SmartAdvice: Best-Of-Breed Or Integrated Approach To Monitoring Tools? - InformationWeek

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SmartAdvice: Best-Of-Breed Or Integrated Approach To Monitoring Tools?

Your company's size and needs will help determine which approach works best, The Advisory Council says. Also, it's often cheaper to retain good employees with small considerations than to replace them.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from leadership advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]

Question A: I'm interested in network-monitoring tools that cover more than just my routers. How do I wade through the myriad of options?

Our advice: As you will quickly discover, there are literally hundreds of monitoring tools available, ranging from full suites of comprehensive modules which monitor everything (from the repair history of physical equipment to a complete keystroke record of every employee's desktop system), to simple utilities that creative and generous systems administrators share freely with their overburdened colleagues.

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Before investing in any tool, large or small, take the time to understand your goals and objectives. If you have multiple objectives, then it would be wise to further develop an implementation plan. Some of these tools can be quite complex and require a large amount of configuration and customization for each deployment. As part of the planning exercise, make sure that you've spelled out the criteria that are important for your needs.

Once the requirements are clear, the next decision is whether to follow a best-of-breed or integrated package approach. Each approach comes with trade-offs. The best-of-breed strategy works best in complex environments with relatively simple and highly specific requirements, and with staff willing to sacrifice ease of use and integration in exchange for exactly the right tool. Often, smaller companies will follow this path because they typically don't have either the need or the resources to devote to complex monitoring systems. It also can be substantially less costly to implement, if the tool requirements are fairly simple and standard. The disadvantage of using a best-of-breed approach is the lack of integration, growing complexity, and higher overhead costs as more tools are added over time.

An integrated enterprise suite works best for a larger company that has a relatively homogeneous environment, and a need for in-depth and comprehensive monitoring. Often, larger companies with a global presence and a need for a strong, centralized IT infrastructure will turn to integrated suites. They have access to the skilled resources needed for implementation and on-going operations. The larger initial investment in software and implementation costs will be offset by the ability to consolidate operations and substantially reduce IT overhead costs. Many of these suites have sophisticated remote-management capabilities for administration of far-flung branch offices.

Map your requirements before investing in any monitoring tools. The selection process will then become a more manageable exercise in identifying the products and tools that meet specific criteria and business needs.

--Beth Cohen

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