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Network Monitoring Overload and How to Survive

It’s always good to have a periodic reminder to consider what we’re monitoring and why. Here's an applicable article from my colleague Joe Kim, in which he offers some tips on avoiding alert overload.

If you’re receiving so much monitoring information that you don’t see the bigger-picture implications, then you’re missing the value that information can provide. Federal IT pros have a seeming overabundance of tools available for network monitoring. Today, they can monitor everything from bandwidth to security systems to implementation data to high-level operational metrics.

Many federal IT pros are tempted to use them all to get as much information as possible, to ensure that they don’t miss even a bit of data that can help optimize network performance.

That is not the best idea.

First, getting too much monitoring information can cause monitoring overload. Why is this bad? Monitoring overload can lead to overly complex systems that, in turn, may create conflicting data. Conflicting data can then lead to management conflicts, which are counter-productive on multiple levels.

Second, many of these tools do not work together, providing a larger possibility for conflicting data, a greater chance that something important will be missed, and an even greater challenge seeing the bigger picture.

The solution is simpler than it may seem: get back to basics. Start by asking these three simple questions:

  1. For whom am I collecting this data?
  2. What metrics do I really need?
  3. What is my monitoring goal?

Federal IT pros should start by looking specifically at the audience for the data being collected. Which group is using the metrics—the operations team, the project manager, or agency management? Understand that the operations team will have its own wide audience and equally wide array of needs, so be as specific as possible in gathering “audience” information.

Once the federal IT pro has determined the audience, it will be much easier to determine exactly which metrics the audience requires to ensure optimal network performance—without drowning in alerts and data. Identify the most valuable metrics and focus on ensuring those get the highest priority.

The third question is the kicker, and should bring everything together.

Remember, monitoring is a means to an end. The point of monitoring is to inform and enhance operational decisions based on collected data. If a federal IT pro has a series of disconnected monitoring products, there is no way to understand the bigger picture; one cannot enhance operational decisions based on collected data if there is no consolidation. Opt for an aggregation solution, something that brings together information from multiple tools through a single interface that provides a single view.

Network monitoring and network optimization are getting more and more complex. Couple this with an increasing demand for a more digital government, and it becomes clear that gathering succinct insight into the infrastructure and application level of the IT operations within the agency is critical.

The most effective course of action is to get back to the basics. Focus on the audience and the agency’s specific needs. This will ensure a more streamlined monitoring solution that will help more effectively drive mission success.

Find the full article on Federal Technology Insider.

Paul Parker
Paul Parker, former chief technologist - federal and national government, SolarWinds, has 22 years of IT infrastructure experience, and has received multiple military and civilian…
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