Monitoring a small business IT infrastructure

Monitoring and management tools are becoming more complex to deal with increasingly sophisticated applications. But many small businesses have neither the time nor resources to devote to properly managing their IT infrastructure.

For SMBs, this increasing complexity provides a challenge. Even the smaller firms may have several desktops and laptops, handheld devices, servers, a network and applications to manage, often with no dedicated IT staff. The person looking after the IT infrastructure may often have other responsibilities that could be prioritised ahead of IT.

If things are not properly managed a business can suffer from outages, security threats and data loss. With the right tools, however, it's possible to manage and monitor the infrastructure to reduce the frequency and impact of outages and other incidents that can affect a network.

Basic function

The most basic function of a monitoring tool is to show whether or not a device (such as a router, switch, server or database) is operational. Used correctly, this will allow you to find problems before your users do so, but this requires a proactive approach to ensure the network stays up and calls to the helpdesk stay down.

If you don't know what's on the network, chances are you won't know of any inherent problems. Mapping out the infrastructure topology will help in identifying weaknesses and choke points, and help in redesigning the infrastructure and implement best practice on it. It will also provide opportunities to improve the layout, and clues to why outages have happened, which will help in fixing them.

When using monitoring tools, you can't always be glued to the screen waiting for problems to happen. Setting up alerts for specific incidents is a good way to stay on top of problems while dealing with other work. Functions for this can be found in monitoring tools and can be set up to email or message an IT administrator in the event of a problem.

Utilisation uptick

With a growing business, there will be an uptick in the utilisation of the infrastructure, and you need to plan for any extra devices the growing demand for bandwidth. Monitoring will allow you to see when and where you are close to capacity and react to prevent services slowing down.

Once you have a map of the network and all the devices using it, you will be able to focus on individual devices and check their status (such as availability, packet loss, response time, traffic and error rates). This can help in detecting network problems before they get out of hand.

Many monitoring tools can keep a historical record of devices on the network that can show up intermittent problems and help in fixing them.

With careful monitoring and timely reactions it is possible to prevent problems with an IT infrastructure getting out of hand. This will save a lot of time for whoever is looking over the network and those using it, and more importantly assure your customers that you are open for business.