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What is System Maintenance?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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System maintenance is a catchall term used to describe various forms of computer or server maintenance required to keep a computer system running properly. It can describe network maintenance, which could mean that servers are being physically repaired, replaced, or moved. Network maintenance can also mean that the software for a server is being updated, changed, or repaired. This sort of maintenance is typically performed on a regular or semi-regular schedule, often during non-peak usage hours, and keeps servers running smoothly.

Information technology (IT) professionals often use system maintenance to describe any sort of repairs being performed on a computer or multiple computers within a network. IT maintenance can often take hours to complete, and professionals usually describe the work in general terms to avoid the timely explanations required for more specific language. When websites are inaccessible due to attacks from hackers, server problems, or for updating and repair, the administrators of the website will often display an image apologizing for the maintenance and website downtime. This allows users to understand that the website cannot be used and that the administrators are aware of the issue.

Preventative maintenance is often performed by IT professionals, usually because a potential problem or security threat has been recognized with a computer or server, and the system administrators are working to deal with the issue before it becomes a true problem. This sort of maintenance is often seen as unnecessary or inconvenient by users who find work interrupted by the sudden need to fix an issue that has not yet affected the user. Preventative maintenance keeps users from encountering far more serious problems and therefore is essential to continued system reliability.

Due to the perceived inconvenience of preventative maintenance, many IT professionals prefer to rely on scheduled maintenance to perform the required system maintenance in a time frame that disrupts other users as little as possible. Scheduled maintenance is ideal for actions like emptying temporary files, running defragmentation programs on hard discs, and clearing out server caches. IT professionals may not always be able to wait until scheduled maintenance to address particularly dire problems with a computer or server. When possible, however, the administrators will often allow minor issues to persist and simply be worked around until the scheduled maintenance can be completed, rather than interrupt the users that rely on the system.

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Discussion Comments
By anon979455 — On Nov 26, 2014

I agree with you that maintenance is a complicated process which is extremely important for the company and that is why paramount importance should be given to all kind of tools, e.g. network monitoring tools like Anturis and specialists who are able to keep the system working all the time. It is a pity but some companies ignore it and they have to suffer from huge losses after that.

By PandaGolden — On Jan 28, 2011

People who want additional security can also get anti-virus and/or firewall software for their computer. Many programs that perform these tasks cost a lot of money, however a simple search for "free antivirus software" will provide links to many different free antivirus software downloads. Be sure to look at ratings and comments from other people who have downloaded the software first, however.

By AngelChaser — On Jan 27, 2011

@mitchell14 --Agreed. As someone who works from home, it's important to me that my computer has all its updates, no viruses or other computer problems. The good news is that a lot of computers already come with the tools needed to take care of a lot of these needs. Most computers running Microsoft Windows will have defragmenting and scanning tools.

By mitchell14 — On Jan 13, 2011

Many people with personal computers neglect the need for PC system maintenance. Even a computer used by only one person will require system updates, the occasional deletion of unused programs and files, and things to help prevent viruses and delete invasive files.

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