Opinion Piece: Proactive monitoring is essential for the modern database environment

Gerrit-Jan Albers explains the importance of proactive monitoring of database environments is essential for businesses

August 19, 2011

By Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting

In the modern enterprise, information is king and the database is the heart of the organisation. All of the essential information about the organisation and its customers is stored in this mission critical hub, which in turns supports important business applications, and without the database the business grinds to a halt.

Many issues have the ability to affect the performance of the database, and these points of failure represent a serious threat to the business continuity and viability of an enterprise. If downtime of the database is experienced for any reason, organisations face the reality of losing customers because they are unable to provide services, which means lost income and unacceptable levels of risk for the business.

More often than not, however, these potentially damaging incidents can be prevented through proactive monitoring of the database and other aspects of the IT environment, alerting organisations to issues before they can escalate into real problems. This results in a more stable infrastructure, in turn providing a more stable business service, both to the organisation itself and the end customer.

A proactive monitoring service offers a solution to enable businesses to address many points of failure in the database and extended IT environment before they become real problems. Alerts are sent out once thresholds are reached for certain issues, allowing these to be addressed before they can escalate and cause downtime or impact performance of the database. And while not all problems can be predicted, such as power failures, a proactive monitoring service will alert organisations to these in short order, allowing them to be dealt with quickly. This type of service allows organisations to not only monitor and alert on problems, it also enables a history of all past issues to be recorded, so problems can be accurately investigated to prevent reoccurrence.

A reactive approach to the database is not only inefficient, it also means that issues have already caused downtime and loss of service before they are dealt with. As an example, if disk space runs out, data can become corrupted and the database will experience performance issues and may even shut down, preventing access and resulting in lost productivity. Allowing this to happen means it is already too late, and fixing the problem becomes more complex and costly as a result. However if the organisation is alerted when disk space reaches a specified threshold, the issue can be remedied before space runs out, preventing the host of problems that may have occurred when dealing with this reactively.

Another issue that can become a critical problem is failing power supplies, which can result in fluctuating voltage, leading again to corrupt data and damaged hardware, as well as shut downs should the power supply fail completely. Proactive monitoring will alert the relevant people when these power supplies begin to fail to ensure that they can be replaced before causing damage. Lost data, power failures, glitches in production servers and failure to roll over to secondary environments all have the power to bring the data centre environment to its knees, and all of these problems can be remedied using a proactive monitoring service.

Proactive monitoring solutions can be run as a remote service using an outsourced provider to pick up alerts and inform the organisation of any impending problems. The service can also be run onsite, but in this instance should also be monitored offsite to ensure that all problems are picked up in a timely fashion and that issues and alerts are not overlooked.

At the end of the day, the business case for proactive monitoring comes down to the most critical business issue – money. Without the database and broader IT environment a business simply cannot run, which means loss of income, loss of productivity and higher costs to fix problems. Using a proactive monitoring solution can negate these issues, and in the long run if downtime can be minimised, the cost of monitoring is offset with higher uptime rates, and the service ultimately pays for itself.

The question businesses need to be asking themselves is not can they afford this service, but rather can they afford to be without it?

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