"I'm having technical difficulties," is a phrase with which most professionals are all too familiar.
While no IT system is ever 100% free from the occasional issue, the most successful business tech support professionals are the ones that keep business downtime to a minimum and implement IT systems that contribute to the company's bottom line. They know that the only effective way to minimize downtime is to proactively troubleshoot IT systems and fix issues BEFORE they cost the company money by impacting end users.
Network monitoring systems are a tool that IT professionals use to stay ahead of issues. These tools allow your IT team to work behind the scenes fixing problems you didn't even know you had to keep the business network running smoothly.
Your internal IT department can utilize a network monitoring system, or you can work with an outsourced IT vendor or managed service provider that provides a network monitoring service.
Network monitoring is an automated piece of network management that audits all network components (servers, firewalls, shared resources, etc.) for failure and optimum performance. A network monitoring system notifies the network administrator of failures that have impacted or could impact the performance of the entire network.
There are many network monitoring tools available. Be sure to select your tool carefully with your network administrator so she has the functions and automation capabilities most applicable to your business. An outsourced IT vendor that administers your network most likely uses a robust monitoring tool that allows them to monitor multiple networks and correct issues remotely.
If you use an outsourced IT vendor's network monitoring service, be sure they also take appropriate action on monitoring alerts and are authorized to address at least critical issues on your behalf. The benefits to network monitoring are not in simply knowing that an issue occurred, but in correcting the issue before it creates downtime for the end user or entire business.
No matter which approach you take or what tool you use, network monitoring should offer peace of mind that some common "technical difficulties" are addressed before they impact your business.
7 common technology issues network monitoring solutions catch
Low Disk Space
Low disk space on any device diminishes its performance and can cause the operating system to freeze or lock up. Low disk space can occur on individual computers or a networked server. When a server experiences low disk space all users may have trouble accessing shared data or experience slow application speeds.
A properly configured monitoring system alerts the network administrator before disk space drops low enough to impact the end user experience. Typically, your IT team can free up space by clearing out redundant or unused files and resources. If your IT team is unable to free up enough space, you’ll most likely need to expand the device hard drive – either physically or virtually.
Your system administrator should receive the alert with enough notice to work through the solution before the disk space is low enough to impact the end user experience.
Failing Hard Drives
Hard drive failure is an unfortunate IT reality. A network monitoring program can alert the system administrator to a likely failure on a device. Depending on the reason for the failure, the administrator may receive the alert before the end user experiences a total failure of the device. In that case, the IT team can schedule a convenient time with the user to back up the hard drive and replace it with little to no end-user downtime.
In the case of servers, your IT team can swap out one failed hard drive for a new one with no impact to the end user because of redundant internal hard drives in most servers. As a business owner or executive, you should work with your internal or outsourced IT team to determine what replacements they are authorized to make. In the case of hard drive replacements, some businesses choose to pre-authorize the internal IT department or outsourced IT vendor to make those types of purchases as needed to maintain business continuity in the event of a failure.
A computer or server’s Central Processing Unit (CPU) is responsible for sending and receiving instructions and allocating resources. When a machine is using most or all of its CPU everything slows down. A network monitoring solution alerts the system administrator when a device hits high CPU usage. Often the administrator can adjust processes running in the background of a device to free up more CPU. Other times, your IT team will work with you to determine how you’re using devices and swap machines and/or upgrade as needed based on changing usage needs. Leasing your IT equipment can offer the flexibility to make these kinds of changes with little to no financial impact.
Missing, Disabled, or Out-of-Date Antivirus
Antivirus solutions are a key element to any cyber threat prevention strategy. A network monitoring system alerts the network administrator to any devices with a missing, disabled, or out-of-date antivirus. Antivirus, like any software, is sometimes deleted or disabled by user error, malicious attack, or interaction with another application. Additionally, regular license renewals are necessary to keep most antivirus solutions activated. Your network monitoring system ensures that the key elements of your threat prevention strategy are functioning as intended.
Your computer’s applications rely on processes running in the background to function. When these “services” stop working the user experiences application or function failure. A network monitoring system alerts the network administrator when these services stop functioning. In many cases, the system automatically reboots the non-functioning service to maintain full functionality without the end user ever knowing something stopped working. This feature of network monitoring is essential to keep up-time as high as possible on mission-critical applications.
A great example of this is Microsoft Exchange, a common mail and calendaring server. It uses up to 31 different services running in the background on the server. If any one of those services fails, a part of Exchange stops working. The application could stop indexing the mailbox, making email search functions difficult, or delivery of the mail itself could be impacted.
Missing Operating System Updates
Your network administrator can set up a monitoring solution to push operating system updates on your preferred schedule. The monitoring system keeps track of which devices need updated when. For example, at Innovative we typically hold regular operating system updates for a month before they are automatically pushed to our managed devices. This allows time for the manufacturer to fix any known issues with the update. Updates that are identified to patch a critical security vulnerability, on the other hand, are automatically pushed out in real time. A monitoring system gives your network administrator the ability to automate these strategic network management decisions.
Network Outage/Device Down Detection
Network monitoring notifies your system administrator anytime the network or segments of the network (server, firewall, switch, etc.) goes down for any reason. Even if the internet goes out, your system administrator is quickly notified so she can begin to take corrective action. This is especially useful for outages that may occur outside of normal business hours. Often the administrator can have the device or network back online before your employees come back to work in the morning. While there’s often nothing that can be done for a power or internet outage (unless your business has a backup power supply or internet connection), your administrator or IT partner can start working with vendors to get service restored more quickly, minimizing downtime.
The best IT Guys are the Ones You Don't See Often
You may not see your tech support team much when network monitoring is doing its job and your IT team is proactively responding to an appropriately configured monitoring system. Just because you don't see your "IT guy" doesn't mean he isn't doing anything for your company. In fact, the best tech support teams may be the ones you see the least.