From The Expert Feature Article
May 03, 2016

Got Monitoring Sprawl? Try Monitoring as a Service

Monitoring is an important task for every IT department. You have to know what’s happening on your network, with your servers and with your storage. Luckily, applications to do this kind of monitoring have become inexpensive and very easy to install.

These applications generally work for the task they’re designed to do, but don’t have much functionality beyond that. So, you install more. And more and more. As you install more applications to monitor more essential areas of your IT infrastructure, somebody has to monitor all of those monitoring apps. And the costs become exponential and unmanageable.

After a while, IT has another problem on its hands: an unmanageable list of applications, each one focused on a different thing. Each application has different data sources and data it creates, and likely a dashboard to keep track of all it’s doing. The very applications that were installed to ease IT’s burden have become a burden themselves.

This monitoring sprawl has become a real issue at companies of all sizes. But, there’s now a solution available to help contain it: monitoring as a service (MaaS). Below are the six most common questions that arise about MaaS, and how to make it work for your team.

1. What are the options besides MaaS?

Before MaaS came along, companies had a couple of ways to manage monitoring sprawl. The first was to dedicate more IT resources to managing individual applications. Unfortunately, this strains IT, takes IT employees away from more business-critical tasks and doesn’t solve the problem of the silos that all the monitoring apps create.

The other option was to invest in a more robust monitoring solution, such as a software suite. These suites have larger feature sets, for sure, but are far from problem free. Deploying them can be a huge, expensive project. Then, once they’re deployed, managing them and keeping them up and running isn’t any easier.

It’s clear that another option is needed. That’s where MaaS comes in.

2. How is MaaS deployed?

Getting started with MaaS may not be as easy as installing one of those small monitoring apps. But it’s light years smoother than a bulky, enterprise software solution. In most cases, monitoring as a service can be fully deployed in about a day with the right service provider partner, and that timing includes the start of data collection.

3. Can it help with reporting?

In a monitoring-sprawl environment, reporting is usually a nightmare. The task requires someone to manually export data from the different monitoring applications, create and output the reports and deliver them to the executive. Need a different report? Repeat the process.

MaaS automates this process. This way, reports can be automatically scheduled and created. They can be slated to run at particular times, or even as particular events occur. This type of reporting isn’t limited to technical IT systems. Just think of all the applications that collect data and monitor different aspects of your business. Monitoring-as-a-service solutions can capture, and report on, all of that valuable information.

4. Can MaaS help with data siloes?

One of the major drawbacks of monitoring sprawl is all of the different checkpoints it creates. Each app has its own data, its own interface and its own documentation. The applications don’t talk to each other, which creates siloes of valuable data. With so many places to manually manage, it’s easy to miss something.

A MaaS partner can help a company decide which of its applications are most important to monitor and make sure all the data is managed properly. This eliminates the need for IT to monitor the company’s software and systems itself. For service providers, this service offering is definitely one to consider adding to your portfolio.

5. What if we need to make changes to our systems?

With multiple apps deployed, making changes to your IT environment can be daunting. Tweaks made to one area need to be accounted for in other areas, and as with many of the tasks discussed here, this is often a manual task, prone to error.

Monitoring as a service enables companies to create a blueprint of their entire environment -- devices, applications, hardware, software. When your company needs to change one area of the blueprint, everything related to that area is instantly changed, without the need for any manual intervention.

6. What about support?

A major benefit of MaaS is the service you provide your clients. MaaS service providers have expertise with monitoring applications that an individual company’s IT department simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to acquire. And let’s face it, acquiring that knowledge wouldn’t be a good use of scarce IT time and money.

MaaS providers offer 24/7 support, further easing the burden on your IT department. They also generally work across industries, so they can bring a different perspective to the table, as well as the expected expertise. Clients can benefit from these skillsets and expertise.

Monitoring is a critically important task for any company. If you don’t know what’s happening with your network and systems, you’re at risk for security breaches, outages and lost opportunities, among other things. Monitoring applications were designed to help companies with these tasks. But, when they get out of hand, the solutions can quickly become a problem. Monitoring as a service reins in this monitoring sprawl and helps you make the best use of your company’s vast monitoring data. 

Clayton Weise is a cloud architect at Key Information Systems, where he is responsible for designing, architecting, and implementing cloud solutions, managing production workloads and leveraging cloud resources in disaster recovery, clustering and hybrid (cloud and on-premise) infrastructure solutions.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi