of Server Change and Configuration Management

The concept of a Server Change and Configuration Management Policy is simple - define what 'good' IT service looks like, then maintain your Server estate in this state.
It is vitally important to keep in check all relevant servers configuration settings, performance metrics and application response times that together govern the quality and consistency of delivered IT service levels to the business.

However, while it is obvious that governing the performance and health of your servers is important, the need to ensure your servers are compliant with security and external corporate governance legislations is now equally necessary.

Corporate Governance policies such as Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), GLBA, NERC, PCI DSS, HIPAA, MiFID, SAS 70, and Basel II have all been introduced to ensure minimum levels of security and integrity are maintained for company financial information and any stored personal details of customers.
Your Servicedesk or Helpdesk system has a role to play, typically playing an integral role in any ITIL Change and Configuration Management Process, providing reconciliation data for any planned changes to any configuration item, including servers.

The Top Ten of Server Configuration Management
1. Server Performance Management - Measure and control all parameters affecting IT Service Delivery, including configuration settings, server health and user experience
2. Server Compliance Audits - Take steps to automate the audit of your server estate in order to provide auditors with accurate details of all security and access controls for compliance with all Corporate Governance legislations, such as PCI DSS, SOX, GLBA, NERC, HIPAA, MiFID, SAS 70, Basel II
3. Virtualization - when virtualising servers in order to facilitate datacentre moves, service continuity provision and to reduce running costs, remember that you are also introducing another layer of configuration management at the VM Host level that must equally be audited to ensure it is compliant with corporate governance policies
4. Compare 'one server to many' and pinpoint all differences between a 'policy compliant' (i.e. 'working') server and those that aren't -all key changes and deviations will be instantly identified and reported
5. Software Inventory Management - A Configuration Management solution should cover Server inventory management, server asset management, server performance management and server configuration management
6. Server Security Management - Best practise is to limit the User Accounts to the minimum and restrict access to Administrator accounts with Admin privileges but you also need to regularly check that Server User Accounts have not been modified, added or changed
7. Server File system Management - a key aspect of PCI DSS and other corporate governance policies is that core filesystem attributes have their integrity maintained, for instance, the Win32 folder should not be changed or modified and it is vital to regularly check this
8. Registry Settings - as the core repository of Server Configuration Settings, any Registry changes must be logged and analysed
9. Running Processes and Services/Service States - build a whitelist and blacklist of authorised/unauthorized process and services, together with any mandatory 'must run' or illegal 'never run' processes and services
10. Server Application Configuration Management - Together with the Windows Server Operating System, key server applications such as SQL Server, IIS, Exchange, Active Directory and Oracle all have numerous and complex configuration settings which also need to be audited for compliance with your configuration management policy

All the above change and configuration management tasks can be automated using change and configuration management software solutions, the best of which will cover servers together with change and configuration management of your desktop PCs and all network devices such as firewalls, switches and routers.

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