Proactive IT management: A practical case study

Being proactive with your IT management saves your customers time and money, and allows them to transform their IT infrastructures from a headache to an asset—read our recent blog for more insight.

To find out how SolarWinds MSP can help with the transition from reactive to proactive IT management, we spoke to UK-based IT service provider System Professional.

“We have been providing remote network and server monitoring to clients since 2008,” says Paul Thomas, Head of Infrastructure Monitoring. “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, the company created a dedicated monitoring team in October 2016.

A total focus on monitoring

“As a team, we focus 100% on monitoring alerts and resolving issues for our contracted clients,” explains Thomas. “This is part of a wider System Professional ethos to continually improve the service levels we provide to our customers.”

The dedicated team monitors more than 1,000 servers—a mix of Windows/Linux and virtual machines. In addition, more than 2,000 client workstations utilise the company’s managed antivirus (AV) service. “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,” says Paul.

To help them run the proactive management of their clients’ infrastructures, System Professional installs the SolarWinds MSP advanced monitoring agent onto the client server(s) to initiate the service.

“Once this is operational, 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,” explains Paul.

The team runs regular, scheduled tasks on a daily basis—these typically involve monitoring disk space alerts and ensuring workstation AV definitions are up to date.

“We provide a tailored service to our customers, so there are pre-agreed thresholds with each individual customer regarding available disk space,” explains 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, some 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.

Providing a comprehensive service

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 highlights some of the more specialized 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 the SolarWinds MSP dashboard. It monitors and checks all client SQL databases to ensure they’ve been backed up within the past 24 hours.

c) System Professional cloud hosting platform—The monitoring team also runs a monitoring check of all customer backup and replica copy jobs. This produces a report that integrates with the additional hosting reporting tools utilized by the company’s dedicated cloud team.

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 highlights how key security concerns (for both the company and its contracted customers) are addressed, because “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 changes.

Paul communicates with his customers on a regular basis, and 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,” he concludes.

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