The value of proactive monitoring of IT infrastructure

As the monitoring industry makes the shift away from preventative toward proactive monitoring, IT administrators need the right tools to ensure business continuity.

As data center management becomes vital to the success of modern businesses, it may seem unnecessary to make a case in favor of the proactive monitoring of IT infrastructure. While necessary, many organizations may not fully understand the value that can be derived from maintaining high visibility over the various components of the data center. However, as Baseline contributor Tony Kontzer recently reported, high-profile companies like Visa are utilizing infrastructure performance monitoring to gain a competitive edge.

Kontzer shared the experience of Advance Auto Parts, which operates more than 4,000 auto parts stores around the country and uses two main data centers to host the infrastructure that powers the company’s success. In June, one of Advance’s data center facilities was struck by lightning, which could have resulted in a significant disruption had the company not been adequately prepared. However, because Advance was utilizing a remote monitoring system to manage its infrastructure, the company was able to get the data center facility up and running within an hour.

“Our monitoring system alerted all the right people, woke up the right teams, and was able to sort out what broke and why,” said Brent Paine, manager of network infrastructure for Advance Auto Parts. “Monitoring is a fundamental process and task that has to be done on any network larger than a home network. Without it, you’re trying to look at blades of grass in a one-acre yard and spot which one is the weed.”

System monitoring takes precedence
Datacenter Dynamics blogger Kevin Miller also recently explored this topic, claiming that it is essential to know what is going on in what areas of a facility. Without knowing a facility backwards and forwards through the use of data center monitoring, should something go wrong, managers are in far worse shape when it comes to resolving issues. According to Miller, without proper monitoring in place, a minor problem can quickly evolve into a major system failure.

An often cited argument against investing more in data center operations is that the budget simply does not allow for it. However, this is one of the reasons that remote monitoring software is even more important. Such software is not only integral for providing the oversight that facility managers need to ensure business as usual, but it is one of the most cost-effective IT investments that a business can make. So while not every IT department will have budgets that compare to the likes of Google, remote server monitoring software can help bridge the gap.

“You have to work with the tools (and budget) you have,” Miller wrote. “What matters is that most of these people would love to have Google’s data center budget but they can do alright with (a) limited knowledge and (b) even more limited budgets. The real problem is when they do have a failure they don’t always know about it for a long while by which time a small issues has just become major.”

EFYTimes contributor and IT networking expert Prashant Phatak recently outlined some of the top features of network monitoring tools, noting that IT administrators need active management technology and monitoring tools to ensure a well-managed infrastructure capable of identifying and resolving minor problems before they cause total disruption. Such tools provide the necessary visibility into all the critical IT components, including networks, applications and servers.

Phatak outlined some of the advanced features that make this task significantly easier for IT admins running highly complex, large-scale infrastructures. These include auto discovery, alert management, network traffic stats, log monitoring, report generation and plug-in API support.

“The network or server monitoring industry is rapidly moving away from the preventative to the pro-active mode,” Phatak wrote. “Administrators want to know historic trends of problems and make a judgment in terms of the corrective actions to be taken today, to prevent problems that might happen tomorrow.”