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The Case for Managed Application and Infrastructure Performance

by Scott Glover, COO, RFD & Associates, Inc.

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Any organization that relies on IT solutions, either to engage with their customers or keep their employees connected and productive, has a critical need for application and infrastructure performance monitoring. Now that 2017 is here, you should assess how your organization addresses application downtime from both a budget and operations perspective. Here are questions you should ask about your IT systems:

  • How much revenue will you lose every hour your online ordering system is down?
  • What will you spend every hour a tiger team of application, infrastructure and network experts are working to identify and resolve a performance or availability problem?
  • How many orders will you miss because your customer went to a competitor with a more reliable ordering system?
  • How much payroll do you spend for each hour your staff can't do their work when your enterprise systems are unavailable, or even just performing slowly?
  • When should you schedule application or infrastructure downtime to minimize impact on your customers and users?
  • What is the political fallout if your organizationís mission-critical application is unavailable or crippled by heavy usage?

It's clear that poor application, network and infrastructure performance is costly. Unfocused or uninformed emergency response is costly. Decisions made without performance insight can be costly or even flat-out wrong. Smart investments in application and infrastructure performance monitoring support are critical, and will save smart IT managers time, money and headaches while mitigating risks.

Keeping Focus on Your Business

Outsourcing is increasingly an attractive option. In terms of technology, this means finding expert vendors that can host your email, websites, document storage and more. It's critical, however, to find an IT partner who provides reliable, high-quality service and takes a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. Outsourcing services lets organizations maximize their focus on core operations.

Who Can Help?

When organizations partner with a managed service provider to monitor enterprise application performance they should be working with experts who have successfully implemented monitoring solutions in similarly sized organizations. Seasoned experts will help by providing immediate insight into an organizationís IT environment without the cost and effort of procuring yet another tool that must be implemented and learned. The bigger or more complex the application and infrastructure footprint, the harder the job and the more experience a managed service provider should have.

Organizations looking to outsource should demand flexibility from both a software toolset and contract management perspective. Itís important to find a solution provider experienced in multiple tools, who will be able to ramp up and down as organizational enterprise monitoring requirements change. Today, innovative solution providers offer complex services through a subscription model. In many cases, this is the best choice for organizations. This approach, using operating expense dollars, lets forward-thinking enterprises monitor their application health without a huge capital investment in perpetual licenses, lengthy time to value or growth in headcount.

Avoid hiring someone who purports themselves as a "tool expert." Instead, hire the expertise of an enterprise performance monitoring organization. Keep in mind, performance monitoring tools evolve constantly; a service provider should, too. When choosing a performance partner, be sure to hire expert personnel who have spent years configuring and maintaining best-of-breed tools. Even more importantly, check to be sure they are also experts at integrating the right tools to meet the needs of a diverse set of organizations.

Demand agility! Make sure a consulting partner can move quickly. The best partners can, within a matter of weeks, engage and start pinpointing issues to help triage performance breakdowns in monitored applications. These insights then allow for the creation of parameters to alert relevant personnel before critical applications are affected.

Be prepared! Organizations need to be ready to provide access to their systems. Remote service is always less expensive than supporting clients on-site, so make sure you and your partner know exactly what is required before managed service personnel can access your environment. Does the managed service provider require employee background checks? Fingerprints? Security policy training? Get ahead of the internal procurement processes and start priming the purchasing pump. The last thing you want is an outage while on-boarding a new managed service provider after deciding to engage. Personnel on affected teams need to be ready to respond to service providers. Data starts to flow quickly, so be prepared to consume, evaluate and act accordingly.

Monitor and Interpret Data in Real Time

Information is only useful if it is understandable. Make sure your service provider is an expert at presenting data to decision makers in an understandable way through custom dashboards. Do you want red/yellow/green lights to quickly convey application health? Do you need graphs to help you identify lulls in application use? Do you need the ability to drill down into a single transaction to see which part of its journey accounts for a slow response time? Do you need custom alerts, carefully tuned to reflect your service levels, so the right team can take action as a problem starts to affect performance? A good provider can address all of these needs so the right person gets the right information in the right way to be able to respond immediately.

What Is the Alternative?

Organizations that take a Do-It-Yourself approach to performance monitoring face multiple hurdles to implement an in-house performance stack. They will need to train or hire personnel in order to have the right expertise to identify and evaluate multiple potential products. Once staff are prepared, they must undergo an evaluation process for the preferred tools. The selected tool may only be available through a significant investment in perpetual licenses, followed by ongoing software maintenance costs. Infrastructure will be required to host the new tools. More training or hiring will be required to secure the additional expertise to install, configure and maintain the selected tools.

That is a lot of work when compared to outsourcing and working with an experienced partner to help get an application monitoring system up and running quickly.

Don't make enterprise application performance monitoring a DIY project.

About the Author

Scott Glover is Chief Operating Officer of RFD & Associates, Inc. For more than 30 years, RFD has partnered with both private and public sector clients to design, develop and implement technology solutions that automate business processes. RFD is particularly adept in applications performance management, and has partnerships with industry leading IT organizations including Oracle, CA Technologies, Splunk and a number of top performance solutions.

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