Over the past few years we have seen significant growth in MSP activity, fuelled by continued emphasis on outsourcing by enterprises, increased adoption of IT infrastructure services, and emergence of specialist software service providers. In contrast, the overall global economic picture has recently become less rosy, given postponement of investments by organizations in light of uncertainty, the curtailment of spending by governments to reign in spiraling deficits, the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and the gloomy consumer sentiment in the US. Although this will invariably have an impact on the IT industry, MSPs do not necessarily have to put the brakes on growth plans, and should explore how best to manage increased operational demands with existing resources. One area that MSPs can quickly and easily make some gains is through increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of IT operations, system administration, and network engineering personnel. And here, advanced network and cloud monitoring software solutions can directly provide a number of operational benefits.
One of the first places to focus in on is reducing, and ideally eliminating, the time your team spends chasing down false alarms or false positives. Network monitoring software solutions that have smart notification engines that account for topological relationships (e.g. don’t generate an alarm for a downstream device if the upstream device is down), or apply intelligent rules to recognize short-duration flaps, are able to reduce the ‘noise’ and help reduce the time operations personnel spend responding to spurious events. Additionally, Zyrion’s software for example, has time-based or adaptive thresholds that automatically learn and apply time-period specific warning or critical thresholds, which allows setting alarm triggers that match varying patterns of use or load in the IT infrastructure. For example, if nightly back-up jobs increase the utilization levels of a server during the evening hours, then you can set higher utilization threshold levels for this time period so that unnecessary alarms are not generated. The daytime thresholds can be set to be lower to ensure that a quality end-user experience is provided.
Enhanced administration features, such as being able to define and manage maintenance schedules, can help reduce alarm floods for ‘offlined’ devices. Scheduled maintenance functionality allows defining in advance any number of time periods for automatically suspending device tests at the start of the time-period, and then automatically resuming the tests at the end of the time-period. This simplifies the process of performing maintenance tasks on devices and applications, by halting alerts while the IT component is offline. Once a device is suspended, the data collection for all the tests on the device is suspended, and thus no alarms or notifications will be generated.
IT teams often spend a significant amount of time analyzing and isolating sources of problems. Here again, the right monitoring tools can have a significant beneficial effect. For example, being able to rapidly drill down from a high-level dashboard view, to the device and test detail, all the way to network flow graphs, all with a few mouse clicks, allows you to instantly identify the ‘top talkers’ on the network to pinpoint potential causes of problems. When analyzing alarms and events, the ability to quickly see related events (e.g. occurred at the same time, similar device type, etc.) in the monitoring console gives you indicators of linked or correlated problem areas.
IT, network and cloud monitoring software should be viewed as more than just performance assurance tools. They can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your operations and administration team as well, and can enable you to do more with less in these challenging economic times.