Managing IT networks is an activity that gets more challenging every year. As networks grow, keeping the sprawl in check and maintaining full visibility into what is going on across every aspect of the business becomes increasingly difficult, especially for companies with smaller IT departments and fewer resources.
Therefore, automated monitoring tools that can keep an eye on crucial systems and send out alerts and notifications when there are potential issues have become a critical part of any IT professional's toolkit. However, it's vital that administrators don't simply set them up and forget about them.
No matter what applications and systems you have, or what degree of automation monitoring solutions can offer, firms still need to ensure their monitoring systems are configured properly, are looking for the right metrics, and are delivering their notifications as effectively as possible.
Here are seven best practices to keep in mind when setting up alerting for your monitoring solutions.
1. Ensure your systems are prioritized properly
Not all systems are equal, so you'll need to prioritize which are mission critical, which are mildly important, and which issues can be put off until next week. Category 1 alerts need to take top priority, but if you haven't set up your alerts to ensure these stand out, you could miss them among the noise of less important notifications.
2. Have a clear escalation strategy
Related to this, you need to determine who will be responsible for acting on these alerts. You don't need the head of IT to get involved for every problem, but you also need to know when the new hire who's drawn the short straw and is on call at 2am won't be up to the task of fixing it. A clear strategy that spells out when to move alerts up the chain is therefore essential.
3. Find the right notification method for your users
When alerts need to get the recipient's attention quickly, it's important they're delivered in the right format. Does the person at the end of the alert only check their email every couple of hours? Or will they switch their phone to silent if they feel they're being inundated with unnecessary SMS messages? Making sure your alerts are tailored to how your employees prefer to interact can ensure they are acted on as quickly as possible.
4. Make sure messages can always get through
Similarly, it's vital that nothing stands between the alert and its recipient, and this means ensuring that any email filtering strategies don’t apply to these notifications. If an important message ends up in the wrong inbox, it may well end up out of sight, out of mind and mean any downtime isn't dealt with quickly enough.
5. Keep clear and complete documentation
Keeping full details about exactly how you have configured your alerts, what they are looking for and who is getting them ensures that everyone in the team is able to see why they are receiving notifications, and what steps they need to take. This documentation must be easily-accessible and visible in real-time to ensure users are getting the full picture. This is particularly important for out-of-hours alerts where recipients may only have access to limited information.
6. Test frequently, test thoroughly
Verifying that all your configurations and rules are set up properly needs to be an ongoing process, and it's something you should pay particular attention to. If you're not getting any alerts, chances are there's something wrong with your alert configuration. Keep a few subdomains reserved just for testing to ensure you know why any messages aren't getting through.
7. Have a clear resolution process
Even the best alert system won't be much use if the person receiving it simply files it away in the 'deal with it later' pile. Similarly, if an alert is sent to five members of a team, what's to stop everyone assuming someone else will handle it? Having a clear process set up for how to respond to alerts - from acknowledging receipt, through to escalation and resolution steps - ensures that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and there is no confusion about the process.
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