The Right Way to Do Monitoring
Understanding the difference between monitoring and troubleshooting
In this issue of BlackBerry Connection® we look into what proactive monitoring is and why it's vital for any company, from small businesses to Fortune 500 enterprises. We'll also share some real-world examples that show how proper monitoring can save you money, and how negligence—in the form of passive monitoring—can negatively affect your bottom line.
The cost of carelessness
A company without any monitoring system in place learns about server problems only when employees or customers start complaining. For most companies, communications technology is absolutely vital, and a disruption in service can be a huge financial liability. Some of the costs of downtime are obvious, including pricey IT man-hours spent fixing the problem and lost efficiency from employees who don't have the tools necessary to do their jobs. Others are less tangible, but no less real, including loss of morale, distrust in the organization's IT department, and damage to the company's reputation with customers.
In "Noah Built the Ark Before the Flood," industry insider Paul Mooney shares an example of an automotive company that lost use of a single application for just a single day because of a server problem. The estimated cost of this outage? $300,000. That's a lot of money to lose on an outage that could have been prevented. According to Mooney, as many as 60% of all critical errors in the servers of companies he tracks could have been avoided if those companies implemented proper, proactive monitoring systems.
Proactive versus reactive monitoring
Although any sort of monitoring is better than no monitoring at all, many companies fail to implement a solution that is proactive. That is, they fail to do everything possible to identify and attend to potential problems well before they become real-life crises.
For example, a company might perform only reactive monitoring—that is, reacting to a problem after an incident has occurred, in a sense, troubleshooting. While such a solution is important to ensure the downtime is as short as possible, it does not help prevent the downtime from happening in the first place or happening again in the future.
In other cases, a company might monitor all the necessary systems, but not do so in a manner that makes the system health information easily available and accessible to everyone who needs it. Discrete clients for each system probably handle monitoring, and expert IT attention is required to interpret the data from each source. According to GSX, a developer of proactive monitoring software, these companies have failed to understand the difference between “monitoring,” and ”troubleshooting.“ If your system requires frequent attention by highly skilled staff, you are troubleshooting. With a true monitoring system, even level-1 helpdesk employees should be able to keep an eye on the system status, only requiring more skilled assistance when a problem is detected. It is proper monitoring practices that let companies like BEIT Systemhaus, a GSX Monitor customer, maintain more than 50 servers with high uptime in 30 locations in 10 countries, with only two dedicated mail administrators.
Even in the absence of catastrophic server outages, the financial incentives for proper monitoring are substantial. To take one example, an office equipment manufacturer believed it didn't need proactive monitoring because its server downtime was so limited. The company runs one BlackBerry® Enterprise Server, 50 IBM® Lotus® Domino® servers, and one Lotus Sametime® server. The cost to implement GSX Monitor (a proactive monitoring solution developed by GSX Groupware Solutions) was $65,000 plus $15,000 for maintenance for a total cost of $80,000. Initially the company balked at this cost because its server downtime was so low—it estimated its BlackBerry Enterprise Server was down one hour a month—at most—and all its Domino servers were down a combined two hours a month. GSX factored in the severity and impact of each downtime to calculate the company's monthly loss-hours per month at 1,126 hours. The client then assigned a $25-per-hour loss of production value per employee per hour, which brought the monthly weighted loss of service opportunity cost to $28,000 per month ($337,000 per year).
The company estimated that GSX Monitor's enhanced speed of notification would allow them to resolve actual problems 20 percent faster once an issue occurs. This represented annual productivity savings of $67,000 (20 percent of $337,000). The company also determined that proactive troubleshooting could reduce downtime by another 20 percent, hence an additional productivity savings of $67,000.
By using the company's own very conservative downtime hours and its own assessment of productivity gains that GSX Monitor would bring them, this organization discovered that a $65,000 investment in GSX Monitor would save an average $135,000 a year in productivity.
Small companies face big challenges
While it may be tempting to think that monitoring software isn't as important for small and medium businesses, which tend to have smaller and less complicated messaging solutions, this is actually a misconception. In many ways, small and medium businesses are actually more vulnerable to system failures. Larger organizations have communications systems built with more redundancies, thanks to economies of scale. This is a luxury not always available to smaller companies, which means that system failures are more abrupt and can have more devastating effects. Also, because smaller businesses move and evolve faster, and are less cost-tolerant than larger companies, the price in time and money of a critical system failure for a small or medium business can mean the loss of an entire quarter's profits—or more.
And for some small and medium organizations, the cost of system failure is more important than money—it's measured in human lives. GSX tells a story about a hospital they serve where all the doctors use BlackBerry® smartphones. If the hospital servers go down, those doctors are no longer able to send and receive the latest information about their patients, and in a hospital, having access to the right data can mean the difference between life and death. For organizations with this kind of mission-critical communications solution, proper monitoring isn't just an option—it's a necessity.
Proactive monitoring with GSX
GSX provides just one of many proactive monitoring solutions available to organizations that run BlackBerry Enterprise Server; however, a look into the features of this one solution provides a deeper view of what a third-party application can provide.
GSX Monitor 9.2 keeps track of all of a company's extended server environment, including BlackBerry Enterprise Servers, IBM Lotus Domino, Lotus Sametime, and Microsoft® Exchange servers. Information on these servers is presented in an accessible graphical user interface (GUI), with color-coded indicators representing the health of each individual component. The GUI can be customized to visually match a company's other control interfaces.
GSX Monitor works without installing any code on the servers that it monitors, meaning less potential downtime and less headache for your IT staff. Instead of installing code on the server, GSX acts as a user in the system, watching system logs and using probe messages to track email flow. This end-to-end email tracking and logfile analysis lets GSX Monitor track the entire communication chain and quickly locate the source of any potential disruptions.
All of the data analyzed by GSX Monitor is available in detailed, customizable reports. Customizable profiles and alerts mean that the right people are notified of any potential problems, without the need for constant monitoring by IT staff.
You can view the reports generated by GSX Monitor anywhere with remote monitoring via the web or on your BlackBerry smartphone.
BlackBerry Resource Center for podcasts, webcasts and white papers on network monitoring and other topics
To find other BlackBerry Alliance members offering networking monitoring solutions please visit the BlackBerry Solutions Catalog »
GSX case studies:
BEIT Systemhaus » (PDF download)
Shepherd Center » (PDF download)