For a business of any size, the ability to quickly diagnose issues with their IT infrastructure and act on them before they become a major or long-term issue is incredibly valuable. Minimizing or eliminating costly downtime is the primary objective of any IT strategy, and Remote Monitoring & Management (RM&M) is an effective tool in achieving that. With it’s early detection ability, RM&M abates falling employee productivity, customer dissatisfaction and potential revenue loss, because critical infrastructure issues are dealt with proactively as opposed to reactively.
With RM&M you set up automated software and processes to perform checks on your business-critical hardware and log various performance metrics like hard drive health, CPU temperature, and system uptime, just to name a few. You can be notified if any of them fall in an area that would signify a warning (you should keep an eye on the issue) or a critical issue (you should act on it immediately). There are tons of options for RM&M software, ranging from paid subscriptions to free and open source, but they all use the same or similar underlying technology to get things done.
When grabbing information from your devices on the network, regardless of the product you’re using, it’s probably using SNMP. SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol, is capable of not only reading information from, but also writing configuration changes to, your networked devices. Through the use of pre-configured community strings (passwords) you are able to require authentication to access your devices through SNMP, and thus limit the people who are able to connect. Since SNMP v1 and SNMP v2c both send information in the clear, it’s strongly recommended you use the more recent SNMP v3 when you implement this on your network, as it encrypts information before transmission. Once you have your version of SNMP and community string selected, you’ll need to review the device’s MIB (Management Information Base) and select which OIDs you’ll be using. A device’s MIB is a listing of variables that define the various statistics and performance metrics you’ll want to monitor. These individual variables are the OIDs, or Object Identifiers. Since SNMP is a protocol that can stand on its own, you could certainly make manual SNMP calls to grab the information you’re looking for, but for an easier way to automate it, let’s look at some options.
In terms of paid products that handle your RM&M needs, you have several providers to choose from. Some of the most popular are Solarwinds and Continuum, and their products typically provide easier to use graphical interfaces when compared to their free counterparts. Free RM&M tools like Nagios and Comodo are often open source and lean heavily on the need for command line interfacing to configure your setup, however that’s not always the case (Continuum bucks this trend). Regardless of which avenue you pursue, you will be able to utilize the SNMP configuration you set up earlier, or take advantage of the RM&M software’s built-in monitoring and reporting tools. You will often install a monitoring agent on the target machine and configure what metrics you would like it to report on, and select a central server you would like this agent to report back to. The benefit of using this approach over strictly using SNMP is that you are able to configure a single agent each time instead of having to research each vendor’s MIBs and configure them from scratch each time.
It doesn’t matter if you choose to go with the paid or free routes or the agent-based or agentless SNMP options, as long as you are keeping track of the health and performance of the business critical hardware on your network, you are already ahead of the curve.
Being able to identify a faulty product in order to remove or fix it before the failure becomes catastrophic, could save days of network downtime, affecting your ability to provide goods and services. Even if the RM&M you choose only gives you hours worth of early warning, it will easily pay for itself on the time (and possibly money) invested. It’s a no-brainer: it’s time to set up the RM&M configuration that best suits your needs.