As we move forward from the uncertainty of 2020, remote and hybrid styles of work are likely to remain beyond the pandemic. Amid the rise of modified workflows, we’ve also seen an increase in phishing scams, ransomware attacks, and simple user errors that result in the IT infrastructures we rely on crashing – sometimes with devastating long-term repercussions for the business. What’s needed to prevent this is a reliable monitoring system that is constantly scanning your system – whether you’re operating from a data center, a public cloud, or some combination – to alert you when something is amiss. Often these monitoring tools run so smoothly in the background of operations that we forget they’re even there – which can be a big problem.

When is the last time you assessed your monitoring platform? You may have already noticed signs indicating that your tools are not keeping up with the rapidly changing digital workforce – gathering nonessential data while failing to forewarn you about legitimate issues to your network operations. Post-2020, these systems have to handle workforces that are staying connected digitally regardless of where employees are working. Your monitoring tools should be hyper-focused on alerting you to issues from outside your network and any weakness from within it. Often, we turn out to be monitoring for too much and still missing the essential problems until it’s too late.

  1. Outages

One of the most damaging and costly setbacks a business can experience is network downtime when your network suddenly and without warning ceases to work. Applications are no longer functioning, files are inaccessible, and your business cannot perform its daily functions. Responding to network downtime isn’t a simple matter of rebooting your computer, either. Gartner estimates that for every minute of network downtime, the company in question loses an average of $5,600. On the higher end of this spectrum, a business could lose $540,000 per hour. Those figures are based on lost productivity. Getting your system up and running again, catching up on lost time, and, one would think, reevaluating and implementing a new monitoring system all incur additional costs.

In the case of one luxury hotel chain, an updated monitoring system accurately detected why they were experiencing outages – a change in network configuration. By utilizing a newly updated monitoring configuration, the chain quickly reverted the network change and restored service for their customers, saving hours of troubleshooting and costly downtime.

Systems should be proactive, not reactive. The time to reassess your monitoring infrastructure isn’t after it fails to warn you that something goes wrong. Your network monitoring system should be automatically measuring performance and sharing status updates, so you can fix a problem before it happens. If your system is working at its proper capacity, it will be routinely preventing unexpected outages by using performance thresholds to evaluate functionality in real time, and alert you when targeted metrics have reached a threshold that requires attention. With a robust monitoring system in place, your team should have complete network visibility and can respond to changes and prevent outages before they happen.

  1. Alert Fatigue

Alert fatigue is something we can all relate to following a year of working from home: email notifications, instant messages, texts, phone calls, and calendar reminders for your next video meeting. After so many of these day after day, we become desensitized to them; the more alerts we receive, the less urgent any of them seem. From a cybersecurity standpoint, some of the notifications may be for anomalies linked to a potential cyberattack, but more often will be a junk email. If a genuinely urgent message does come through, it often slips through the cracks because it seems no different from any other notification we receive.

So how can your IT infrastructure help prevent this? Intelligent monitoring systems, in general, aim to make the lives of the people using them easier. Your monitoring system should reduce the number of redundant alerts to recognize and prioritize actual issues. A tiered-alert priority system will have notifications display on your dashboard with a visual or auditory cue signifying how important it is. Can this wait until the afternoon, or does it need to be addressed immediately? Detecting a cyberattack early, for example, can make a huge difference in mitigating damage.

  1. Excess Tools

One of the root causes of any monitoring flaw can be excessive monitoring tools themselves – over-monitoring. If you have multiple tools to track your network, you’re likely getting notifications and warnings from each; contributing to alert fatigue, opening yourself up to a potential failure, resulting in a network outage and business interruption. Having multiple tools performing the same function is a waste of resources as they render each other redundant. The key is to consolidate the necessary functions in one monitoring system, regularly assessed for vulnerabilities and customized for your particular business needs.

Your business members will indeed want to track an abundance of metrics – server functionality, security, business metrics, and so on – and it may be that not all of these things can be monitored by the same tool. You should first decide which things are essential for your team to be actively monitoring and assessing. Security should be a top priority, but are there other data points that can be pulled in a quarterly or annual report instead? Your IT monitoring should be focused on tracking and alerting you to essential information and irregularities. You can avoid overextending the team and receiving alerts that will only be ignored by first doing your own assessment of what you need from your system.

Assessing Your Approach for Future Growth

We can’t operate at our full potential without the control and visibility that monitoring tools give us. However, simply having these tools is not enough. When outdated or used for superfluous reasons, they can contribute to holding us back rather than propelling us forward. Outdated or misused resources are the main reason why – especially if you’re unsure about where your weaknesses are – the best practice would be to have IT experts provide a professional assessment for you. Through targeted questions, monitoring maturity assessments will evaluate your current approach and measure how it supports your everyday business operation, including a definitive calculated score and comprehensive report with actionable findings.

Particularly in a constantly evolving field, with new risk factors emerging all the time, it’s crucial to make sure that you are regularly assessing your monitoring devices, just as they assess your entire network.

This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.