The proliferation of technologies and the uncertainty of the market are creating plenty of challenges for IT professionals who use IT infrastructure monitoring tools. New technologies that must be monitored are coming onto the market; organizations are scaling up and down; and infrastructure is becoming more complex overall. With so many factors, it can be easy for system admins to see each challenge as an item to quickly check off the list and move on to the next fire. But this mentality fails to put out the fire at its source.
The following challenges are common but significant ones in the IT monitoring space. Falling into these traps can result in other problems and missed opportunities down the road.
Failing to see the bigger picture
More than the question of “Is my device working?” IT infrastructure monitoring should be informing critical business decisions. Data and insight pulled from monitoring can factor into decisions about scaling the organization up or down; strategic objectives around acquisitions; and how best to meet customer expectations.
For example, lets’ say you have a server rack of 10 servers that load and run your website. Your monitoring software tells you that the servers are hitting capacity on a regular basis. By looking at the big picture, you can see it’s because your website it getting far more traffic than it used to and now you can make a more educated decision around adding computing resources to ensure the website functions the way it needs to. Perhaps there’s even a business case to be made for expanding your hardware or other infrastructure.
Although many IT teams are becoming leaner, their value to the organization can increase thanks to the power of automated IT infrastructure monitoring and its ability to free up IT teams to focus on big picture, mission-critical tasks.
Ignoring your logs
IT monitoring gives you a good view into the health of your infrastructure, but log data is often overlooked. A log aggregation platform can gather and help you analyze log data, which is important for challenges like identifying security risks, troubleshooting problems and staying in compliance. Gathering log data is like an insurance policy: you might not use it in your daily work, but when there’s a significant risk or problem, it can be your saving grace – especially when the average cost of a data breach can be hundreds of thousands of dollars!
If your infrastructure crashes, having data from the events that led up to the crash can help identify the problems much more quickly and accurately. Without the log data, systems admins start out at a deficit when trying to identify the cause of a problem. Here at Nagios, we’ve seen this scenario play out many times with our clients. A customer heard about Nagios Log Server and implemented it over the weekend. By Monday morning, he saw that there had been 15,000 failed password attempts from an unknown location. If he hadn’t started monitoring his logs, he wouldn’t have had any idea this was happening! He could’ve lost company secrets, customer data, and potentially his entire livelihood if one of those attempts had been successful.
Alerts that cry wolf
Alert blindness happens when admins or users get so many alerts from their IT infrastructure monitoring software that they start ignoring them. It’s a case of your monitoring software crying wolf so many times that you ignore it – even when there is a wolf at the door.
Instead, your IT infrastructure monitoring vendor can help guide you through setting up notification thresholds that prioritize what’s important to you. Your software can also run recheck intervals when a threshold is missed to make sure that the problem is a reoccurring one that needs attention and not just a blip caused by an app download or momentary spike, for example. With recheck intervals, you’re only notified of issues that are ongoing and don’t fix themselves after a set period of time.
Another way to cut down on the avalanche of alerts is to create a script or command that automatically responds when a device isn’t working properly. For example: Your organization’s website freezes, but your IT infrastructure monitoring software doesn’t have to send you an alert right away. It will first run a script to call out to that server and tell it to restart. Once the restart is complete, the software will check to see if the restart fixed the problem. If it did, great. You won’t get an alert. But if not, then it will issue a notification so the problem can be addressed. Solving problems with automation instead of human involvement saves everyone time and improves the speed and productivity of the entire IT infrastructure.
Distracting, siloed monitoring systems
If you have separate solutions for database monitoring, server monitoring and web monitoring, you’re dealing with a lot of different software, screens and data just to get a decent understanding of your IT infrastructure. With so many siloed inputs, you might be distracted from seeing the important information – or at least not able to aggregate and analyze the information in a way that helps you make better decisions about your IT infrastructure.
Consider monitoring software that can monitor all of the above, giving you a clear view of your entire infrastructure in one centralized location. If a device or application isn’t already supported by the monitoring solution, you should have the ability to use its common language to write your own scripts and connect to virtually anything. A flexible IT monitoring solution is especially important as the IoT market grows and as devices diversify because the solution will be able to monitor anything you bring on board. If an IT monitoring solution can’t monitor anything in one place, you risk relying on the vendors’ internal monitoring solution that creates more silos of data.
No monitoring solution can foresee everything that may connect in the future, but if it gives you the freedom to connect anything on your own, you can be confident that the IT infrastructure is future-proofed as your organization evolves.
Understanding the why
By addressing these common pitfalls, you can better understand the why behind the workings of your IT infrastructure: Why some thresholds are being missed, why websites are freezing, why the customer experience isn’t up to par, and so on. Rather than dealing with each fire that comes at you, you can put out some of these problems at the source and re-focus your talent on other projects and objectives.