The Big Picture Is Important, But Don't Forget the Small Stuff

In the era of transformational IT, neglecting small issues can get IT departments in trouble.

Dirk Paessler

April 28, 2016

3 Min Read
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It is a difficult time to work in IT right now. On a daily basis, IT departments are forced to grapple with a variety of transformational changes -- shadow IT, mobility, cloud and virtualized networking are all unique challenges, some more immediate than others. And while some of these transformations are driven by users, others involve long-term strategic initiatives that are both complex and high-stakes. Decisions made today on technologies will affect IT, and their budget, for years to come.

These are not simple times.

In general, technology is an industry driven by possibilities. The end game of all this transformation is a future that is ultimately very exciting. But, there is more to running an IT department than strategic planning and tackling "next-generation" challenges. In sports, there is an expression that a team can't look past its next opponent. The same reasoning can be applied to IT departments that are working full-time on strategic planning and next-generation technologies.

They are at risk for overlooking the types of "run-of-the-mill" issues that may not be exciting, but are often the cause of real problems that affect end users. Many of these problems can also be ameliorated with automation and software, but if left untouched, they can wreak havoc.

IT departments face two major risks from "run-of-the-mill" issues. The first is that a server hangup, expired SSL certificate, throttled virtual machine or some other problem goes unnoticed until it reaches end users and affects productivity. The second is that IT has such poor visibility into the infrastructure that identifying and solving these problems becomes the entire job, leaving no room for necessary big-picture thinking or even for the type of automation that would eliminate irksome inconveniences.

In both cases, small problems are collectively adding up to potentially significant drains of time, money or resources, in the form of downtime for the business or overtaxed IT workers. Worse, it creates a circular system of failure. If IT is so engaged in strategic thinking, it can't get a handle on minor issues and effectively automate and optimize them out of existence. When they're stuck fixing minor issues, they don't have time to do more strategic thinking. On and on it goes, with end user productivity and business best practices lost in the shuffle.

Take the example of email. Most IT departments are responsible for running Outlook and managing the health of the corresponding server. There are plenty of ordinary issues that can arise over time that require a server reboot to solve, which is a simple enough process, except when it happens after hours at a company that needs to run 24/7. Automating that process through a monitoring system or with Powershell scripts is simple for most IT departments, but without taking that easy step, administrators are stuck having to manually perform the reboot and employees have to live with the downtime for as long as it takes.

Infrastructure is constantly expanding in both size and complexity, requiring constant review and optimization. Short-staffed IT departments in particular do not have the resources to manually check physical and virtualized hardware on a daily basis and need comprehensive, unified views into their infrastructure along with a well-organized process for alerts. IT departments do have more options than ever before in terms of network analytics, the ability to baseline performance over time and the option to set specific alerts that notify administrators of increases or decreases in various metrics that may signify that a problem is about to occur.

By investing in a preventative medicine approach to infrastructure and network health, IT can not only eliminate small problems and distractions, but can also free up time to do the type of big-picture thinking that is necessary, all while improving morale. Next-generation technologies offer everyone a lot of promise for the future, but to get there, IT needs to get a handle on the small stuff.


Learn more from Paessler in the presentation Unified Monitoring for the Entire Infrastructure With PRTG at Interop Las Vegas, May 2-6. Register now!

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