Alert Floods: Build A Smart Dam to Control IT Monitoring Alerts
August 01, 2016

Matthew Carr

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In today's competitive marketplace, busy IT professionals aim to maximize efficiency and productivity with everything they do. But, unfortunately, many businesses are encountering major inefficiencies in their IT departments as their alert systems are flawed.

When business service teams run into technical issues and alert storms, they want and need them resolved immediately, so these problems don't negatively impact their workload, deliverables, or client service. They call on their IT department for help, and their request then goes into the queue as an alert first, then multiple tickets later. Sounds simple, but in reality this has become a complex problem that's causing much confusion for downstream managers.

In a busy enterprise, IT often receives hundreds – or even thousands – of alerts per day, which is challenging to manage, let alone resolve in an efficient, quality, and timely fashion. Alert generated tickets are orphaned. Many aren't considered real, let alone evaluated.

Too Many IT Alert Streams, Flooding Different Departments

To help sort through the reservoirs of alerts, IT departments need to optimize IT operations by prioritizing and resolving the most disruptive issues first. They are tasked with keeping systems up and running, while identifying, resolving and, ideally, preventing serious disruptions to minimize impact on the business. However, current alert systems are missing key information, including the responsible party and root-cause of the issue, and its impact to the business environment.

As the tech environment becomes increasingly complex, many enterprises need their IT teams to manage many layers of technology – including their datacenter, hardware, network, software, applications, business services and more. Compounding this challenge, many organizations operate in silos, where teams focus solely on their own specific applications within the IT environment, unaware of how their piece fits into the bigger puzzle. The disjointed nature of this silo-centric approach makes it difficult for anyone – from the tech team to the business services team – to view the comprehensive IT landscape for proper context.

Automated Handling Turns Alert Floods into Seas of Tickets

This silo-centric problem is particularly obvious from observing the mass quantities of alerts flowing into the IT operations center and on to the IT help desk. Today, as end-users submit their requests for help, an alert comes in, and IT operations engineers typically use an IT Service Management tool to log tickets, route to the appropriate IT subject management expert, and respond to the issues and resolve them.

In most organizations, every end-user issue and, often, alerts are forwarded to the help desk so the IT team can resolve the issue. Typically, these alerts don't indicate what's causing the problem, and don't provide any information about the root cause or how the issue will impact the IT infrastructure. There's also no way to see if the alert represents a single incident or whether there are similar issues across the enterprise that could (and should) be grouped together for more efficient resolution. This lack of visibility and management of alerts causes IT teams to waste valuable time slogging through the alerts, trying to prioritize and resolve them as quickly as possible.

So when hundreds (or thousands) of alerts or incidents are being reported each day, there's no quick or easy way to determine which are mission-critical and which are not. This typical alert evaluation process – which should be simple – is actually very inefficient, prevents proper prioritization, and often leads to downtime that could have been prevented.

A Smart Dam: Deduplicate, Correlate, and Contextualize Alerts

While there have been many recent attempts at integrating IT monitoring tools with IT Service Management (ITSM), most under-deliver and offer only limited value to IT departments. Not only are these new IT monitoring tools failing to deliver on their promise, but are also operating in a silo-centric environment that makes the alert and help desk processes even more difficult to manage.

More often than not, systems are disconnected, with teams using different tools to monitor and manage different components throughout the enterprise. Also, a downside of ITSM tools is that they don't provide the full context of alerts into incident tickets, that deliver full visibility into business environment, so they can't provide a complete picture for the IT team or maximize efficiencies.

IT faces a variety of challenges in issue resolution in this silo-centric environment, with alerts coming in lacking key information, and disjointed monitoring tools, required to resolve problems when they're identified. As a result, IT has a difficult time identifying critical issues, correlating like issues for grouped resolution, assigning priorities, and resolving mission-critical disruptions. Every IT department should establish a process that is simple, yet often their systems become cumbersome and overwhelming over time.

A better process – using a more innovative, integrated solution – would lead to significant time and cost savings, with more efficient outcomes that focus on a single view that contextualizes problems across systems.

Unify Alerts Streams Around Discovered Service Groups

Enterprises need a better, holistically integrated solution to collect and prioritize all alerts, correlate similar alerts, align services properly, engage teams around root-alerts, and provide real-time monitoring to every incident. To successfully accomplish this, enterprises need a common framework that provides a broader view of the IT and business environments. Ideally, they'd be implementing an integrated solution that connects IT help desk teams with their business partners in a better way, providing a consolidated view of the entire landscape. This approach provides important context which, in turn, offers more perspective required to guarantee IT service levels to its business partners.

To enhance resolutions, companies should use a solution that provides more robust information to help IT teams make smarter decisions. Solutions such as these provide key insights about the alerts, in the context of the bigger landscape, showcasing which are most critical. Then, IT teams would be able to triage the most disruptive issues first, identify patterns, and review root-cause analysis that would help resolve current issues and help prevent future problems. These solutions would ideally integrate with existing monitoring tools rather than focusing on replacing them, unlike the unified monitoring approach.

Unifying Alert Solutions Do Exist to End Alert Floods

The next generation monitoring tools do exist and they allow IT administrators to look at the broader picture and use more integrated methodologies to proactively identify and resolve underlying problems across infrastructures. Innovative new solutions help reduce the clutter of alerts and ensure chaos is realized when incidents occur. As a result, IT departments deploying such solutions can enjoy a more resilient resolution process, which maximizes productivity and up-time.

Matthew Carr is Business Development Manager at Savision.

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