The Best Practices for Implementing Effective Monitoring

Monitoring is an important activity that is performed in many diverse situations. From healthcare workers to stockbrokers, monitoring the systems on which they and their clients depend is an essential component of delivering optimum results. Professionals in many disciplines depend on the insights provided by their monitoring platforms. Viable IT environments make extensive use of monitoring tools to maintain performance and accessibility.

By itself, monitoring offers a wealth of information that requires individuals to watch the dashboards or graphs used to display the collected data. Used in conjunction with informative and hierarchical alerts, monitoring becomes a powerful means of remaining informed about the details of a computing environment. Removing the need for constant human supervision of a monitoring system improves productivity and efficiency. The introduction of automation to address a subset of alerts and issues makes monitoring even more beneficial to an organization.

Different Types of Issues

Determining how to respond to issues requires categorization so the proper procedures can be put in place to address them. Here’s a top-level view of how you can categorize issues that are discovered with monitoring.

  • Real versus non-real issues - A real issue is one that demands remediation by qualified staff members. They should trigger alerts and are usually caused by unexpected or problematic events. A non-real issue is one that is identified by the monitoring tool but does not require intervention. Scheduled human activity or problems with test systems often fall into the category of non-real issues that can be ignored even when reported by the monitoring tool.

  • Urgent versus non-urgent issues - The degree of urgency assigned to a particular issue is determined by multiple factors that vary according to the computing environment. Urgent issues need to be immediately addressed before they become serious problems. Non-urgent issues can be remediated on a scheduled basis, as they do not threaten critical infrastructure functionality.

Severity Levels

The severity level of identified issues will influence how they are handled. When alerts are generated by the monitoring tool, support staff need to be able to quickly determine if immediate action is required or if corrective action can be delayed. The three main categories of severity inform how support teams are expected to react.

  • High severity - Issues and problems that rise to the level of high severity are both real and urgent. They require pages and alerts to be sent to the proper personnel so immediate action can be initiated. This level should be restricted to problems that threaten to degrade system performance and impact end-users or cause SLAs to be missed.

  • Moderate severity - Moderate severity alerts demand attention by support teams, but they can be addressed in a more relaxed manner. Issues of moderate severity do not pose an immediate threat to system stability. They should be remediated before rising to the level of high severity problems.

  • Low severity - Low severity issues do not impact service levels or end-users. They should be logged for informational purposes rather than be used to generate alerts. Staff can study the logged data to adjust thresholds and make system modifications to improve performance.

Alerts and Responses

An effective monitoring system generates alerts that are appropriate to the type and severity of the identified issues. Fine-tuning the alert system can be challenging. Too many alerts can lead to overload and important issues being missed. Minimizing the number of alerts too severely can also result in serious problems not being addressed quickly enough.

Identifying the proper support staff to receive notifications and designing viable escalation plans are important components of a successful monitoring program. This is especially critical with high severity issues that need immediate attention. If no response is received for initial alerts, an escalation path should point the way to getting the right staff members engaged to resolve the problem.

Wherever possible, automation should be used to take corrective action regarding monitored events without the need for human intervention. Teams should identify recurring issues that lend themselves to automated remediation and build scripts to correct the problems. The responses to many moderate severity issues can be automated, relieving the support staff of performing repetitive tasks.

Learn More About How to Monitor Effectively

An IDERA whitepaper titled Seven Steps to Alert Effectively goes into more detail concerning the monitoring methods you can use to ensure the health of your IT environment. The paper contains valuable information that will help your team use their monitoring tools in the most beneficial way for your computing environment. It’s well worth a read by anyone involved with maintaining IT systems with the assistance of monitoring tools.

IDERA’s software catalog contains a comprehensive monitoring tool for SQL Server environments. SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server lets you tailor how and when alerts are generated so your team is not overwhelmed with false alarms. It helps keep you informed of the potential problems that can impact your systems so you can take corrective action before end-users are affected. If you use SQL Server as a database solution, this tool can help you keep all systems running at peak efficiency and ensure your users are happy and satisfied.

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