In this increasingly uncertain world, information is power. This is a fact for IT teams managing the distributed infrastructure of today’s enterprises as well. Increased migrations to the cloud have shifted hardware and network infrastructure away from the enterprise core and to the edge, where IT has no sway or control.
This shift has introduced greater business agility and resilience, but the trade-off is IT must now intensify proactive infrastructure monitoring or risk having applications, websites, and services go down when they least expect it. With network infrastructure spread wide over many layers of abstraction, IT teams will have to adapt existing infrastructure monitoring practices—or even try new ones—to keep performance issues at bay.
To stay ahead in today’s remote and virtual environments, there are some new critical practices to incorporate into your business to maintain control and autonomy across today’s increasingly cloud-dependent experiences.
Establish and Constantly Update Performance Baselines
The first step to effective infrastructure monitoring involves establishing a baseline for ideal performance—in other words, what’s acceptable for business users today. With the shift to cloud, user’s expectations have inevitably evolved to include faster load times, ease of access, and stability, among other things. Wherever possible, collect granular information about potential issues—what’s considered a minor, annoying problem and what constitutes a major outage capable of impacting overall productivity and profitability.
With this information at hand, IT teams can use their infrastructure monitoring tools to begin forming a baseline. Chart the day-to-day activities of users and identify moments when users complained about network performance. Over time, IT teams will obtain a picture of what “optimal” network performance looks like. IT pros can then monitor these performance indicators and take decisive action just as things begin to slip, preventing them from cascading into problems capable of crippling the business network.
Remember these baselines may change according to what users find acceptable over time. It’s useful for IT teams to conduct annual, if not quarterly, audits to keep their monitoring practices updated.
Make Synthetic Monitoring and Testing a Standard Practice
The added advantage of establishing an ideal performance baseline is IT teams now have the information they need to conduct synthetic monitoring and testing, an age-old practice more relevant than ever in today’s distributed but fast-changing network environments. Performing constant synthetic monitoring and tests allows IT teams to more readily identify anomalies or issues not caused by the network, and this is even more critical today—as users remotely connect to business networks via public or home networks.
In other words, establishing what “pristine” infrastructure—free of external influence—looks like will help IT teams establish more accurate monitoring parameters. This approach also helps establish observability for IT teams. With a clearer understanding of standard metrics and alerts provided through synthetic monitoring and tests, IT teams can analyse the data by identifying patterns, percentages of errors, and potential bottlenecks emerging behind every network hiccup or outage.
This level of observability, alongside monitoring, allows IT teams to be more nimble at spotting emerging issues and more proactive in addressing them. This level of speed and initiative is essential for mitigating issues before they appear, especially since cloud solutions and microservices used by today’s businesses aren’t directly under IT’s control.
Define the Gap Between Internal and External Impact
The biggest challenge IT professionals, site engineers, and developers face today is the annoying lack of influence they have over the cloud solutions or platforms on which they depend. Most cloud vendors are, unfortunately, hesitant to provide access to the critical cloud data IT teams need to correlate performance on their side. In addition, the cloud experience is often most directly impacted by the stability and reliability of the internet service provider (ISP), which is obviously a factor beyond IT’s control.
Taken together, this can disrupt efforts to monitor infrastructure and troubleshoot issues—imagine trying to manage an outage originating from the cloud provider or ISP’s end. Establishing optimum baselines, conducting frequent synthetic monitoring, and documenting the results of both equips IT teams with solid evidence they’ve established the necessary precautions to monitor and proactively avoid network bottlenecks and outages.
This diffuses any blame stakeholders and users might place on IT teams when things go wrong and significantly impact operations or services. Additionally, this information gives IT teams the upper hand when renegotiating service-level agreements (SLAs) or contracts with cloud vendors or internet service providers by proving, without question, persistent problems and the ability to rectify them is their responsibility and theirs alone.
Putting proper infrastructure monitoring in place isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, especially to stay ahead of today’s mostly virtual—and highly decentralised—business network. If anything, it’s the only way for IT teams and engineers to regain a modicum of control and autonomy in today’s cloud-heavy enterprises. With the information provided via monitoring, IT teams can begin proactively improving, mending, and optimising network infrastructure within their domain—and even beyond.