As a business owner, C-suite executive, or system administrator, the last thing you need is to learn about a system outage from your customers. By the time angry clients start calling to complain about the problem, chances are that substantial damage has already been done to your reputation and sales.
Remember, the majority of customers will simply switch to your competitor if they run into a problem that they don’t think you are putting sufficient effort toward resolving. This is why proactively monitoring your servers is so vital. You have to do server monitoring right if it’s going to be as effective as it should be. Here’s a look at some important best practices.
1. Make Use of Existing Server Monitoring Software
Many organizations only purchase software as the very last resort. They prefer to build bespoke applications. The rationale is that such software is likely to be more cognizant of the organization’s unique processes and infrastructure. It’s a reasonable argument. However, building server monitoring tools internally are expensive, time-consuming, and success isn’t assured.
Think about it—would you build an antivirus or operating system in-house? It’s just as unfeasible for you to try to do so for something as sophisticated as Server monitoring software. Off-the-shelf server monitoring applications are increasingly versatile and can be customized extensively.
2. Have a Precise Visual Map of Your Servers
The server monitoring application will not magically, or by default, unearth problems with your infrastructure. You must tell it what to look at. Ergo, develop a detailed visual representation of your servers as well as the key metrics and data that are reliable barometers of server health.
See your server monitoring dashboard as similar to that of a motor vehicle. In the same way, a car has a speedometer, odometer, RPM, fuel level, and battery indicators to give the driver a glimpse of the car’s health, a server monitoring dashboard that captures the most useful metrics can be an invaluable asset in letting you know when there are signs of trouble.
The monitoring dashboard should be coherent, uncluttered, and easy to understand.
3. Reduce Need for Log In
Installing and configuring the monitoring tool ensures that all the server health information you need can be viewed from one place. But consolidating information is one thing—getting it out there to the people who should see it is another.
Of course, you can log into the monitoring application to check the status of your servers at any point in time. Such a manual process is, however, time-consuming and doesn’t allow you to notice problems immediately as they occur. Instead, create alerts that are instantly and automatically sent out whenever a server isn’t working as well as it’s expected to.
4. Develop Detailed, Structured, Meaningful, and Actionable Alerts
Not just any alert will do. The purpose of sending out alerts is to get the recipient to take action fast. That won’t happen if alerts contain information that’s ambiguous, contradictory, disorganized, incomplete, incorrect, or meaningless.
Ergo, when designing your monitoring alerts, start by thinking about who will receive them, how important it will be for them and what you expect them to do. Specifically, the alert should indicate the problem’s severity, the scope, the data, or underlying issue that caused the problem, and what action the recipient should take.
5. Send Alerts Sparingly
There’s such a thing as too many server monitoring alerts. Unless there’s a legitimate reason (and this should be a short-term issue after which alert frequency reverts to normal), more notifications isn’t always a good thing. It’s often a sign that the system is sending out an avalanche of false positives.
That can have a disastrous impact on your monitoring mechanism. If people are getting too many notifications, they’ll slowly stop taking them seriously. When a real issue does come up, it may fall through cracks because no one bothered to read the alert.
Whether you are monitoring a physical or virtual server, these best practices will make your monitoring software more effective and thus give you more bang for your buck.