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How monitoring can be the lifesaver the public sector needs

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

The Covid-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard. Though scientists believe we were overdue for a crisis of this nature, no one expected it would happen when it did or predicted it would cause the level of disruption almost every country is now experiencing. Though the situation is starting to improve in many countries, social distancing is still necessary for most to prevent a second wave of infections. One of the business consequences from the pandemic—increased remote working—is causing technology challenges across most industries, including the public sector. Most employees who are now working from home have probably never had to do so before, while those still attending their place of work are mostly people in central government trying to keep the country running, police working to uphold social distancing and lockdown rules, or medical staff trying to save lives.

These roles all require technology to cope with the new demand for accessibility and visibility, and this means the applications different organisations once took for granted are now mission-critical. Custom apps must not falter—in fact, the demand for them to operate at an optimised level has been prioritised because even a small performance degradation or outage could be disastrous.

Change is everywhere, and to keep ahead of events like this, IT teams need to bulletproof their organisations’ applications and infrastructure to ensure nothing fails. Infrastructure monitoring, therefore, has never been more vital.

Managing the ups and downs

All organisations in the public sector should be anticipating their needs. Though data in the NHS is likely in high demand almost 24/7, other areas of the public sector may see patterns in their peaks and troughs. For example, online sites run by the government and NHS may see peaks of users during or shortly after a Cabinet news conference or after the daily death toll has been announced. IT teams in these departments need to not only monitor these but prepare for potential pattern shifts.

Every aspect of the public sector—especially government and health care—will likely see demand fluctuations in the coming months. Organisations responsible for medical supplies, such as sanitiser or PPE, will have seen demands for these products soar in the last few months, and the technology supporting the tracking and movement of these supplies is crucial to ensure the resources quickly get to the places they’re needed most.

Meanwhile, organisations or departments experiencing a quieter period—the department dealing with passport applications, for example—may feel tempted to shed their current monitoring costs. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but these teams should instead reconsider. They can use metrics to optimise their infrastructure costs, so when their area is in demand again, they’re better able to cope and serve the 

Some organisations may also be shifting strategies—if only temporarily—to help support the NHS front line. For example, departments with manufacturing equipment may switch to making protective equipment for medical staff. Such dramatic changes will require full-stack monitoring as supply chains are transformed on short notice. Similarly, organisations suddenly requiring more assistance will need to monitor the influx of temporary staff—for example, the hundreds of thousands of volunteers from the general public who are delivering medicine or food and driving vulnerable people to medical appointments. The infrastructure required to manage these new roles will need to be monitored carefully to ensure volunteers are sent to the right place at the right time to help those who need it most.

Ensuring the tech is up to the task

With almost everyone across the U.K. requiring something from the public sector right now—from information on a website to life-saving medical care—it’s time to prioritise monitoring across the depth and breadth of applications and infrastructure. Without these systems in place, employees will struggle to keep up with the ever-increasing demand Covid-19 is generating. With effective monitoring across the board, data will be available to employees and the general public at the touch of a button, keeping everyone up-to-date and on track and helping us beat this virus sooner.

Now is not a time to take chances. Whenever rapid changes in demand occur, they have a ripple effect on other applications—you may get the noisy neighbour effect. This is where a cloud computing infrastructure co-tenant uses up the resources shared with other applications, negatively impacting them. “Capacity on Demand” cloud architectures only perform as well as the underlying resource. If it’s oversized and over-reserved, it’s a waste of money; if it’s undersized, performance is impacted. Thus, it’s important to always monitor everything.

All teams are on the receiving end of extra demands, and this is impacting shared infrastructures. The potential for noisy neighbours goes up as the number of apps increases, so it’s even more important to monitor them. Teams should generate cost savings by price comparing their application performance monitoring (APM) solutions, not cutting the APM strategy itself. Organisations not expanding their monitoring strategies and approaches to include everything related to increased demand will likely fail to ensure appropriate performance and be unable to optimise operating costs.

The general public is more in contact with the government and the NHS than ever before, between regular Q&As with government ministers and officials and people across the country checking the NHS website for advice or updating the Covid-19 symptom tracking app. It’s crucial for these methods of communication to remain open at all times. To do this, IT teams are increasingly relying on hybrid infrastructure and APM tools. The latter help IT professionals monitor their entire application stack, including applications, user experience, and the performance of the infrastructure required to deliver information and advice to the public. Traditionally, APM has been used only for select “critical” applications and infrastructure due to budgets and perceived complexity. But since there are now simple, cost-effective, and quick time-to-value APM solutions available, it’s time for the public sector to reassess this strategy.

Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds (opens in new tab)

Sascha Giese is a Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, based in the company’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) headquarters in Cork, Ireland.