Three companies decided to buy a monitoring product rather than rent a monitoring service or build one from parts. This is the story of why a SaaS provider (TimeTrade Systems), an MSP (All Tech 1), and an asset management bank (Eufex Bank) decided to buy a monitoring product (PA Server Monitor) for their networks.
A recap on why monitoring is good for business
Monitoring enables reactive fixes and proactive improvements. Enterprise customers get rather excited about broken networks, and enterprise administrators get rather excited about constant fire fighting.
If you want to bullet-proof your service, you need the right monitoring setup. The right setup depends on the business – it might make sense to buy a monitoring product, rent a monitoring service, or build one in-house.
Comprehensive monitoring enables comprehensive support. An enterprise service is not operationally ready until it is comprehensively monitored for its entire operational lifetime. It's one of the 12 principles of operational readiness.
Monitoring covers a lot of ground, and different products and services offer different sets of features. Wikipedia's comparison of network monitoring systems lists no less than 20 categories. As a rule of thumb, the more ground a monitoring product tries to cover, the more difficult it will be to use.
Network monitoring: Buy, rent, or build?
The decision to buy a monitoring product, rent a monitoring service from a third party, or build one to order is influenced by many factors, and they are not all to do with the quality of the monitoring.
If a decision maker is disturbed by the NSA spy story and is worried about sharing network details with a cloud provider, he may want to buy or build a product to run on-premise.
The enterprise may not have enough time to devote to running a monitoring system. A manager may want to outsource monitoring to another company so the enterprise can dedicate more time to its core business.
The enterprise may have unusual needs. Perhaps there is a wide range of instruments to connect to, a large quantity of metrics to capture, or security guidelines to follow. There may be no popular product to buy or rent that covers an unusual requirement, so build is the only good option.
Buy example: Power Admin Server Monitor
The "buy" option is an oldie but goodie. Decades ago the only real monitoring option was to buy software to install on-premise. Even with modern alternatives, such as renting cloud monitoring and building a solution from open source tools, there are still a lot of good products available to buy. It's a crowded space with a lot of competition between vendors.
Power Admin, a company in the U.S. state of Kansas, produce monitoring software called PA Server Monitor. This is an on-premise solution that customers buy, rather than cloud-based monitoring to rent. Power Admin's customers install PA Server Monitor on their own Microsoft Windows platforms. The PA Server Monitor software can be distributed around private and public networks – a central service receives monitoring information from satellites.
A satellite agent is installed in each remote network such as branch offices, data centers and cloud infrastructure. The agent gets the inside view of what's happening – such as event logs, resource measurements like CPU activity, and disk usage and SNMP data – and pushes it to the central monitoring service.
The central monitoring service provides the single pane of glass that is useful for a NOC (Network Operations Center). It watches machines and devices in the core network and listens to the satellites in the remote networks.
PA Server Monitor is configured using a GUI and it can be viewed using a web UI and Android app. It carries out real-time checks, raises threshold alerts, and produces summary reports.
Companies that chose to buy
TimeTrade Systems uses Power Admin Server Monitor. TimeTrade is a SaaS provider, offering online appointment scheduling for a wide ranging client base. Bruce Brown, Network Operations Manager at TimeTrade, described how they monitor their cloud infrastructure. "TimeTrade utilizes PA Server Monitor in our NaviSite-hosted virtual environment NaviCloud to monitor 140+ virtual machines. "
Oregon-based All Tech 1 is a managed cloud services provider. Robert McMillen, president, said they manage a heterogenous environment. "We use Power admin Ultra to monitor our customer's servers, routers, firewalls etc. wherever they are. Some are in our network operating center while others are onsite with the customer".
Eufex Bank from Finland, another Power Admin customer, offers asset management services. Otto Keravuori, CTO, said, "We monitor our servers that are in Xen Server environments on two different locations. We have over a hundred monitors running 24/7 with email and SMS alarms".
The business models of these companies have nothing in common, but they do all have data networks of mid-range complexity. Their networks do not have extreme monitoring requirements, so purchasing monitoring software is a good fit.
Making a decision
Asking a few simple questions is probably enough to pick an adequate monitoring product. What platform does it run on? Who else uses it? Do the vendors seem genuinely helpful?
Of course, every enterprise already has some kind of monitoring system in place. Before thinking of buying, renting, or building a new monitoring solution, there is one question to ask now: Is my monitoring good enough?
Nick Hardiman builds and maintains the infrastructure required to run Internet services. Nick deals with the lower layers of the Internet - the machines, networks, operating systems, and applications. Nick's job stops there, and he hands over to the designers and developers who build the top layer that customers use.