Managed Services

Remote Monitoring for IT Managed Services: Key Considerations

Dave Kravitt, CPIM

Remote monitoring is essential for ensuring the stability, reliability, and consistent performance of business-critical IT systems managed by a third-party provider. Attentive monitoring is the key to quickly resolving issues before they result in operational disruptions and minimizing the impact of disruptions if they do occur. In many cases, a smart monitoring approach can even automatically resolve routine issues using automated scripts.

In this blog, we break down some key considerations for organizations considering remote monitoring for applications and infrastructure.

If you’re considering a managed services provider, it’s important to ask about what system they use for remote monitoring, and how they approach issue detection and resolution. Can their system reach out to appropriate resources if issues are detected? Can it automatically resolve routine issues without requiring intervention? Can it monitor both hardware, operating system, and applications?

IT Monitoring Option One: “Eyes on Glass”

In this first option, dedicated personnel is used to monitor IT assets and applications, often in dashboards. Technical resources are employed simply to watch for notifications of errors, system failures ,or performance issues—to keep “eyes on glass,” waiting to take corrective action and notify the appropriate parties if any issues occur. Common issues could include anything from an operating system service that needs to be restarted, to a looming processing- or storage-capacity issue, to a hardware failure (or simply a disk cache battery needing replacement). 

For relatively simple technology environments, the same resources may be available to monitor multiple organizations’ applications and infrastructure. For an organization with a number of vital systems, however, a dedicated employee(s) may be required simply to monitor this organization’s IT environment. For 24x7x365 monitoring, a necessity for many businesses, this responsibility will require multiple resources working 2 or 3 shifts.

The key limitation to this “eyes on glass” approach is cost. Paying for one or more full-time employees simply to monitor IT systems is not a cost-effective investment for many businesses. Fortunately, carefully planned remote monitoring and automation offers a powerful alternative, providing many of the same capabilities at a small fraction of the cost. 

Some organizations (for example, those operating in highly secure on-premise environments that can’t send data offsite, or with systems that can afford near-zero downtime) may need to sustain this more costly approach. But for many types of organizations, high-quality automated remote monitoring provides ample protection against potential technology disruptions.

IT Monitoring Option Two: Remote Automated Monitoring

A smart approach to remote monitoring can allow a managed services provider to offer the protection of an eyes-on-glass approach without the cost of one or more employees dedicated to full-time monitoring. In this approach, resources are kept on standby, day or night, to ensure that any detected Priority (or Severity) One issues that can’t be resolved automatically are quickly brought to the attention of the appropriate resources. Once notified, these resources can then begin immediately working toward resolving the issue at hand. State-of-the-art monitoring tools provide capabilities for both application and infrastructure monitoring, as failures of either one can create operational disruption. 

With the right monitoring system, the lag between high priority issue occurrence and the appropriate notification will be minimal. Notably, even a dedicated eyes-on-glass monitoring approach will always be limited by this same parameter: the quality of monitoring tools. While a human monitoring resource can directly watch some variables like capacity utilization, they still need to be notified of most errors or issues, even if it’s their full-time job to watch for them. 

To maximize their capabilities, monitoring tools need to be carefully matched to the relevant IT environment. At PSGi, for instance, we focus on IBM i systems and employ a tool specifically built for monitoring IBM i infrastructure and applications (Maxava MI8). On top of a standard set of monitored parameters that we’ve developed and deployed across our customer base, customization is essential for implementing a monitoring solution that drives as much value as possible. For example, incoming issues can be categorized and prioritized (eg. Severity 1, 2, or 3) to allow the appropriate response level to be coordinated. Customization allows for these priority levels to be configured to reflect the precise business impact of different issues for different organizations. Issues that are routine for one business might introduce serious problems for another. High severity issues can be routed for immediate notification via text or e-mail, for example, while lower priority alerts can be placed in a queue for resolution the next business day. 

A final consideration is how the system can respond if particular issues do occur. The right response can avoid the need for human intervention for routine, easily-resolvable issues. For instance, one customer had key printing services going offline each night. This chronic issue required a resource to be notified (and woken up) simply to restart printing services; the problem was resolved using an automated process within the monitoring tool for restarting these services. The best monitoring tools can automatically take simple, customizable corrective actions like this one (including checking afterward to ensure that the issue was resolved successfully, notifying a human resource if it was not).

Learning More

The right monitoring tools, coupled with smart customization and skilled experts available to intervene when issues occur, are a powerful, highly cost-effective solution for protecting against technology disruptions. When considering a managed services provider, we recommend discussing how they will support remote monitoring for your technology environment. The best managed services providers will conduct a careful onboarding process, ensuring they understand how your business works and what is most important to you. This understanding is the only way to ensure that issue monitoring and resolution are orchestrated to reflect your unique business challenges. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how PSGi works to monitor client applications and infrastructure to minimize business disruptions, you can reach out to our team using the button below.

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