One of the most common questions I get asked when I'm teaching a class is what's the difference between "management" and "monitoring". This is especially true in the systems and application management space as the terms are in many cases used interchangeably even though the difference is broader than in the network management space.

For the most part, consider monitoring, like application monitoring, to be a subset of the greater systems management landscape. So systems monitoring is a part of systems management but there are many parts of systems management that have nothing to do with monitoring. Because each of these areas is so vast, they are commonly considered to be completely separate fields.

When it comes to systems management, there are some great tools out there that we can use as examples. Let's skip all of the ones that are produced by the systems and OS vendors because for the most part they're all pretty good and they're sort of "common sense" in that they offer tools to help do the things that you'd most likely need help doing. Because the OS vendors provide their own sets of tools, tools vendors have to produce tools that are signfiicantly more powerful and easier to use in order to be successful. One such vendor, and these guys produce some of my favorites tools for managing Windowss environments - is Systems Tools. They produce a product called Hyena that helps with things like Active Directory administration, user management, job and task scheduling and disk and file administration are a breeze with this set of tools.  Yes, it's possible to do a lot of what Hyena does with the systems management tools from Microsoft but Hyena just makes it a whole lot easier and can save you a ton of time.

When it comes to systems and application monitoring you first have to realize that the best in class monitoring tools aren't also going to do the management side of things. There may be some small areas of overlap but for the most part the featuesets and they ways that they go about presenting data and solving problems are completely different. In many cases, if you're looking to monitor a single server or a single application you can leverage a free tool like the VM Monitor or the Exchange Monitor we offer here at SolarWinds. Once you grow beyond single server/application monitoring needs and especially if you want to track not only application and server status but performance as well - tracking trends, recording end user aplication experience, and generating alerts when the appliations perform outside of your defined thresholds - then you'll want to move up to a product like Orion Application Performance Monitor (APM).

Hopefully this will help to clear thing up a bit. As always, ping me back if you have comments or if you'd like more information.

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