Being the lone IT guy for a company that supports more than 100 employees, three manufacturing locations and more than 200 distributors is no easy task. Paul Martin, IT manager at Poulin Grain, a fourth-generation provider of animal feeds based in Vermont, oversees everything from cell phones and pagers to desktops and laptops in addition to a fully virtualized data center.
“Trying to keep your head wrapped around things and keep on top of what’s going on in your environment in the scope of a work day is a challenge," he said.
For Martin, automated monitoring technology is essential to managing Poulin's infrastructure. He uses a suite of monitoring tools from data protection vendor Veeam to keep tabs on Poulin’s data center, which consists of a half-dozen VMware hosts and about two dozen virtual machines. The tool gives him insight into the complete server architecture --every component from host machines to storage views -- and provides best practices and links to assist in correcting errors it finds.
For example, it's critical Martin know that Poulin’s three storage area networks -- which house everything from SQL and Exchange files to sales, product development and research data --are operating at peak efficiency. He checks the company’s storage status every day to ensure backups are occurring as scheduled. All of the servers are backed up daily on site (the more critical ones are also backed up monthly to a cloud-based disaster recovery service), and when glitches occur, Poulin can find itself temporarily short on storage capacity. He's acquired more storage capacity to avoid this problem in the future.
[Monitoring IT infrastructure is becoming more complex with the influx of cloud services and other technologies, according to a recent survey. Read about the study in, "Cloud Services, BYOD Complicating Network Monitoring."]
Martin got his first taste of the value of automated infrastructure monitoring the day he completed deployment of Veeam’s monitoring tools in 2011. Within minutes after the software was live, it alerted Martin to the fact that Poulin’s SQL server log files weren’t being committed to the database correctly. Had Martin not been made aware of the issue, Poulin’s SQL server would have eventually frozen, potentially resulting in an unknown amount of data loss. Instead, he was able to reconfigure the handling of SQL server log files, and the issue hasn’t resurfaced since.
Stories like Martin’s underscore the importance of infrastructure monitoring for businesses of all sizes. But, as Martin noted, doing so in an automated fashion is critical, as having to do so manually could prove crippling to the business.
“If you spend all of your time looking backward, then you’re going to get left behind,” Martin said. “The ability to set it and forget it is probably the best thing about this technology. When it needs my attention, it lets me know.”
The monitoring system streamlines his daily work, leaving him time to focus on identifying IT investments that will keep the company ahead of the competition.
“The ability to increase my knowledge and help the company move forward --that’s what I gain the most from having these tools,” Martin said.