As an organization moves through the organization lifecycle, from a small startup to a mature company, its IT infrastructure must increase exponentially, becoming ever-increasingly challenging to ensure that it functions correctly over time. Therefore, it is vital to implement an IT infrastructure monitoring services strategy that is robust and durable.
By way of expanding on this topic, let’s first look at what infrastructure monitoring is and why it is essential before we consider several of the best IT monitoring tools in 2021.
What is infrastructure monitoring?
The 2020 article titled “8 Best Infrastructure Monitoring Tools + Best Practices Guide,” published on dnsstuff.com, describes infrastructure monitoring as diagnosing performance and availability issues across the complete technology stack, so DevOps can take action before problems become critical.
Note: The complete technology stack includes all the components contributing to your IT infrastructure, such as the hardware, Operating System (OS), storage, input/output and network devices, virtual environments, the network, and the software applications. Moreover, extensive infrastructure environments can span multiple locations and comprise both public and private cloud ecosystems.
Therefore, infrastructure covers the interaction between the numerous complicated components as they interact with each other and impact each other to ensure that no significant issues occur without the knowledge of the DevOps, resulting in their speedy resolution. Juxtapositionally, if an IT infrastructure monitoring solution is not implemented, issues and problems will go unnoticed and unattended, resulting in system downtime, which is less than ideal.
At this juncture, it is vital to be aware that IT infrastructure monitoring is conducted in real-time, allowing immediate action when an issue occurs. Automated monitoring forms an integral part of the overarching infrastructure monitoring solution. However, monitoring automation depends entirely on whether the thresholds are correctly programmed. In order to achieve this aim, it is necessary to consider the threshold levels before programming them and monitor them carefully over time to ensure that they remain appropriate.
For instance, to monitor network bandwidth and server utilization, you must set reasonable high and low threshold levels to trigger an automated response when the bandwidth or server utilization is either over or under the threshold levels.
Agent versus agentless monitoring
Tim Keary of comparitech.com describes agentless monitoring as network monitoring where the monitoring tool or application “collects performance metrics from devices without needing to install a software agent on the devices or servers being monitored.”
It utilizes various existing protocols such as SNMP, WMI, SSH, and NetFlow to collect these metrics. In other words, the primary function of an agentless monitoring tool is to collect, analyze, and display these metrics as meaningful information.
Juxtapositionally, agent-based monitoring is where a third-party tool or application installs software on each device monitored to collect and analyze data in detail collected from each device. These tools are usually vendor-specific and are proprietary, making it difficult to scale and migrate to a different platform without data loss.
The importance of IT infrastructure monitoring
Succinctly stated, as highlighted at the beginning of this article, the need to monitor IT infrastructure services is imperative because of the ever-increasing complexity of IT infrastructure. Additionally, IT infrastructure monitoring provides DevOps with real-time awareness of the organization’s IT infrastructure. Not only is this invaluable if it prevents downtime, but it also contributes to the achievements of an organization’s goals and aims.
By continuously collecting and reviewing infrastructure data, your DevOps can prevent potential issues from occurring, improve system efficiencies, and drive organizational value creation over time.
The top tools for IT infrastructure monitoring services in 2021
Succinctly stated, the only way to achieve organizational success is to implement a robust IT infrastructure monitoring strategy to reduce the risk of system downtime and mitigate any potential issues before they occur.
Therefore, let’s consider some of the top tools for monitoring (and managing) IT infrastructure services in 2021 as well as for the future.
1. SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor (SAM)
This tool is widely considered to be the best of breed in every way. It is one of the most comprehensive and advanced IT infrastructure monitoring tools available on the market today. SAM includes features such as custom app monitoring, application dependency mapping, application performance monitoring, and server capacity planning.
The application performance monitoring feature includes the functionality to conduct deep-dive diagnostics and analytics, providing insight into complex issues with point-in-time visibility. When the thresholds are correctly set, SAM will alert on baseline deviations. It can also perform automated application management and monitoring and performance reporting. It provides the option to track physical and virtual server resource utilization and capacity metrics, so that DevOps can forecast needs and manage workloads efficiently.
2. PRTG Network Monitor
The Gartner Peer Insights report titled “IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools Reviews and Ratings” notes that the PRTG Network Monitor is the most affordable on the market today. In summary, it has “incredible monitoring capacity… for a reasonable price.”
The dnsstuff.com article quoted above reports that this tool is an end-to-end network monitoring solution, including features like network monitoring, bandwidth monitoring, virtual machine monitoring, as well as server and application monitoring. It mainly relies on agentless monitoring to achieve its primary goal, but it is also packaged with an agent that you can install on devices you want to monitor.
Lastly, this network monitor is a sensor-based tool; therefore, your DevOps can build a tailored solution, unique to your organization’s requirements.
This IT infrastructure monitoring tool is the only fully open-source tool on this list. Therefore, it is worth mentioning.
As an aside, opinion about the use of open-source software in a commercial setting is mixed. Some experts maintain that commercial open-source applications cannot be successful, while others believe they can be if implemented correctly.
Zabbix has the widest range of use cases, including cloud, on-premises, application, and network monitoring use cases. Additionally, it contains thousands of integrations, including AWS CloudWatch, Active Directory, and AWS. Moreover, it supports multiple metric collection methods, facilitated by multi-platform Zabbix agents, SNMP and IPMI agents, agentless monitoring, and end-user monitoring.
A unique and valuable feature is the smart thresholds capability, which provides access to highly flexible threshold definition options, the ability to set multiple severity levels, as well as the ability to create separate problem and resolution thresholds and conditions.
4. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold is one of the oldest tools available on the market today. It has been used across the globe for more than ten years, and it is a highly efficient network monitoring tool. It covers a wide range of network monitoring functions, including managed file transfer and FTP server and client transactions. Also, it includes the functionality to view up or down availability at a glance, reducing the need to spend large amounts of time analyzing diagnostic data.
WhatsUp Gold functions with both on-premises and cloud-based servers, giving you complete visibility into the status of your entire network devices, applications, and systems.
Among the multiple features this tool has, it has an auto-discovery function that maps out your entire network, reporting connectivity and dependencies. This tool also includes highly customizable reports for every aspect of the network, including network traffic, servers, virtual machines, and applications. Lastly, it incorporates a mobile app, allowing you to keep track of your network while away from your desk.
It is not cost-effective nor time-efficient to implement a manual infrastructure monitoring strategy for any size business, especially a medium to a large network. Therefore, choosing an automated, software-based IT infrastructure monitoring and management tool is imperative for all organizations. The choice lies in what software you select, and it must be based on your organization’s specific requirements.
Finally, the one viable option not discussed in this article is to contract a specialist IT infrastructure management company like Accrets International to manage your end-to-end IT infrastructure on your behalf. This option has merit and value for multiple reasons, the most important is that Accrets International employs skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable IT infrastructure monitoring specialists.