Posted Thursday, September 23, 2004
What they are and how they can help your business Network Management
Today's modern companies must rely on computer systems more than ever. For most organizations, the IT era started with a few personal computers, a server or two, and a few other devices like hubs, switches, routers, and printers.
To support all of these nice new applications, more servers were soon added. And because you want your company to have a presence on the Internet, some of these servers are accessible from the outside world.
Your IT-department needs to watch these servers at all times to make sure there is enough memory available, the disks aren't full, and all essential services are up and running smoothly.
This setup works adequately as long as you have enough support technicians for the number of servers that you operate and maintain. But if they have a lot of work to do with everyday operations, it is often difficult to keep a check on all of the servers as often as is really needed.
If your servers run unattended without being regularly monitored by an administrator, sooner or later they will all fail.
This is where the important role of a network management system comes in. A quality network management system automates the monitoring of your servers and provides you with advance warning should anything go wrong.
Typically, a network management system will check to see if your servers are alive, meaning that they respond to requests from their clients. For in-house systems, they also keep a check on critical system parameters like memory utilization, available disk-space, and server-load.
They might even receive special alerts from the servers themselves via SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) to let the administrator know that some action needs to be taken.
We at (http://www.nmsalert.com) believe that all companies need an automated monitoring system to avoid downtime by being able to know in advance that something could be wrong. Receiving an alert right away can help to minimize downtime. The faster your IT staff finds out about a problem, the faster they'll be able to fix it.
Website Monitoring is much the same concept as using a Network Management System. The main difference is that a website monitoring system performs server checks from a customer perspective, on the outside of your firewall using the internet. In contrast, Network Management Systems are typically located in-house.
The main advantage of website monitoring is that your servers are tested from the "outside looking in". Your customers simply won't know or care if your website is down because your ISP changed something on his routers, your IT department "improved" security, or a system administrator installed new software on your web server.
All the customer knows is that your server is down and he'll possibly just move on to your competitor. In many cases, these types of problems can't even be identified by an in-house system.
The disadvantage is that if website monitoring is your only source of network management, and security is tight on your systems, you might not be able to monitor everything that needs to be monitored.
Service Level Agreements (SLA)
Most large companies will have service level agreements in effect. If an Internet Provider gives your company a 100% uptime guarantee, without a network management or website monitoring system you won't be able to verify it.
The reports and graphs produced by modern website monitoring systems will help you verify your SLAs. This could save you quite a bit of money if refunds are offered for poor service. But even better, it will help you to improve the quality of your own services.
Alerts and Reports
Most Network Management Systems are designed to receive alerts from the devices they monitor and display any problems found in a "map".
Website Monitoring Systems mostly perform active checks by accessing your system every few minutes and sending you an email or fax alert if trouble is detected. Many services on the web simply ping your server. This will show that your server is alive and the connection to it is ok.
You should select a service provider who offers short test intervals (every 15 minutes or less). You need to know about a problem before your customers complain about it!
Receiving alerts by email is not a good solution because mail server-failures are quite common. So be sure to choose a website monitoring service that offers alternate methods of sending you alerts.
When you study a report, you need to know the baseline for the results in order to evaluate them properly. It isn't necessarily a problem if a report indicates a server response time of 200ms instead 20ms, because the response time depends on your location and the location of the test-system.
But it is important that the latency be as small as possible. And in case of a ping-test, the packet-loss rate should be minimal. Review the reports before subscribing to any website monitoring service.
And always remember that while colorful and easy to use front-ends will help you to more effectively use a self- service system, being able to contact the company and get help from a live person is much more important!
About the company
Taskforce iT-Consulting was founded 1989 in Germany and started their US business in 2002. We gained a lot of experience in large enterprise-scale networks by working as administrators, engineers, architects and consultants for companies all over the world. Most of our customers operate datacenters with 100+ servers on multiple locations and thousands of users. The network management division of Taskforce is offering website monitoring services at (www.nmsalert.com).
About the Author
Markus Linke is the founder of Taskforce iT-Consulting and was responsible for the planning, implementation and operations of our website monitoring project (www.nmsalert.com). He is working as an iT-Consultant for more than 13 years and builds network management systems for his customers for more than 10 years. Many of the features implemented in the website monitoring service of (www.nmsalert.com) were requested by him from his experience in large networks.