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Budget dilemmas are nothing new for IT professionals, who are being squeezed between limited spending options and increasing demand from end users for increasingly higher service levels. Take the case of a 6,000-student British university that needed to createnetworkmaps spanning its seven locations and then monitor the distributednetworkto ensure maximum uptime. IT needed to know exactly what it had in place so it could group and prioritise servers to be properly shut down if a power outage outlasted their UPS systems’ two-hour capabilities. Could the school afford to pay the six-figure price vendors were charging for an enterprise-class system? After doing some research, they realised they wouldn't have to.
Closing the performance and functionality gap
For years, there has been a perception of a wide performance and functionality gap between the low-cost IT monitoring solutions aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and the “big four” monitoring products that start in the low six figures and climb rapidly from there. The IT organisation at a British university, with campuses in many locations, thought they had no choice but to select one of these expensive systems to achieve their goals for keeping students, professors and staff up and running with only the most minimal disruptions.
The rise of the high-value “overachiever”
Seven key network challenges
To show that these cost-effective solutions can pass the test for many organisations, I will review the seven key network challenges administrators and IT directors face:
Incomplete view of the entire network
Outdated and unauthorised devices can be weak points that allow hackers to break into your organisation. If you have copies of software that don’t have licenses attached to them, you can get caught out in an audit. Certain events demand an inventory once a year; insurance companies may want to know the value of your assets so they can be properly underwritten. This means you may have to walk though wiring closets getting serial numbers by hand and trying to map them out, and you still won't have access to the component details of each device to figure out what's inside it. Finally, if you do not know what you have, you are limited in your ability to optimise each asset and trace problems when users complain of application slowdowns or outages.
Difficulty maintaining high IT service levels
Your goal may be to act decisively before anyone notices there is a service delivery problem. Without comprehensive monitoring, you are more likely to find out there is a problem only after it has begun to impact critical business operations and multiple users.
Service disruptions that are hard to resolve quickly
Is it a server? A switch? A wireless access point? A trial-and-error search may turn into a support nightmare if you go days, weeks, or sometimes months before you find the culprit, especially if the problem is intermittent.
Multiple monitoring interfaces that aren't integrated
If you currently use a number of separate monitoring tools, or work with a product suite where the modules are not fully integrated, the lack of interaction between each monitor makes it hard to act on a user complaint or know where to begin to look.
Difficult-to-customise application profiles
Applications that depend on other applications need a customisable profile before you can properly monitor and determine root causes related to application availability. If your monitoring products make editing profiles a very difficult task, you will have a hard time drilling down to the cause of a problem, since you have not informed the monitor of the interdependency.
Complex installation and implementation
This is a problem more with enterprise-level systems, where training and support play a significant role in a successful installation, followed by a period of integration to a production environment. This process can take a week or more to complete and may require costly professional services.
Lack of automation
Some problems repeat themselves, and there is nothing you can do about it but go through the same solution, repeatedly, or pay staff to be on call after hours just to reboot a server.
Below is the wishlist customers put together in hope of solving the challenges:
- Unified view of IT services, including the ability to map the entire network down to the device level
- Fully integrated monitoring that encompasses everything from the application level all the way down to individual components within individual devices
- Enhanced IT service delivery to meet service level agreements
- Problem resolution reduced to just minutes
- Easy-to-customise dashboards and reports
- Fast installs and quick integration into your production environment
- Easy-to-customise application profiles
- Easy-to-customise, automated scripted actions