As an IT Managed Services Provider (MSP), System Professional has been providing remote network and server monitoring to clients since 2008. The infrastructure monitoring role and responsibilities were historically split across members of the service desk / support function and all alerts were handled by multiple team members.
Due to an increase in contracted MSP clients, a greater demand for IP device / server monitoring and a desire to provide an enhanced service to customers, Terry Rumsey, System Professional’s Client Services Director, created a dedicated monitoring team in October 2016.
The new team is led by Paul Thomas, Head of Infrastructure Monitoring, along with fellow members of the support and service desk team. Paul explained that “As a team, we have a dedicated, 100% focus on monitoring alerts and resolving issues for our contracted clients. This is part of a wider System Professional ethos to continually improve the service levels we provide to our customers.”
The dedicated team now monitor in excess of 1,000 servers – a mix of Windows / Linux, and mostly virtual machines. In addition, more than 2,000 client workstations utilise the System Professional managed Antivirus (AV) service. Paul added how “The service is not just for client servers and workstations – we can also monitor SANs, switches, firewalls, NAS devices, ESX hosts and load balancers – and provide a comprehensive alerting and remediation capability.”
System Professional install the SolarWinds MSP (formerly LOGICnow) advanced monitoring agent onto the client server(s) to initiate the service.
Once this is operational, Paul explained how “The dashboard alerts the monitoring team and tells us immediately if a server has gone down, if it is using excessive resources, running out of space or if key services aren’t running.”
Paul explained that there are regular, scheduled tasks the team address on a daily basis. This would typically involve monitoring disk space alerts and ensuring workstation AV definitions are up to date.
“As System Professional provide a tailored service to customers, there are pre-agreed thresholds with each individual customer regarding available disk space,” added Paul. “If there is a reduction in the agreed limit, this is flagged on our dashboard, along with an email alert to the monitoring team. We then log a support case, investigate and address the issue. Once resolved, the case is closed on our system.
As each customer is different, certain customers request a change control process around disk space allocation while others simply request the monitoring team to resolve the issue as a matter of priority.
The SolarWinds MSP monitoring dashboard allows the System Professional team to provide a comprehensive service, with granular insights and reporting around the health and well-being of a customer’s IT estate.
Paul highlighted some of the more specialist services and analysis the monitoring team provides;
a) Vulnerability Checks – “Every monitored server undergoes a “Vulnerability Check”, which tells the team about any patches that are missing. We can then install them through our dashboard to contracted patch management customers.”
b) SQL PowerShell scripts – Paul has developed a custom SQL PowerShell script to integrate within System Professional’s SolarWinds MSP dashboard. It monitors and checks all client SQL databases to ensure they’ve been backed up within past 24 hours.
c) System Professional cloud hosting platform – The monitoring team also run a monitoring check of all customer backup and replica copy jobs. This produces a report that integrates with the additional hosting reporting tools utilised by our dedicated cloud team.
As a cloud hosting provider, granular reporting on an individual client’s cloud usage, consumption and performance is key. System Professional provide detailed customer analysis for all contracted Backup as a Service (BaaS), DR as a Service (DRaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clients.
The ability to have remote control of a customer environment, along with TeamViewer remote support integration, is a key element in providing a swift and timely response to a customer issue.
Paul also highlighted how key security concerns (for both System Professional and contracted customers) are addressed, since “access to the SolarWinds MSP monitoring dashboard is protected with Two Factor Authentication (2FA). This means only designated System Professional monitoring team members can access the dashboard and initiate change.”
Since he communicates with System Professional’s monitoring customers on a regular basis, Paul has found some consistent benefits that clients feel they achieve with the service. “At a high level, IT Directors and Managers like the peace of mind that our service delivers. Knowing that a trusted IT partner is monitoring the health of their IT environment gives them one less thing to worry about and allows them to focus on delivering new initiatives, projects and value to their business.”
Paul added how “Clients can also have access to the dashboard to monitor their own servers, take control and carry out their own custom reporting. I’ve been really pleased with some recent client feedback that has highlighted our speedy response, proactive remediation work and granular reporting.”
Terry Rumsey, Client Services Director, concluded by observing that “I’ve been delighted with the work Paul has undertaken with the infrastructure monitoring team. The monitoring service is a key component in our managed support and cloud hosting capability and underpins the health and well-being of our customer’s IT environments. As part of our ethos of continual service improvement at System Professional, we will be adding new devices and enhancements to our monitoring portfolio in the future.”