When considering whether to add more applications or monitoring components to your IT system, the answer should always be quality over quantity. Agencies often fall into the trap of application sprawl by adding more and more to their systems—more applications, more tools—without realizing this actually has the potential to reduce system effectiveness.
Instead of simply adding more apps, consider instead ones that are interoperable, or that can plug into a common platform. This approach will provide far greater visibility and accessibility across the entire environment. Also consider automation when possible, which reduces complexity and can eliminate manual tasks that can take up far too much of your government IT team’s time, which can be better spent on more complex challenges.
Now, we know network monitoring is essential for government IT pros to help ensure IT operations are running at optimal performance. In fact, the value of monitoring is sometimes the driver for over-monitoring or implementing too many tools. Some IT pros may think, “The more tools I have, the more insight I get.”
It’s certainly tempting. From monitoring bandwidth, security systems, and servers, all the way to high-level operational metrics, there are countless data points to be collected. Yet, having an excessive number of monitoring apps and alerts can result in conflicting metrics and data, overly complex systems, and significant management challenges—all working together to undermine an administrator’s ability to accurately identify true network problems.
Case in point: In a research report entitled “Network Performance Management for Today’s Enterprise,” Enterprise Management Associates found nearly 25% of large enterprises have eight or more network performance monitoring (NPM) tools currently installed, with some supporting as many as 25 NPM tools in different environments. This is clearly a long-standing problem.
Agencies must make smart decisions; solutions that neatly aggregate an agency’s preferred metrics deliver better availability, security, and performance. In fact, government IT pros can help themselves, and make far more accurate monitoring choices, by asking two basic questions:
- Who am I monitoring for? In other words, are metrics more important to the operations engineer, the project manager, or agency management? Before choosing a series of products or a common platform, figure out in advance who is the ultimate customer.
- What metrics do I really need? Or, more specifically, what’s required to keep things running smoothly, without drowning in alerts and data?
Remember, monitoring is a means to an end and is meant to inform operational decisions based on collected data. This should be the driver of decision making and the reason to consider investing in a comprehensive platform, rather than implementing a broad range of tools and applications each focused on a different piece of the infrastructure.
Maintaining a single, comprehensive view into the infrastructure and application level of IT operations within the agency is critical. Focusing on the audience and the agency’s specific needs, rather than a conglomeration of apps, will ensure a solution that helps drive mission success.
Brandon Shopp is Vice President of Product Strategy at SolarWinds and a frequent contributor to Government Technology Insider.