Five Best Practices for Improving Network Uptime
No one should wait for a medical crisis to learn how healthy they are—yet not so long ago, that was the prevailing attitude among many enterprises concerning their IT networks. Thankfully, system performance management (SPM) as a key IT discipline has evolved. Now it’s possible to do much more than simply monitor uptime; in fact, enterprises have more ways to measure their system health than ever before.
Today, enterprises are demanding a much more sophisticated and 24/7 assessment of all aspects of network performance. SPM software vendors are doing their part by providing applications that collect and analyze a powerful array of operational metrics.
Such solutions are increasingly important, considering the distributed nature of modern enterprise computing. Hardware no longer is comprised of racks of servers in a nearby closet—far-flung datacenters, cloud applications, SaaS products, and other offsite assets combine with tablets, smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices to create a richly diverse technology base. Enterprises need to understand emerging performance trends, mitigate risk, and prevent service interruptions before they happen.
With so much data available, it can be difficult to know which datasets are most important. The following are five functional areas for which data collection and analysis are critical:
This is the most basic of all five areas—yet given its rising complexity, the most challenging. In many organizations, the number and variety of network elements creates siloes, making it difficult to see the big picture.
The best way to begin assessing network health is to develop a network map showing all IT assets and services. SPM specialists must inventory not just hardware and software, but where they’re located, what vendors are involved, how things are connected, and how each asset impacts the larger environment. It’s a big step—but a necessary one to adequately perform other SPM functions.
It’s true that devices are much more reliable than in years past. Where products once had a 3-year lifecycle, now the norm is more in the range of 5-7 years.
Yet despite the dependability of these devices, it’s important to understand where mission-critical services are most at risk. Technicians need to know which devices are providing what services—and what happens if certain devices are unavailable.
Again, a network map can prove essential to this task. The assessment will not only identify key assets, but also uncover redundancies and misapplication of physical resources that can improve efficiency and reduce cost.
Where “Patch Tuesday” was once the event that defined security fixes. But the world has changed—and so have the responses. Security updates are now issued continually and as soon as they’re ready.
The regular issuance of patches means service availability is an issue. The vast majority of all patches still require system restarts; and even though restarts are much faster today, scheduling is still important, in order to maximize defenses while minimizing disruptions.
The key to this process lies in awareness and smart management. Centralized control is essential, as it’s impossible to manage critical system events without coordination. Qualified SPM specialists, fully informed regarding the enterprise’s business services, can accomplish this.
In many instances, the shift to cloud services has diminished the importance of warranties. That doesn’t mean, however, that they no longer matter. Especially in organizations with large numbers of endpoint devices, warranties play a major role in cost containment and system uptime.
Collecting and reporting on warranties helps IT understand exposure. Most organizations don’t define device lifecycles based on warranties—yet three-year warranties on devices that are in service ten years or more create significant risk. IT should have complete knowledge of what assets are covered, as well as what performance functions may be impacted by failures.
Subscriptions are the standard these days, making software tracking a vital task. Seat counts change monthly; moreover, new versions are released and business needs change. With many companies subscribing to thousands of titles, inventory tracking cannot be overlooked.
In addition to subscription management, good software tracking includes monitoring of updates and upgrades. When, where, and how many devices to upgrade are strategic decisions that are made easier when there is visibility. A good SPM platform can track all aspects of software including titles, deployment, upgrade records, and device locations.
Clearly, service performance management is not something to be taken lightly. A quality provider can help by delivering technologies and expertise to shorten the learning curve. They can also can provide continuity amid staff changes – and most importantly, handle the minutiae of tracking so that IT can focus on initiatives that drive the business.
Remember, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t work when millions of dollars in sales and productivity are at stake. The ROI for modern SPM is real and significant—and just as anyone in healthcare will tell you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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John Raos is Vice President of Operations for Innovative Technology Solutions.