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Monitoring and Alerting 101: Monitoring Best Practices

Monitoring best practicesAn effective monitoring system is paramount to smooth business operations. As the need for a fast, responsive software experience gains momentum, monitoring becomes an indispensable driving force. Monitoring systems enable IT teams to proactively observe the health and responsiveness of critical environments and applications. Without monitoring, organizations must depend on customers or internal departments to receive notice of system issues.

In this post, we’ll explore monitoring best practices. We’ll also discuss how optimizing monitoring and alerting can help teams perfect the last leg of the incident management cycle.

What Is Monitoring?

Monitoring systems ensure that IT applications are available and always functioning normally. This is achieved when monitoring software continuously observes data for anomalies or generates data when anomalies are detected. 

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What Are Metrics?

Metrics are raw data needed to monitor the performance, health and availability of key resources. Metrics capture the state of systems at a specific time frame, such as CPU availability during the workweek.

Organizations must define services that are crucial for business operations and establish metrics to monitor the specified technology. Thresholds are established for each key metric and alert triggers are created when threshold levels are crossed. When key systems are down, IT teams are alerted immediately without prolonging the incident. 

Datadog, a SaaS-based application monitoring service, broadly classifies metrics into two categories: Work metrics and resource metrics.

Work metrics

Work metrics provide top-level health insights into a firm’s IT infrastructure. These metrics give an estimate of how much work resources are producing. Estimates can include the number of requests made to web servers. Work metrics cross specific thresholds when system failures occur, and the right on-call personnel must be alerted to resolve the critical issues promptly.

Resource metrics 

Resource metrics provide deep-level insights into a system’s current state. These metrics are useful for investigative purposes whenever systems fail to operate normally. Resource metrics can include items like disk space, memory usage or network availability. 

It is important to note that not every resource metric necessitates an actionable alert. The reason is that when a resource metric crosses its threshold, it may not always indicate a red flag. For instance, high memory usage does not require engineers to address the issue in the middle of the night. Only resource metrics that are leading indicators of system issues must trigger high-priority alerts. 

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Best Practices for Monitoring and Alerting

1. Fine-tune your monitoring systems

After defining and categorizing the metrics that are crucial for your business, the next step is to maintain monitoring systems periodically. If response teams are consistently alerted on non-actionable alerts, IT engineers may get desensitized to real alerts. Teams must periodically revisit alert thresholds and make necessary adjustments to ensure only critical notifications are triggered. 

2. Adjust alert thresholds. Avoid unactionable alerts.

Configuring monitoring alerts is an iterative process that requires full commitment from frontline personnel. Alert analysts must be encouraged to provide feedback on “white noise” to optimize alerts. Watchlists can be created and used to suppress false-positive alerts.

3. Alerting based on urgency levels

Severity-based alerting helps distinguish between high-priority and low-priority alerts. Some notifications can wait for a few hours until someone addresses the issue. These notifications are low-priority alerts and are not considered white noise. On the other hand, high-priority alerts require immediate response from engineers during critical, time-sensitive situations.

4. Eliminating the need to constantly monitor emails

Organizations can invest in alert management solutions to eliminate the need to constantly monitor emails for urgent notifications. Alerting solutions sit at the center of the firm’s infrastructure and applications, distributing high-priority alerts to on-call engineers via loud, intrusive push notifications. These “Alert-Until-Read” alerts can bypass the silent switch on all mobile phones to ensure critical messages reach the on-call staff. 

How OnPage Helps Teams Maximize ROI From Monitoring Systems

Teams can maximize their monitoring system investments by integrating them with intelligent alert management solutions. Alerting solutions, such as OnPage, facilitate alert orchestration when an event is detected, ensuring that the right on-call engineer notices the incident immediately. 

Alerts run into the risk of being lost in a sea of emails when monitoring systems are not complemented by alerting solutions. OnPage’s alerting platform eliminates the need to constantly monitor networks and emails when high-priority events occur. 

OnPage provides an “Alert-Until-Read” mobile application that triggers loud, intrusive push notifications to an engineer’s smartphone. OnPage alerts follow pre-configured on-call schedules and routing rules to reach the right responders. By combining monitoring systems with intelligent alerting, firms can perfect the last mile of monitoring and maximize their investments in observability software.
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