Today's networks are more wide-ranging and complex than ever. And that means your data center and other key infrastructure will constantly be evolving and growing to meet the changing needs of your users.
If this sprawl isn't managed carefully, it can be easy for your IT infrastructure to spiral out of control. So in order to prevent this from happening and ensure you have full visibility into every part of your infrastructure, a comprehensive monitoring strategy is essential.
Why infrastructure monitoring is important
This may not be the most exciting part of an IT network, but its importance cannot be overstated. In fact, it has been argued that good monitoring is now the most vital part of IT services, as, without it, other mission-critical parts of your network won’t be able to perform effectively.
Monitoring can alert you to any potential flaws or problems within your network before they have a chance to cause downtime - something that in today's digitally-dependent era can be hugely costly. But it also lets you optimize your network, spot underutilized resources, identify intrusions and improve the overall efficiency of your most vital digital assets and applications.
So what do you need to bear in mind when developing an infrastructure monitoring strategy? Here are a few key principles you must be aware of:
1. Make it application-centric
Ultimately, infrastructure is only there to support the applications used within the business. But poorly-performing applications can have knock-on effects throughout an organization, causing bottlenecks and congestion that mean performance of the network takes a hit.
Therefore, a key priority for any infrastructure monitoring tools should be to build your understanding of which applications are using the network at any time, assess how they’re performing and offer insight into the impact they’re having on the rest of the infrastructure. This will be vital in tracking down the root cause of any wider performance issues.
2. Look at performance as well as availability
Many businesses may make ensuring high availability a top priority for their monitoring and management activities. Given how much even short periods of downtime can cost, this is understandable, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of efforts to boost performance.
Even small drop-offs in speed can have a big impact. For example, Google notes that 53% of mobile users will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, so if your web server has any delays that affect loading speeds, you could lose a lot of business. A delay of a few milliseconds at the server can translate to several seconds for end-users, so by the time the data has traveled through the entire infrastructure, the visitor has often left.
3. Be realistic about real-time
IT specialists also need to be wary of services that promise 'real-time' monitoring of their infrastructure, as there may be different ideas about what this actually translates to. In some cases, it may be that what’s advertised as real-time results is actually an average snapshot of your performance, taken over the course of several minutes.
While this may be fine for some day-to-day operations, for many of today's more important activities, this won’t be good enough, as these average performances can miss small but vital fluctuations in your infrastructure's performance. Many applications today demand data that’s accurate to seconds or even milliseconds, so monitoring solutions that only deal in minutes can easily fail to give you the information you need to gain insight into your true performance.
4. Make sure you're vendor-neutral
The increasingly complex nature of today's IT infrastructure often means that businesses end up with a large variety of monitoring tools that are specific to one part of their network, which is an issue that's particularly common in networks that are still heavily siloed.
Many of these only offer insights into one or two specific parameters or are proprietary solutions that are only able to work with a certain vendor’s own technology. As a result, it can be difficult to gain clear visibility into the entire infrastructure from a centralized location. Therefore, you should look for an app-centric performance management solution that’s able to monitor, measure and manage the infrastructure from a vendor-neutral standpoint.
5. Keep it about the bottom line
It's important not to overlook the fact that infrastructure monitoring activities aren't just about guarding against disruption and keeping efficiency high - they can also help you improve the bottom line and make your network more cost-effective.
This is about more than simply avoiding expensive downtime costs. For example, it can make your IT team more productive by reducing the amount of time they spend on network management, freeing them up for other activities such as improving infrastructure to better meet the evolving needs of the business.
Being able to gain a full picture of the ins and outs of your infrastructure can help guide the future direction of the network, allowing you to ensure future applications are operating to their full potential and giving users throughout the business the tools they need to generate revenue.