AI, machine learning, containers, blockchain, quantum computing, automation—as tech pros you’re routinely faced with C-suite or business leadership interest in an overwhelming number of emerging technologies you’re expected to experiment with, master, and adopt. Not to mention, many of these skills are considered critical for career growth and day-to-day job success. But mapping out necessary skills and understanding how best to gain those competencies can be especially challenging.

SolarWinds wants to help!


In December 2018, tech pros around the world shared initial insights into how they’re thinking about and prioritizing their skills development for the year ahead. Six months later, we want to hear from you again. How are you stacking up and how have you progressed in the last few months? Where are you focusing your efforts and resources to gain the skills you need to succeed? What would you change in your environment if you had the know-how?


Using the easy steps below, tell us how you’re feeling about your skills journey and where you’d like to focus your training efforts and SolarWinds will customize its upcoming trainings—THWACKcamp sessions, SolarWinds Lab episodes and more—to help you along the way.


It’s just three easy steps:


  • Click HERE to get started (Hurry! You only have until August 9!)
  • Enter your THWACK® username
  • As a thank you, we’ll deposit 500 THWACK points into your account by August 16


That's it! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

I’ve heard a rumor you’re an IT professional. Okay, maybe it’s less a rumor than a well-established fact. You’re on THWACK, after all.


I’d never considered myself an IT pro until now. Even after a decade in the tech industry, the title didn’t feel like it fit. It wasn’t until a conversation last week with KMSigma about the difficulties of markup languages on our weekly digest email template that I had the epiphany—gosh dang it, I AM one of you nerds!


The timing of the realization ended up being perfect. This coming Friday, I drop the chains of corporate America and leave SolarWinds so I can focus on some personal projects.


Before I go, there are some departing thoughts I want to share with you. They’re lessons learned from ten years of “not” being an IT professional, three of which I was #blessed to spend with you and this incredible THWACK community.


One thing I’ve learned in IT, aside from “more than I ever wanted to know about HIPAA and GDPR,” is that we can consider ourselves kings, but the end user is ultimately the queen. Debates about sexism aside (we all know the queen is in charge), think about this.


In chess, the king is a great piece of wired hardware. It does the job, is pivotal to the whole operation, and nothing is going to work without it. But it’s not moving very far. Sounds like you, right? Me too.


The queen has far greater reach than the king but opens up a whole slew of problems when you start to move her about the board. Invading forces are limited in the ways they can get to the king if the queen is right there by his side. But if the queen decides to take a business trip to, let’s say, a conference in Las Vegas and starts to use the dirty public Wi-Fi… you get the picture.


However, if nobody builds your organization’s products, sells them, and supports the products sold, what’s left to create demand for we, the IT-people?


I’m not dissimilar from you. Instead of my end users being solely an internal team, I have to make sure I support what you need and want. And instead of infrastructure, my chess board is THWACK. It’s while I focus on you as a user that all other KPIs melt away. User engagement goes up. Community sentiment and satisfaction increases. The sales team on the third floor cuts back on Red Bull consumption.


It’s when we don’t focus on the end user that all things go to [redacted by our Content Review team].


When we follow the status quo, resist change, follow the path of least resistance, blindly adhere to that nagging boss (not calling DanielleH out), their nagging boss (not calling TiffanyNels out), and other internal pressure to make decisions contrary to the success of our end users and customers, we lose our grip on success. Our KPIs become the only thing we care about, and somehow, they still manage to collapse.


This is the moment I think about one of the happiest people I’ve ever met, Larry. I affectionately called him “Larr Bear.” Larry was a senior help desk analyst here and could be found roaming the halls at least once a day to mingle, chat, inquire, troubleshoot, and check back with his constituents. Did it take time away from his goals? Yes. But was he happier, and did he effectively change the way our helpdesk team functioned on a fundamental level? Absolutely.


There’s a story I’ve heard from time to time about a woman who took her child to see Mahatma Gandhi.


“Mahatma,” she said, “I don’t know what to do and I’ve come to seek your advice. My son won’t stop eating candy. The sugar turns him into a monster. He’ll cheat, he’ll lie, and he’ll steal to get more candy. It’s ruining our family, it’s ruining our relationships, and it’s ruining our reputation.”


Gandhi looked at the boy for a moment, then turned to the mother. “I see,” he said, pausing again to choose his words. Gandhi continued, “As much as I would like to help, there’s something I need to do first. Take your son home, wait two weeks, then come back to see me.”


The mother wasn’t sure why Gandhi gave her this advice, but she trusted he knew what he was doing. She took her boy home and continued to struggle with the child and his candy addiction. When two weeks has passed, she knew she would have to return to Gandhi and ask for help once again.


Gandhi recognized her immediately, walked over to the boy, got down on one knee, peered directly into his eyes, and said sternly, “Don’t eat sweets.” He then got up and turned to walk away.


“Mahatma,” the mother stammered, “this is a very serious situation, but you sent me home for two weeks just to have us come back so you could tell him to stop eating sweets?”


Gandhi looked back and paused for a moment. “I did. But two weeks ago, I was still eating sweets.”


Before they make me turn in my badge and laptop, and days before I send my final passive aggressive email correcting “THWACK” to be all-caps, let me leave you with this.


Be the change you want to have in your organization, set the tone for the morale you want to have around you, and don’t forget the reason we’re all here—our users. Everything else will fall into place.


Signed lovingly,


Ben Garves

*Former* Senior Product Manager, THWACK


For those looking to stay in touch, I will be turning my efforts to freelance web development ( and to my fitness startup, WODDITY ( May the fourth always be with you. Even on the 23rd of July.

Two weeks ago, it was my pleasure to take part in another SolarWinds User Group—this one in New York. For two days, we spoke about ways to get the most out of your monitoring infrastructure. We covered everything from the basics of network and systems management, to tuning your alerts so they stop keeping you up at night. Like each SWUG this year, we’ve been modifying the format as requests have come in. I spoke about the “evolution” previously, and this event was no exception.

Day 1

One thing that didn’t change was me kicking off the day speaking about how you’re more than your job titles and how supporting end users is for more than your helpdesk. More than half of the room had previously worked front-line on a helpdesk (answering the phones or working directly with customers).  I count myself among them. The helpdesk can be so much more than a mere stepping-stone in a career path; it’s also an excellent resource for enabling technicians to better themselves. The helpdesk both understands the caller’s pain and wants to work quickly toward resolution.


Then we played with the format a little bit and had Brandon Shopp give back-to-back overviews of how we’ve made advances in helping you monitor both network management and security operations. It’s been a busy year and there were so many topics to cover, we couldn’t go into advanced detail on them all.



Next up we pulled back the curtain a little bit, and showed you the SolarWinds approach to the SDLC.  Customer feedback is such an important part of the SolarWinds Development Life Cycle (SWDLC anyone?) and we wanted to take this opportunity for people to understand its relevance. Tulsi Patel and Serena Chou told everyone why customer involvement is so critical to the way we build software at SolarWinds, we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to ask the questions important to them. So, after a lunch break, we changed how we handled our breakout sessions. (I did say we’re constantly evolving the way we organize SWUG events, right?)


SolarWinds Development Life Cycle


This time in our breakout sessions, we offered deep dives based around the products SolarWinds offers. On this first day we spoke about network management in one room and security operations in a separate room. This way, we could have everyone share their stories and dig deep into the technologies and products as needed. It was a choose-your-own-adventure format, and it was great to get the interactions from the attendees in each room. Those are two of the sessions, and we had a special guest for the third.


What Do You Think of this Widget?


That session, affectionately called “What Do You Think of This Widget?”—a session based around customizing your Orion® Platform dashboards to show exactly what you need—was hosted by none other than THWACK® MVP Matt Reingold. It provided a quick dive into customizing and extending your dashboards to show exactly what’s important to you. He spoke at length on how to get started with the API and gave examples of getting your feet wet. Basically, if you joined his session, you could go from zero to SWQL in a matter of minutes. After the session, I even saw him helping someone trying to get a new resource created between sessions. That’s what SWUG is about—sharing knowledge.


Thankfully, because of the way we structured sessions, attendees didn’t have to choose one or the other. We ran each session twice so attendees could participate in multiple. This allowed people to get in front of product managers, technical experts, or THWACK MVPs to ask their questions.




For this event, it was our pleasure to bring not just Matt, but two other THWACK MVPs to the podium. Closing day one, Marc Netterfield talked about how he sets up his Orion Platform deployments for as much automation as possible. His theory is if you’ve had to do it once, you’ll probably be asked to do it again. Custom properties are the (not-so-)hidden secret sauce of the Orion Platform. He showed how he uses those same custom properties to bend the alerting engine to his whim by doing his work for him. Continuing that trend, he talked about how he used those same custom properties to automatically create groups, dashboards, and alerts using a handful of scripts, which he was kind enough to share.  With these examples, he was able to show how to turn all your "one-off" requests into something that can be identified, then building processes around those, which will ultimately save you a great deal of time and hassles as an Orion admin.


Then it was time to close day one with some social time and get ready for day two. For me, this was an opportunity to have dinner with some family who came up for the event.

Day 2

Day two kicked off with Head Geek Leon Adato talking about talking. Or more accurately, learning yet another language to add to your arsenal. This language has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to learn, and I’m still not proficient. Frequently, I find myself making syntax errors or using the wrong units, but ultimately, every IT person should learn how to speak a little bit of “business.”


Then we threw it back to Brandon who spoke about the strides we’ve been making around systems and application management. Like day one, he provided overviews of the products, specifically outlining the differentiation between systems monitoring and application monitoring. The line between infrastructure monitoring and application performance monitoring is tenuous, but both are critical to understanding how your end users and systems interact.


Following up on the application monitoring topic, we had our final customer presentation of the event. THWACK MVP Ben Keen spoke about his personal journey with SolarWinds at American Eagle (Outfitters, not the airline) and how the company has benefited from a dedicated monitoring engineer. He mentioned how he inherited the monitoring infrastructure, took control of it, and covered some of the challenges he overcame given the scope of his deployment. He spoke about his last few upgrades and how he was planning on expanding it beyond the current deployment.

After another lunch break (yes, we feed you if you attend a SWUG), it was time for the day two breakout sessions. In the first room, we hosted a SolarWinds AM(a)A [Ask Me (almost) Anything]. This was a chance for the room to ask any questions whatsoever. It could be about how SolarWinds chooses new features (asked), what our recommendations are for scaling up (asked), and if we’re dog or cat people (not asked but answered all the same). This is a very similar format to what we’re doing in preparation for THWACKcamp. We’re hosting AM(a)A sessions every few weeks leading up to the global, virtual October 16 – 17 event.  Just sign up and you’ll get the invitations to those sessions.



In another room, Serena Chou spoke about how systems monitoring is more than just monitoring the individual layers of the application stack. Understanding how various systems are interconnected is sometimes more important than knowing everything about a specific layer. Pretending that systems aren’t interconnected is an exercise in futility.  In addition to systems monitoring, she also has a passion for bouldering.  We had a more accurate picture, but I couldn't help but using this one.



In the third room, Head Geek Patrick Hubbard made his case on how important application management is when it comes to cloud-native applications. They behave very similarly to the other applications you utilize. You just need to pivot your thinking a little bit on how you monitor them. I’d say it’s a strange new world, but that would be a lie. It’s the same world; it just needs to be viewed from a different angle.



To close out the SWUG, I once again came to the stage and spoke about alerts. I’ve talked about them before, I’ll talk about them again, and I’ll continue to talk about them until they stop being a problem for monitoring professionals. There’s so much that could and has been said about alerts, we could fill a book. I gave some of my personal recommendations and a few details on the best ways to implement them.



And that was it. Another SWUG in the books. For some of us, it was time to travel back to the office for Friday. For others (like me), it was staying on and exploring NYC a little more. For everyone, it was a great time, and we can’t wait to do it again.  We even got Danielle Gaitan to participate in some fun pictures even though she's normally behind the scenes.



If you haven’t had the chance to visit us before, you still have a chance. Right on the heels of THWACKcamp, we’ll be in Chicago, Illinois: October 23-24, 2019 for the final SWUG of 2019!  We’ll be bringing in more SolarWinds staff, more guest speakers, and more content that you—our community—demand.


Mark your calendars now and we look forward to seeing all of you again.


User Experience Survey

Posted by yumdarling Administrator Jul 22, 2019

Attention all AWESOME users (aka everyone seeing this post)! The SolarWinds UX team wants to learn more about YOU, and we have a survey for you to participate in. You'll get 1000 THWACK points for your participation after the survey closes. Don't worry, we saved the best question for the end -- you'll have to take the survey to find out what it is!


Click here to take the survey!

Say IT loud, say IT proud. We know SysAdmin Day is technically only one day, but what better way to show some love to the unsung heroes of every organization—the sysadmin, the computer guy or gal, the IT pro—than to remind you for a whole week how awesome you are!


So come feel the love, answer a daily question, and be entered for a chance to win some prizes, because where would we be without you? Probably crying over some blue screen somewhere not knowing what to do.


Start the mission!


Use the mission’s resources to complete the tasks and answer the questions for a chance to win!

Correctly answer each question during the week and you'll be entered for a chance to win the weekly prize.

Correctly answer all 5 questions over the course of the month and you'll be entered for a chance to win the grand prize.

150 points are being awarded for each correctly answered question. There are 5 questions, which means you can earn a maximum of 750 points for this mission.

Want to join the mission, but not a member? Sign up FREE now!


Grand Prize:
July 29th, 2019: Bose Soundlink Portable Bluetooth Speaker



A new question will open every day (Monday - Friday) starting on July 22nd, 2019. Once a question has opened, it will remain open until July 28th, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. CT. Check the schedule below for exact open/close times.


Complete the mission shortcut between July 22nd, 2019 and July 28th, 2019 to earn an additional 1,000 THWACK® points & enter to win a Bose Soundlink Portable Bluetooth Speaker

If you think you’re fast at spotting configuration changes, take the challenge! See how fast you can identify what’s changed by playing our quick two-round game. With SolarWinds® Server Configuration Monitor (SCM), you may be able to beat your time. In order to qualify for the mission shortcut prize you must:


1. Download a free trial of Server Configuration Monitor.

2. Play the SCM Diff Challenge and take screenshots of both rounds with the time (your score)

3. Upload your screenshot for a chance to win!


Complete questions 1-5 by July 28th 2019 to be entered to win the grand prize: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

Mini Mission Terms and Conditions: US, UK, and Canada | Germany | Australia

Mini Mission Shortcut Terms and Conditions: US, UK, and Canada | Germany | Australia

The SolarWinds team would like to get your input on vulnerability management within your organization. In return for taking this 5-minute survey, the first 50 respondents will receive a $50 Amazon gift card. All respondents will receive 1000 Thwack points


Thanks in advance.


Remember what used to keep you up at night but now seems trivial? We promise, no one else noticed your acne back in high school or that time you busted a move on the dance floor. We’re all shaped by life’s countless awkward, funny, difficult, proud, or painful moments and experiences. So, what if you could go back in time and give the past version of yourself some advice?


To celebrate SysAdmin Day this year, we want you to tell us about the start of your SysAdmin career and what advice you would give your past self. What do you wish you knew about your job when you first started? Maybe it’s your most frustrating moment, or your funniest *SysAdmin fail*. Would you have done anything differently if you knew then what you know now? Whatever it is—whatever makes you who you are today—we want to know.


Although it’s impossible to travel through time (yet), reflecting on the past is often the best way to avoid repeating mistakes, grow from our experience, and help others. So, we’d also love to know: what advice would you give future SysAdmins and tech pros after reflecting on your own career?


Tell us by Tuesday, July 16, and we’ll drop 250 THWACK® points into your account.

Last year’s IT Trends Report found in enterprise organizations, the #1 barrier to achieving optimal performance in IT is an inadequate organizational structure. For companies of all sizes, this is the #2 barrier. As a result, we’d like to help IT pros design the best organization for success.


We are looking for some IT pros in larger organizations to share their advice on how to design an organization for IT monitoring success. Some questions we'll ask:

  • How are you currently organized to monitor your environment across your company?
  • What are the pros and cons to your organizational design?
  • If you had a magic wand and could design from scratch, what would you do differently?

If you have thoughts on this topic and 30-45 minutes to talk in the next 3-4 weeks, please send an email with your availability –


Thanks for your participation!

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