In this enterprise cost containment series, we’ve tackled a range of topics from cloud to professional services and more. Now, I want to dive into the topic you may have expected us to cover from the start: monitoring. After all, at SolarWinds, we create monitoring software. The goal of this post is not to present or sell software, though. It’s our intention to help you have conversations with management and stakeholders—no matter the monitoring you use.
There are two major conversations IT pros are generally part of when it comes to monitoring: testing and vetting monitoring solutions to choose which to purchase and configuring monitoring. I want to address both as it comes to cost containment.
Making the Case for a New Monitoring Solution
When presented with the challenge of testing and vetting a new monitoring solution for purchase, there tend to be a couple of driving factors behind it: consolidation of existing monitoring, more robust monitoring requirements, cost, and sometimes preference. This likely involves a lot of work on the part of the IT pro with a presentation of the data at the end of the vetting phase during which the final decision is made.
Sometimes this process starts off on the wrong foot due to existing time constraints, pressures, or lack of a comprehension of scope from management (they don’t know how much work they’re asking for). These things can lead to negativity throughout the scope of the project on both sides. While we can’t change what someone else does, changing our own behaviors and shifting tone of voice can make a huge impact both on how we deal with the project and our final presentation of the data.
The actual vetting process generally involves all the steps you’ll go through when you set up your monitoring solution—just at a much smaller scale. This means it’s a time sink. Usually you vet more than one at a time, and it’s likely you aren’t getting any help on the project. Management also probably doesn’t understand how much time this will take on top of your existing responsibilities. If you have an existing monitoring solution, the time frame you have to vet, purchase, and configure a new solution is likely the weeks or months remaining with your existing licensing.
When it comes time to present the case for one monitoring solution over another, it’s important to consider and address the reasons you were looking for one in the first place. Considerations might include:
- Cost, duh
- Preventing outages
- Resolving incidents more quickly
- Forensic and real-time analysis
- Automation and integration capabilities
These are all integral to reducing overall costs to the business. Present a comparison for each of the monitoring solutions alongside the licensing, maintenance, and training costs included. Years ago, Leon made a vendor-agnostic monitoring solution comparison tool, which you may find useful during this endeavor.
Cost comparisons are really compelling for management. They may not understand the technical details of how it works, and they likely don’t care. So, don’t get hung up on explaining the level of effort in technical detail. Instead focus your efforts on relating that level of effort to cost where you can and to time where you can’t. They can associate time with cost on their own.
Include any options to automate responses or integrate with existing platforms (like your help desk software) the company isn’t planning to replace. Talk to the vendors ahead of your final presentation as well. They may be able to offer training, initial configuration assistance, or discounts which should be included in the cost comparisons.
The Continual Process of Configuring Monitoring
Now, you may be thinking this is no different than the entire previous section, but you’re wrong. Configuring your monitoring at the start is a big project, but it’s also consistently and constantly ongoing. You may be undergoing the effort to consolidate monitoring under one umbrella from multiple solutions or home-grown applications, or you may have just undergone the previous process of vetting a new solution.
Either way, the initial level of effort will be taxing, but don’t forget the ongoing efforts. As your monitoring solution grows and matures, you’ll continually be tasked with adding additional monitoring of new systems and applications, expanding existing monitoring when new features are released, and accommodating new reporting, alerting, and automation needs as time goes on.
There’s a consistent cost associated with these tasks, but often companies simply look at these costs as “sunk costs” and move on. However, for a robust monitoring solution to succeed as time goes on, there’s a continued level of effort and cost (time, licensing, maintenance, training for new employees, etc.) involved.
On an annual basis, at a minimum, you should re-approach the business regarding your monitoring solution, if they aren’t already expecting annual cost evaluations. Eventually, the decision to look for a new monitoring solution may be made as a result of this effort falling off or due to some specific failing of the software itself. We aren’t here to address the latter, and if it’s time for a new monitoring solution, I refer you to the previous section.
This regular evaluation against current and future monitoring needs as well as continued level of cost versus the potential new costs of a replacement is essential for business leaders to make informed decisions and keep costs efficient. If you can regularly present situations where your monitoring solution is saving the business time and money, the business will thank you for it. It’s important for the business to differentiate between the “sunk cost” involved with the initial setup and the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and improving your solution.
Associating monitoring with time and money saved will always be a compelling argument in favor of continued monitoring. Understand many managers and decision makers are non-technical (at least not at your depth of expertise) and use your non-technical skills to communicate with respect. Don’t get hung up on the nitty-gritty details for how any of it works—they don’t care, and you will lose their attention.