by April 24, 2014 0 comments

What are the challenges faced by Indian SMBs in monitoring their IT infrastructure?
Today, SMBs are competing with large enterprises and similarly operating in complex IT environments as even small business may need to manage several desktops and notebooks, handheld devices, servers, a network and applications the business depends on. However, SMBs are often faced with a severe resource crunch. As aresult they often end up adopting non-integrated ‘point’ monitoring tools, and open-source tools which require extensive setup and configuration. This further compromises on the performance results and availability of monitoring capabilities.

Given that SMBs have a fairly small IT infrastructure, what’s the compelling need for them to put up a robust IT monitoring practice and solutions in place? Please justify with examples explaining the challenges and difficulties faced, how they were alleviated with IT monitoring, and what was the end result?
Despite having a small IT infrastructure, SMBs today generate a large amount data. This data is extremely important as it leads to insights that help in growth of their businesses. A healthy and robust IT environment is therefore, as important for small businesses as it is for corporate giants to make their business more agile and to run their IT environment smoothly. These customer segments are just as dependent on the health of their IT environments as their large enterprise counterparts, but have minimal resources to allocate to IT monitoring. There’s a growing interest in enterprise-class software that can be easily downloaded and deployed.
What are the top 5 parameters that SMBs must keep in mind while choosing an IT monitoring solution?
– Unified – A single, comprehensive IT monitoring solution that allows monitoring, managing and reporting of servers, applications, storage, and network devices. It eliminates the hassle and expense of using and trying to integrate multiple, disparate point monitoring tools (e.g. a solution from Solarwinds would require purchasing and integrating at least 4 of their stand-alone products)

– Simple – Features like auto-discovery, automatic monitoring, best practice thresholds, and a directed user experience help customers to quickly and successfully deploy and use in their IT environments
– Fast – Rapid deployment and time to value. Customers should be able to download, deploy, monitor and report their most critical devices in as little as an hour
– Powerful – Enterprise-class capabilities without the enterprise hassles or license cost, something that is developed and continuously advanced
– Free – Free for life, not just a time-limited free trial. Why would an SMB customer pay for multiple, point products when they can get similar functionality for free? Also, it must offer superior functionality compared to open source vendors.
There are quite a few free IT monitoring solutions available for SMBs to use? Any recommendations / top picks?
The main competitors are freemium and freeware offerings from SolarWinds and Kaseya, open source solutions from Nagios and Zenoss, or freeware from Spiceworks and SolarWinds.
Whether it’s purely server or network or application monitoring, or a broader set of IT operations and management capabilities, there are dozens of solutions that could be considered competitive solutions. Generally speaking, competitors could be divided into five categories:
a) Freemium software: A free product that offers an upgrade to a commercial version. The free version often has fewer features or limited deployment (i.e. number of devices, number of servers, etc). A tool that we offer, CA Nimsoft Monitor Snap would fall under this category.
b) Open source: Free to use, modify and share for life. Some also have an option to upgrade to a premium solution offering professional services, support or training
c) Free software: Although similar to Freemium, this designation is for freeware tolls that are more like utilities (i.e. SolarWinds offers 37 free tools, but these typically have limited functionality). Some freemium products include AppDynamics, Compuware APM, GroundWork Monitor, ManageEngine, New Relic, Paessler PRTG, SevOne and SolarWinds. A recent review easily identified no less than 13 freemium products are available in this space. Some open source products include Cacti, Cascade Wireshark, MRTG, Munin, Net SNMP, OpenNMS, Spong, Xymon (based on Big Brother), and Zenoss Core. A recent review easily identified no less than 36 open source products in this space.
d) Products free for evaluation, but for limited time: Some of these include AppDynamics, Big Brother, Boundary, HP, Kaseya, ManageEngine, New Relic, Opsview, SevOne, SolarWinds, WhatsUpGold, etc. A recent review easily identified no less than 21 free trial products in this space.
Free software typically uses either paid advertising pushed down to each user (i.e. Spiceworks) or uses this model to build its customer-base and community and entice commercial upgrades. For example, SolarWinds has more than 3 dozen free tools that are essentially utilities that wouldn’t be considered a complete tool or solution.
What sort of benefits can SMBs derive out of implementing a proper IT monitoring practice?
SMBs are often under-resourced to address challenges pertaining to health of their IT environments. A proper IT monitoring practice enables SMBs with robust performance with lesser complexities and greater integration at different levels of monitoring. Further, it also helps in driving down operational costs and better safeguards service delivery as their IT environments become increasingly dynamic. Also, round the clock availability is highly critical, hence streamlined IT Monitoring practice further helps in resolving issues which may  cause significant business disruption.
How can departmental users be properly empowered to monitor and manage essential applications and services, despite their lack of technical skills? The answer is being found in a new generation of solutions that meet three key criteria:
a) Easy, automated implementation: Departmental users have neither the time, skills, nor inclination to get bogged down in complex technology deployments. An effective departmental management-and-monitoring solution for Shadow IT must therefore install automatically and effortlessly.
b) End-to-end application and service insight: Departmental users aren’t interested in knowing about servers, storage devices and routers. They want to know what’s going on with the actual services they consume. To meet their needs, the right solution must therefore provide visibility into the health of end-to-end application delivery rather than into technical data regarding the individual components supporting that delivery.
c) Low cost: Departmental users are not accustomed to laying out significant capital for technology. Nor are they going to allocate much in the way of OPEX for something that is neither central nor strategic to their business mission. So their acceptance of a monitoring solution will be highly price-sensitive.
At one time, a management-and-monitoring solution that meets all these criteria would have been challenging. The sophisticated systems that corporate IT departments used to manage enterprise IT environments required a tremendous amount of configuration, focus on highly granular root-cause discovery and would come for a very high prices tag.
But new times call for new solutions, and advances in management technology are enabling vendors to deliver solutions that are a much better fit with the emerging Shadow IT market. By adopting these solutions, departmental users can continue the ongoing trend of empowerment and reduced dependence on corporate IT.

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