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Why and how to set up IT monitoring

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La surveillance informatique

IT monitoring allows you to see failures and issues as soon as they happen, instead of waiting for the consequences to cause a big enough problem that your work is affected. When done right, IT monitoring gives you the opportunity to address problems before they affect operations or performance.

Somewhere in your IT infrastructure, a power supply goes down. It’s not a problem: the redundant unit keeps running. But eventually, the backup goes down too.

If your IT team realized the first power supply failed and fixed it, then operations will continue as normal. But if nobody realized the first power supply failed, then your system will be without power until someone gets it fixed. You’ll have downtime, and you may also have data corruption, lose money, or even lose clients.

Noticing when something goes wrong is the first step to fixing it. That’s why monitoring your IT systems is so important.

IT monitoring allows you to see failures and issues as soon as they happen, instead of waiting for the consequences to cause a big enough problem that your work is affected. When done right, IT monitoring gives you the opportunity to address problems before they affect operations or performance.

 

IT monitoring checks availability, performance, and resource use

IT monitoring will alert you when that power supply goes down. But it also does much more.

IT monitoring works in three layers.

  1. Hardware. The monitoring system will make sure all your hardware is functioning properly. It monitors servers, processors, voltage regulators, memory, hard disk, fans, controllers, network hardware, and more.
  2. Operating System. Just because your hardware is functional, doesn’t mean your systems are working. IT monitoring also checks that your operating system is running correctly.
  3. Applications. The applications you’re running need to be monitored for performance and availability as well.

 

An IT monitoring system monitors all three layers for availability, performance, and resource use. Because the system is monitoring all three layers, it is easy to pinpoint which layer is the source of an issue when a problem arises.

The IT monitoring system will ping each piece of your IT structure every few seconds to confirm availability, and alert you if one part goes down. It will also note if the return time of the pings gets longer, indicating decreasing performance. This gives you the chance to address performance issues long before employees begin complaining about slow applications – and certainly before clients notice any issues with your service.

IT monitoring also tracks resource use over time and monitors the history. If resource use is trending up, the IT staff monitoring the system can project the trend into the future to predict when your machines will run out of that resource. This is a key part of capacity planning, and makes it possible for you to expand your resources before performance starts going down. You can make more informed decisions when purchasing IT resources, and optimize your budget use.

On top of monitoring your local IT systems, R2i can also monitor your external connections, such as telecommunications, VPN, MPLS, and dark fiber. If you use the cloud, monitoring your connection is essential. If your connection goes down, everything could also go down. IT monitoring can watch your connection and alert you to any issues.

IT monitoring can also track the saturation of your connection. If you’re adding more employees or if you’re increasing system workloads, an IT monitoring service provider like R2i can track saturation, predict future trends, and determine when you’ll need more bandwidth. Just as with your internal IT resource use, this knowledge lets you plan ahead effectively. You can increase your bandwidth before problems arise.

 

Why choose IT monitoring?

Some companies aren’t sure if they need IT monitoring. If no problems have occurred, it can be easy to continue on as you have in the past.

But just as you wouldn’t drive a car that had no system monitoring the brakes or engine, it’s unwise to leave your company in the dark about your IT system.

While it’s true that most IT components emit alerts when issues arise or could arise, relying on that alone is not enough to protect your system. Without a monitoring solution, it’s likely that no one will see those alerts, especially if you have a large amount of hardware and not enough staff to assign someone to comb through readouts looking for alerts. Without monitoring, your hardware may be screaming at you, and you won’t hear it.

At R2i, our rule of thumb is that if your business could survive three to five days of downtime and the loss of two weeks of data, then you may not need IT monitoring. Otherwise, it’s smart to look into it.

Why?

Let’s take a look at a common scenario.

Your hardware goes down because of a power supply issue like the one we opened this article with.

It takes time to get the power supply fixed or replaced, so you have downtime. But once you get power back, you find that you have data corruption from the sudden shutdown. A reboot won’t fix it, so you have to restore from your backup.

Restoring from backup can take hours, days, or even weeks if your company is large. That whole time, your systems are still down. Your IT team is working around the clock, and likely unhappy about it. In some cases, employees have quit in these situations.

Worse yet, while restoring, you may find that you don’t have a recent backup. Your system may be set up to do a backup every night, but without a monitoring system to confirm that the backup was completed successfully, you can’t be sure that it happened. Like any other system, your disaster recovery system needs to be monitored as well. A managed service provider can use IT monitoring to confirm that each backup is a success, and redo the backup if there are any problems. But if you don’t know whether or not your disaster recovery system is working, you’re not truly prepared for a disaster.

By the time you get your company running again, you’ve lost significant money and possibly a large amount of data. You may lose clients if they’re frustrated with the technical issues. In the worst case, you may even have contract breaches of your service level agreements. Either way, your business will lose your reputation as a reliable service provider.

That’s a dark outcome, but luckily, the solution to avoid this scenario is simple. IT monitoring will ensure that you are not caught unaware by hardware malfunctions, rising resource use, performance issues, or other problems that can slow down or stop your business.

On top of avoiding disasters, IT monitoring offers many other benefits as well:

  1. It identifies potential improvements to optimize resource use, avoid bottlenecks, and more.
  2. It frees up time employees previously spent manually monitoring IT systems.
  3. It helps protect your IT systems and ensure business continuity.
  4. It’s part of making your IT structure cyber resilient.
  5. It speeds up problem solving by centralizing reports.
  6. It alerts you to some types of security risks or breaches.
  7. It helps you meet legal requirements and service level agreements.

 

3 Options to set up IT monitoring

You can run your IT monitoring in-house, trust it to a professional team like R2i, or combine internal and external expertise.

Before you choose your IT monitoring structure, there’s one factor that is important to note. IT monitoring services monitor problems and inform you or issues through a dashboard, but external IT monitoring service packages generally do not include taking action to fix the problem. IT monitoring only includes identifying issues. Solving the problems that monitoring identifies requires a different system, either internally or through a managed service provider.

 

With that in mind, there are 3 options to consider if you have decided to set up IT monitoring for your company:

  1. Completely in-house.

If you set up your IT monitoring completely in-house, that means your own IT team monitors your dashboard and responds to issues. It requires building and maintaining a monitoring center and having a staff of experts on duty 24/7.

For many companies, the cost of in-house IT monitoring is too high. Staffing in particular can be a large expense. In addition to employees monitoring the dashboard, you need a range of specialists available at all times to solve any problems that arise. You’ll need someone who can solve network issues, hardware issues, data issues, and more on hand at all hours.

If you do choose to monitor your systems internally, installing the monitoring technology can also provide a challenge. It can be a good idea to hire IT monitoring experts like the R2i team to install and set up your system correctly, before passing the monitoring over to your own IT team. That way you can be certain that the system works and your team will be notified of any issue you need to respond to.

  1. We both monitor.

In this option, both your internal IT team and R2i’s monitoring team watch your dashboard for alerts. This gives your own team access to all the information about what’s happening in your systems, without requiring your company to staff a monitoring center around the clock. You can rely on 24/7 surveillance through R2i, and let our team watch your dashboard while you sleep.

In this situation, it’s up to you who responds to the problems that monitoring picks up on. You can rely on your own IT team to respond, you can hire R2i as a managed service provider to respond to the problems, or a combination.

This flexibility is ideal for companies with a large and skilled IT staff, but without the resources to run an entire monitoring center 24/7. Your IT team will have the information and control they need, without undue pressure on your budget or staffing.

  1. Trust the monitoring to professionals.

In many situations, the best option is to hire a professional service provider to conduct your IT monitoring. This is especially true for smaller or medium-sized companies that may have few or no IT staff of their own. If you choose this option, a service provider like R2i monitors your IT systems 24/7, and your staff doesn’t watch the dashboard at all. In this situation, it’s usually best to hire the same service provider to respond to problems as well.

There are many reasons to choose a professional for your IT monitoring. For one thing, your team won’t have to spend any time checking on your IT system. They can focus on the work they do best.

But one of the biggest reasons to choose to outsource IT monitoring is that it eliminates any upfront cost. If you conduct your own IT monitoring, you have to make a large upfront investment in hardware and staffing. But if you choose to hire a managed service provider, then you simply have a predictable monthly fee, with no strain on your finances and no increase to your debts. You also benefit from economies of scale. At R2i, we have already invested in the tools and people to conduct IT monitoring. Since we share the use of our monitoring center among many clients, each client only has to pay a fraction of what they would pay to maintain a monitoring center themselves.

 

Prevent disasters before they happen

Remember the opening story about a power supply going down? With IT monitoring in place, it turns out differently.

As soon as the first power supply goes down, your IT monitoring system sends an alert to your dashboard. Either your IT team or a managed service provider like R2i responds immediately to replace it.

There is only a brief space of time where your company is without a backup power supply. Systems never go down. Your employees’ work and your clients’ service is never interrupted.

If you want to ensure this outcome the next time your hardware or software fails, the R2i team of IT monitoring experts is here to help. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about which IT monitoring structure is best for you and how to set it up. Contact our team of experts to get started.

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