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DevOps and Security Glossary Terms

Infrastructure Monitoring

What is IT Infrastructure Monitoring?

Businesses and organizations that depend on Information Technology to deliver their products and services must build and maintain an IT infrastructure. IT infrastructure includes all of the assets that are necessary to deliver and support IT services: data centers, servers, networks, computer hardware and software, storage, and other equipment. While the IT infrastructure includes both physical assets and virtual assets (software, virtual machines, virtual servers, etc.), IT policies and processes along with human resources are not considered part of the IT infrastructure.

IT infrastructure monitoring is a business process that is owned and operated by the IT organization. Its purpose is to collect and analyze data from the IT infrastructure and to leverage that data to improve business results and drive value creation for the organization.

IT organizations implement specialized software tools that aggregate data in the form of event logs from throughout the organization's IT infrastructure. Event logs are automatically computer-generated by applications or devices on the network in response to network traffic or user activity. These log files contain information such as the time and date that the event occurred, the user that was logged into the machine, the name of the computer, a unique identifier, the source of the event, and a description of the event type. Some log files may contain additional information depending on the application where they originated.

IT infrastructure monitoring software tools capture log files from throughout the network and aggregate them into a single database where they can be sorted, queried and analyzed by either humans or machine algorithms. Using this type of infrastructure monitoring, IT organizations can detect operational issues, identify possible security breaches or malicious attacks and identify new areas of business opportunity.

IT Infrastructure Monitoring: What Should You Monitor?

Any endpoint or application connected to your organization's network is a potential attack vector for a malicious actor who wishes to gain access to your organization's sensitive or proprietary data. Even hardware devices should be monitored for their health status on an ongoing basis, especially when a hardware failure could result in unplanned downtime or lost revenue.

Hardware monitoring tools capture data from the sensors that can be found in computers and other machines. These can include battery life data, power and load sensors, current and voltage sensors, fan speed sensors and user-defined artificial sensors that collect data on the operating system. Monitoring fan sensors, for example, can help you identify a malfunctioning fan before its failure causes a server or computer to overheat.

Network monitoring helps to verify that your organization's internal network is functioning appropriately and delivering the expected levels of speed and performance. With IT infrastructure monitoring tools, you can track the transfer rates and connectivity levels that users are experiencing on the network, as well as monitoring incoming and outgoing connections. Network monitoring can help your IT organization respond proactively when an unauthorized user attempts to access your network.

Application monitoring is a critical aspect of IT infrastructure monitoring. Software applications deployed on your servers may be used by members of your IT organization or by customers of the business. In either case, applications represent a potential attack vector for a malicious actor and a powerful source of operational and business intelligence. With today's IT infrastructure monitoring tools, organizations can track user behavior on applications to obtain operational insights and identify business opportunities.

Best Practices for Enterprise IT Infrastructure Monitoring

IT infrastructure monitoring creates opportunities to proactively identify security risks and mitigate operational issues before they negatively impact customers. Here are five best practices you can follow to help you achieve and maximize the benefits associated with IT infrastructure monitoring:

  1. Choose a Reliable Vendor Partner - Businesses with mature IT organizations face a difficult choice when it comes to IT infrastructure monitoring: 'Do we purchase a tool from a vendor, or develop our own?" A reliable vendor partner can offer one-on-one assistance and consultation, helping you configure and get the most value from your IT infrastructure monitoring solution. Their expertise and knowledge are more than worth the investment.
  2. Organize and Prioritize Notifications - Your IT infrastructure generates huge amounts of data each day in the form of event logs. You will need to configure your software to deliver notifications about specific types of events. You should determine which types of notifications get the highest priority, as these will represent the events that require urgent action. Your team should be immediately alerted to major incidents like server outages and possible security breaches, while incidents of lesser urgency should receive lower priority treatment.
  3. Configure a Comprehensive Alert System - When configuring alerts, aim for high specificity and high coverage. The more alerts you can create, the more likely you are that an important event will quickly be brought to your attention. You may want to list out "high priority events" and configure a specific alert that matches each one. Configuring alerts with very specific parameters reduces the number of false positives generated by the alerting system.
  4. Review Baseline Metrics and KPIs Regularly - The metrics and KPIs used to configure your alerting system may not remain stable over time. It is important to periodically review how these alerts are configured to determine whether any changes are necessary.
  5. Get the Right Dashboards to the Right People - IT infrastructure monitoring software tools can be configured to present processed data in a dashboard. A dashboard is simply a way of visualizing information. Dashboards can be configured to provide operational data, give business insights or to highlight anomalous events that could represent security threats. To leverage this data effectively, you should customize dashboards for each role - a security dashboard for IT security analysts, operational dashboards for IT Ops and a financial or business metrics dashboard for sales managers or your CFO.

Sumo Logic Delivers Real-Time IT Infrastructure Monitoring Capabilities

Since the proliferation of big data, organizations have realized that shortening the data cycle and increasing the velocity of data between creation and usage offers a distinct competitive advantage. In the past, IT organizations might take days or weeks to analyze batches of operational data.

Today, using Sumo Logic, organizations can achieve IT infrastructure monitoring and troubleshooting in real-time. With data moving from event logs, through Sumo Logic's data aggregator, and into dashboards at record speeds, IT organizations can make smarter business decisions, act on security threats instantly and reduce unplanned application downtime.

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