A Day in the Life of an IT Pro: Network monitoring - why team work makes dream work

Sometimes I feel a bit sorry for the network administrator.

End users who don’t really know much about technology always lay their problems at their door first – “I can’t access my emails, is the network down?” “My word document is typing really slowly, is the network down?” “I’ve forgotten my password, is the network down?”

It can get a bit tiring – but you can’t really blame your average office worker. I wouldn’t like to admit it, but perhaps on an overly busy day I’ve batted tickets into the network admin’s court which I know probably aren’t their fault.

Perhaps that is why Jane, our very own guardian of the network, has invested so much time in developing an all-singing, all-dancing, fault-proof monitoring empire. As I am sure you can

As I am sure you can image, Jane, is very proud of her Network Operations Centre (NOC) and has huge dashboards filled with metrics of every type – network, firewall, traffic, applications, storage – you name it.

Jane is very good at giving us heads-up before things nearly turn into a disaster, and we do appreciate it. Even if she is a bit of a know-it-all, (and if her monitoring empire has made it harder for us to bat an unwanted IT ticket into her court).

Conveniently, we have our own log-ins to her monitoring application and use it to manage our local networks.

Given that she is usually so on the ball, it was strange when one day, I noticed a few gaps in her normally smooth charts. “Iceberg!” I yelled. I took my feet off the desk and rang the office bell. This immediately sent us into a panic and we double-checked our systems, but everything was running just fine. We asked her if perhaps her monitoring server was broken – which wasn’t received too well.

Feeling a little suspicious, I used my own log-ins to browse the application monitors to have a closer look at what was being monitored. Interestingly, I noticed that server MSTRCTL was not being monitored. I raised a help desk ticket, requesting to add a monitor for her server. A few minutes later, said ticket was closed and at around the same time, the monitoring dropouts stopped. The notes on the tickets read: “virus removed from server.”

There are a couple of lessons to be learnt here.

Firstly, there is always an argument for increased integration, so that network admins can share insights into tools and processes with the wider IT team, instead of operating in vacuumed silos.

Secondly, this incident was a great reminder that all systems, especially the heart of your monitoring empire, should be included under its watchful eye.

It was also good to know that Jane, like the rest of us, makes mistakes too.

Kent Row is a seasoned evangelist for IT admins at SolarWinds. He is at the forefront of a technological age of hosting, firewalling, trolling, tweeting, blocking and CTRL-ALT-DELETING.