If you’re an IT professional, you know what a wonderfully complicated, technically complex, data-driven world we live in! Not a day goes by that we aren’t bombarded by the next great idea for our infrastructures. The “big iron” mainframe is still around, but it has been joined by a burgeoning landscape of application servers, file servers, desktop devices, portable computers, printers, scanners, smartphones, tablets, and a growing list of network-enabled devices, all designed to make business easier, faster, and more efficient. Compounding the complexity is the wide variety of operating systems and software these devices require to fulfill their roles in the business; desktop operating systems, mobile device operating systems, embedded systems, streaming media, cloud computing, SaaS, and mobile apps galore create a constantly changing kaleidoscope of support challenges.
Technical environments have become so complex that even small businesses can find managing and supporting an expanding infrastructure challenging. As a business grows, the challenges grow with it. Factor in the complexity of multiple offices within a city, a region, or even across the country—a little more growth and a business can be suddenly faced with the specter of having to manage and support this amazing technical landscape on a global scale.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage the IT infrastructure. A properly implemented set of tools can be a huge benefit, not just to IT but to the business’s bottom line. IT monitoring and management tools, in particular, allow technical staff to keep a close eye on the infrastructure, identify potential problems, and move to resolve them before the situation is even visible to the customer—and well before the issue begins to impact regular business activities. The key is identifying what the right tool might be for a specific application.
There are a lot of choices on the market, so it is important to know what to consider when evaluating an IT monitoring and management tool. Let’s examine a few key areas.
Stop Security Breaches Before Hackers Harvest Information
No matter the industry, there is a growing trend towards regulation and enhanced scrutiny of the safety and security of personal, private, or proprietary information. A single security breach exposing vital company information can ruin a business’s reputation at the speed of the internet, not to mention the potential damage that might be done to the customers it serves. For this reason, above all else, any tool that manages a network or the devices found on a network needs to be secure. This means more than simply being passwordprotected. It means that any request moving across the network is properly encrypted, so even if the data stream is breached, no information can be harvested. Look for things like secure sockets layer (SSL) and 128-bit advanced encryption standards (AES).
Maximize Cost Savings with Quickly Deployed Solutions
Having a properly secure system mitigates the risk to the business and its clients; that is critically important. But management and monitoring systems can also offer clear, proven ways to reduce or eliminate costs. A constantly growing infrastructure means it can be extraordinarily difficult to know what devices are operating in the IT infrastructure. A system administrator—or even a whole team of administrators—would simply not have enough hours in the day to manually locate and track devices as they are added and removed from the network. This is where a monitoring system begins to pay for itself almost immediately. Any monitoring and management tool should be easy to install and configure. Once installed, the software should be easy to use and the data presented in such a way that technical staff can quickly interpret and respond.
Automate Inventory Control and Avoid Compliance Issues
Once installed, monitoring tools should immediately begin cataloging and documenting the network infrastructure. Any tool should be able to identify desktops, servers, and other devices and then provide comprehensive reporting on what it finds. It should be able to dig even deeper and actually scan those attached devices and extract information like model, processor speed, and internal configurations (e.g., memory installed, storage space used/remaining).
Why is this so important to the business’s bottom line? First, it provides insight into how many devices—oftentimes company-owned assets—are attached to and in use on the network. It should be able to determine the models and types of devices: Are there newer devices in use? Is it time to sunset older, slower, less-efficient machines? Does the inventory discovered by the management tool match up with what procurement shows should be in use? In some industries, particularly those that deal with personal and private information, it is critical that the business keep track of where all of its assets reside, because not doing so could result in legal or governmental intervention. Having an effective tool drastically reduces the need for hands-on inventory control, reducing the time it takes the IT staff to track assets.
As the tools dig deeper into connected hardware, it becomes possible to move into another layer of asset management: inventorying network-attached devices and determining what software applications are installed. This could be a critical step in making sure that a business is compliant from a licensing perspective, and can facilitate the annual “true-up” of enterprise applications. It also benefits IT from a security standpoint, as unapproved or problematic software applications can be identified and remediated very quickly.
“Unthrottle” Network Resources Before Anyone Knows There’s a Problem
Monitoring tools should also be able to help with capacity management, looking at both network and device utilization, and provide reporting on trends. This is important to the business because it can identify sites where network bandwidth is being throttled. Perhaps there are peak hours during the day or certain days of the week when bandwidth may become an issue, preventing data from moving quickly to its intended destination. Or perhaps a local file server is running out of storage and needs additional drives installed. IT professionals can be proactively warned when trends are identified, enabling them to quickly address a network circuit or order vital server hardware. Monitoring allows IT to respond to business needs even before the business knows it needs it!
Kill Viruses Before They Spread
Any business that’s had a major malware or virus scare knows the time and effort it takes to investigate and kill the infection. Without the proper tools, you face the daunting prospect of physically touching every impacted machine. This highlights another vital area where these monitoring and management tools provide value: keeping track of the various operating system, antivirus, and malware patch updates. Check to see if the monitoring software can integrate with the servers used for patching, such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). Since a simple missed patch can make the infrastructure vulnerable to virus or system incompatibilities, using a management tool to make sure the various systems are kept properly patched can save time and money for IT and the business.
Spot Situations Before Problems Take Hold
Finally, it will be very beneficial if the monitoring tool can provide comprehensive, easily configurable reports in visual formats like dashboards or interactive graphical displays. It can be much easier to spot a problem if it’s a flashing red light than if an administrator has to pore over reams of data. And the sooner a problem is spotted, the easier it is to resolve quickly.
Businesses big and small can benefit from IT infrastructure management and monitoring tools. They provide an in-depth view of the network environment, and they give IT plenty of warning when problems begin to develop. It’s worth the time and effort to find out more about these very useful tools!
Written by Mike Hanson on behalf of Citrix and GoToAssist Monitoring. A secure, cloud-based access and infrastructure monitoring service, GoToAssist Monitoring helps IT departments inventory, analyze, and manage all devices, servers, and networks in their local and global environments. For more information about IT monitoring or management, please visit
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