Too much of a good thing: monitoring overload

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Too much of a good thing: monitoring overload

We all know that network monitoring is absolutely essential for government IT pros to help ensure IT operations are running at optimal performance. That said, with so many tools available, it’s tempting to monitor everything. Be careful: monitoring everything can quickly turn into too much of a good thing.

Too much monitoring can create headaches for IT administrators. Having an excessive number of monitoring tools and alerts can result in conflicting metrics and data, overly complex systems and significant management challenges -- all working together to undermine an administrators’ ability to accurately identify true network problems.

Understanding why, and for whom, systems are monitored will help IT pros implement the tools that will deliver the most accurate results that will, in turn, be the most useful for enhancing agency IT operations.

The importance of monitoring

Remember, monitoring is critical. The cost of downtime alone makes monitoring operational metrics a necessity. In fact, the value of monitoring is sometimes the driver for “over-monitoring,” or implementing too many tools. Some IT pros may think, “The more tools I have, the more insight I get.”

It’s a tempting proposition. The number and type of monitoring tools available have increased exponentially in the past 10 years. From monitoring bandwidth, security systems, servers, code management and implementation metrics, all the way to high-level operational metrics, there are countless data points available to collect.

Unfortunately, most of these tools work independently, and it’s unlikely that any one tool can deliver exactly the data and insights that are most valuable. Consequently, agencies will patch several tools together -- each providing different metrics -- to create a massive monitoring system. With this complex system, monitoring becomes a task in and of itself, taking up IT pros’ valuable time instead of providing a seamless foundation of accurate and actionable monitoring data.

Agencies must make smart decisions to remain nimble and keep pace, and that means avoiding mammoth, costly monitoring systems. Solutions that neatly aggregate an agency’s preferred metrics deliver better availability, security and performance.

So what does an ideal monitoring infrastructure look like?

In many cases, IT managers can make highly accurate monitoring choices by evaluating the response to two questions:

For whom am I monitoring? Are metrics more important to the operations engineer, the project manager or agency management? Even within the engineering contingent there may be a wide array of monitoring needs. Figure out in advance who is the monitoring “customer.”

What metrics do I really need? What's required to keep things running smoothly, without drowning in alerts and data? Too many alerts and too much data is a frighteningly common problem. Even worse, investing in a separate tool for each is costly and inefficient.

In a nutshell, agencies should identify the most valuable audience and metrics to avoid the need for multiple tools.

Focus on the data

Remember, monitoring is a means to an end rather than a task unto itself. The point of monitoring is to inform operational decisions based on collected data. This should be the point driving monitoring decisions and the reason to consider investing in a comprehensive monitoring tool.

With an increasing demand for a more digital government, maintaining insights into the infrastructure and application level of the IT operations within the agency is critical. Focusing on the audience and the agency’s specific needs will ensure a streamlined monitoring solution that that helps drive mission success.

About the Author

Joe Kim is executive vice president engineering and global CTO at SolarWinds.

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