Diminished productivity. Unplanned downtime. Delayed connection.

Our world is so dependent on technology working flawlessly that the smallest hiccup in your IT environment can ruin a customer’s experience and leave a lasting impact on your brand’s reputation

But don’t fear because infrastructure monitoring is here.

IT infrastructure monitoring is the continuous monitoring of your organization’s systems, network, hardware and applications in order to minimize loss in production and revenue and maintain a great customer experience.

It’s a critical component of your company’s IT strategy that creates opportunities to proactively identify and resolve issues before they become devastating problems.

This article will discuss five things you should be doing right now to improve your overall monitoring and respond to issues quickly and accurately.

1. Find the Right Monitoring Tools

Effective monitoring starts with the right tool.

Infrastructure monitoring tools keep an eye on the performance, availability and health of all devices connected to your network. If an issue is detected, the monitoring software will send the user a notification via text message, email or other communication channels. The user can then generate a report to help investigate the cause of the problem.

You could monitor your infrastructure manually, but why would you? Networks are growing in complexity, cybersecurity threats are becoming more abundant and sophisticated, and companies are expecting IT departments to do more with less.

Automated infrastructure monitoring tools are essential for IT administrators to keep track of all physical and virtual resources within your IT environment. There are many high performance monitoring software tools available.

Purchasing monitoring software is a large investment that will have a tremendous impact on your organization so you want to make sure you find one that will meet all of your needs.

Sometimes Tools Alone Aren’t Enough

No matter which monitoring tool you choose, keep in mind it will only be as functional as you allow it to be.

In other words, you get out what you put in.

Unfortunately, a lot of IT departments struggle to keep up with all the demands and tasks from company leaders. Limited staff and resources pose a real challenge to the amount of time you can devote to monitoring.

If you’re unable to give monitoring the attention it deserves, you should consider partnering with a managed services provider that specializes in infrastructure monitoring.

Most MSPs, such as Odyssey Information Services, provide their own set of monitoring tools that will give you end-to-end visibility of your entire environment along with a dedicated team of analysts to provide 24/7 coverage.

2. Use Action Plans to Respond Quickly

OK, so you have your monitoring tool up and running and you’re receiving notifications when it detects unusual activity. Now here comes a barrage of questions:

  • How are you responding to each event?
  • What’s your average response time? How are you measuring and tracking response times?
  • Which processes and procedures do you have in place?
  • How do you determine who handles what?
  • How do you determine the validity of the alert?
  • Do you have an up-to-date contact list? Do you know where that list is located?
  • How do you determine the severity of an event and how do you prioritize each event?

The most sophisticated incident detection software is essentially useless if you don’t have an organized step-by-step response plan in place.

Incident management “action plans” provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to resolve any issue. These plans should be accessible and useable at all times by any member of your team.

RELATED: How Odyssey Information Services’ Incident Management Software Detect Network Anomalies and Minimizes Costly Downtime

Odyssey Information Services’ action plans, for example, include a list of email templates from which you can choose based on the situation. Each template has pre-populated email addresses that are always up to date to ensure quick action and effective communication.

A fine-tuned incident management plan will alleviate a stressful situation by having everything ready to go at a moment’s notice.

3. Document All Changes When They Occur to Keep Your Action Plans Up to Date

Action plans are only as good as the information they contain. Keeping your documents up to date should be one of your highest priorities because information is constantly changing. People leave their current positions, contact numbers change, vendor contracts expire, industry regulations are revised are just a few examples.

Here are three important reasons why you need to maintain accurate action plans.

  1. It will instill confidence in your processes. Every disruption can affect your company’s revenue and reputation. Having reliable information on hand will build confidence in your team and processes and earn trust from your stakeholders that you will get the job done right the first time.
  2. Wrong information can delay your response time. Imagine a scenario where you waited 30 minutes for a response only to find out your original contact no longer works there. Now you have to spend even more time figuring out who you need to talk to. Time is money and now you’re wasting a lot of both on something that could’ve been easily avoided.
  3. Use for training purposes. You don’t want your new employee to start off on the wrong foot with unreliable information. It will also reflect poorly on your business if your actions plans are unorganized.

Documentation Best Practices

Follow these best practices to avoid incorrect information from piling up.

Record Changes as they Occur.

The best way to keep your information up to date is to change out the information as soon as you discover it’s incorrect. For example, if you find out your contact is no longer there, update your action plan with the new contact’s information and note the date and time of your update.

Schedule Audits.

It’s understandable why people tend to ignore documentation. It’s very time consuming, but it doesn’t have to feel like a burden. Scheduling quarterly audits is an easy solution to ensure your information remains evergreen. Provide your contacts with a list of assets and ask them to verify all information is current.

Identify why a change was made.

Communication is key. Whether the change was made due to new regulations, security updates or any other reason, you want to keep all your stakeholders in the loop.

Perform a version control.

It’s a good habit to perform a version control any time you make a major change to ensure everyone is using the latest iteration.

4. CHECK YOUR DAILY LOGS (Maybe Even Multiple Times) During Every Shift

As detailed and focused as you may be, you’re still human. That means you’re prone to making mistakes.

And when you’re focusing so much of your attention on avoiding big mistakes—those pesky, small and simple gaffes tend to pop up and cause a lot of damage.

The stakes are even higher when you’re bouncing back and forth between your monitoring responsibilities and other unrelated tasks.

For example, what would happen if you didn’t realize your computer volume was muted until halfway through your shift and you weren’t able to hear the alarms? Let’s just hope you have a really forgiving boss!

Checklists are so important to catch those little “common sense” things that can easily get overlooked. You should go through your lists at least once at the beginning of every shift or several times throughout.

Here’s a short checklist to get you started:

Beginning of Shift

  • Are your departmental phones working today?

Once Every Hour

  • Is your PC’s volume turned up so you can hear the alarms?
  • Are all your tools actually connected and are they updating in real time?

Multiple Times Per Shift

Check the environments:

  • Are they processing transactions?
  • Are all of the critical processes up and running?
  • Are other important functions of the service delivery infrastructure operating normally?
  • Are there any abnormally large files, or anything anomalous?
  • Are there any unusual event messages indicating abnormal network or application behavior? (i.e. timeouts, slow response, error codes, declines…)

Checklist Goal: Make sure the output from your daily log checks matches the expected output from the predefined baseline.

5. Keep Up with Regular Training Sessions

Because monitoring is a 24/7 operation (or at least it should be), each shift encounters different events based on the time of day and level of customer activity.

Scheduling training sessions can provide a good opportunity to keep all your team members on the same page.

  • You can demonstrate how to resolve a particular issue that may be common during first shift but rarely occurs overnight.
  • You can take this time to remind everyone what’s in your action plans and reiterate normal troubleshooting procedures.
  • You can elaborate on key components of the infrastructure and take a deep dive into a particular process.

No matter what you discuss, you’ll discover that establishing routines, sharing experiences, reiterating the importance of your action plans will dramatically improve your monitoring performance.

About the Author

Steve Donaldson
Steve DonaldsonVP - Professional Services