If a system fails in production and no one notices, is there even a problem? Who doesn’t know the well-known thought experiment of the “falling tree in the forest”, which falls silently to the ground without an observer (perhaps?). For some reason, this was the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about an introduction to IT monitoring.

Similar to the falling tree, it can happen that an IT system has a problem but is not detected in time – or in enough detail – due to a lack of monitoring. In such a case, serious consequences could arise for the company. It is therefore important that companies implement effective and meaningful IT monitoring in order to be able to identify and resolve potential problems in a timely manner before they impact business operations. This is the only way to ensure that all IT systems run smoothly and that the company’s requirements are met. At the same time, collected monitoring data can help with more than “just” acute problems.

In this post I would like to share some of my thoughts on IT monitoring and show why it is so beneficial to invest effort and time in this interesting topic.

What is Monitoring?

Let’s start from the beginning. What exactly do we mean by IT monitoring? A definition of the term “monitoring” in general according to Wikipedia says:

“Monitoring is the monitoring of processes. It is an umbrella term for all types of systematic recordings (logging), measurements or observations of an operation or process using technical aids or other observation systems.

One function of monitoring is to determine whether an observed sequence or process is following the desired course and whether certain threshold values are being met in order to be able to intervene to control it if not.”  [1]

IT-Monitoring under the microscope

So far so good. In the IT world specifically, monitoring is used to achieve a selection of the following things as required:

Server monitoring:

To monitor their performance, utilization and availability. This includes both physical and virtual servers.

Network-Monitoring:

Monitoring network devices such as switches, routers, and firewalls to detect performance issues, failures, or security risks.

Application-Monitoring:

Monitoring applications to identify problems, errors and failures. This can be done directly at the application level or at the server level.

Database-Monitoring:

Monitoring databases to ensure their performance, availability and security and to monitor their usage more closely.

Cloud-Monitoring:

Monitoring cloud services to control the performance, availability and costs of the services used.

Log-Monitoring:

Monitoring of log files in order to be able to report and analyze activities, security events and errors in IT systems at an early stage.

Perfomance-Monitoring:

Targeted measurement of the performance of IT systems in order to identify bottlenecks, bottlenecks and causes of problems.

As you can see, there are many good reasons to use monitoring in order to realize a wide range of benefits for your company. But how do you best determine what and how you want to monitor and which IT monitoring solution(s) should be used?

The path to successful IT-Monitoring

The following aspects, among others, can be taken into account for such a concept:

First, you need to take the time to define what your monitoring goals should be. The requirements and the resulting planning are as individual as your own company. That’s why those responsible for processes should develop a sensible concept together with technical contacts – you don’t have to obsessively monitor everything that might not bring you any added value at the end of the day.

  • Identification and prioritization of business-critical IT systems and processes: “Which systems and processes are most essential for the smooth operation of our company?” Defining priority levels or a priority matrix and integrating systems and processes into them helps enormously.
  • Determination of clear and measurable KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): “What specific goals do we want to pursue that IT monitoring can help achieve? What kind of data are we interested in?” This is often about the desired accessibility of critical systems. Measurable KPIs help to evaluate the efficiency and progress of goals and monitoring.
  • Implementation of processes for incident management: “What do we define as failures, disruptions or problems in general, and how should these be dealt with?” This helps to identify and resolve acute problems quickly and efficiently.

As soon as your own needs and goals are clearly stated, one or more IT monitoring solutions that meet the requirements must be selected and set up. (This is of course an enormously complex topic in itself and cannot be covered in the necessary depth in this article. See, for example, a comparison of network monitoring systems on Wikipedia for a rough overview).

It is important that the monitoring goals are regularly checked and adjusted afterwards. This ensures that the goals and, conversely, the monitoring as such continue to serve the needs of the company.

More than an Alarm System

The classic use case for IT monitoring as an automated “alarm system” that sends messages to the correct contacts at any time of the day as soon as an undesirable condition occurs is sensible and necessary. The experience that affected users often report problems just before the monitoring systems does not change this fact.

But monitoring systems also offer other advantages:

IT monitoring helps create reports and analyzes to provide information about the performance and reliability of the IT infrastructure and make better decisions. For example, you can analyze the utilization of existing IT resources in detail and over a long period of time in order to be able to plan better with them. Resource bottlenecks can be avoided and the efficiency of the IT infrastructure can be increased. This creates opportunities to save costs.

IT monitoring also helps IT professionals troubleshoot problems thanks to the retention of historical data. By using this data, conclusions about the cause of the problem can be made during the analysis that would otherwise not have been possible. In addition, this can prevent a recurrence.

In my opinion, one untapped potential is to act proactively with collected data. Some monitoring solutions can be used to provide predictive information to address problems before they even arise. For example, if the content of a database on a monitored server has been growing linearly for a long time, it can be calculated in advance at which point in time desired threshold values will be exceeded. With this information, a person responsible can act calmly before the situation becomes critical.

The Investment is worth it

IT monitoring offers a variety of advantages for companies of all sizes and industries in which IT systems are used. They enable efficient monitoring of the IT infrastructure, early error detection and quick reactions to problems. With the right solution, companies can improve their processes and increase the satisfaction of their employees and customers. It is therefore worth investing in an efficient IT monitoring solution in order to benefit in the long term.

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Monitoring&oldid=242975592