Business internet

Marvellous Monitoring Mashup

I just love this business. There is so much exciting stuff happening all the time.

Today I walked past one of our engineers’ desk and caught a glimpse of a Google Earth screenshot and being nosey I stopped to look. He wasn’t planning his holidays. He was editing a customer’s network monitoring package to embed it in Google Earth.

In short the customer will as his network monitoring screen see a map showing all his office locations in Google Earth. Each location will allow you to drill down and display the data being presented by his network monitoring service. This is likely to be everyday stuff such as bandwidth usage across a broadband connection or leased line but it could provide the Network Manager with immediate warnings when a problem is about to happen.

For example if a site connection fails a pop up could immediately appear on the screen as well as the usual email/sms alert.

In a Network Operations environment where large screens are the order of the day one might envisage a touch screen where staff can drill into the detail of a problem simply by standing in front of the Google Earth map and pointing. 

monitoring embedded into Google Earth

The possibilities here are mind blowing. You could store the location data of support engineers for an at a glance decision as to who to send to fix a problem. You could provide near to real time weather (3 minutes is I think the current delay for cloud and rain radar data) information that might be relevant if the engineer is going to an outside installation.

You might store the location information for the nearest restaurant or hotel in case the engineer needs an overnight stay, perhaps even link to a reservation system (table for 1, 7.30pm medium rare steak and chips please).

My thanks to David Ward who deserves a specific mention here for this work. One might say “doesn’t this tie you in to Google”. I say hey – if this is what you can do with it so what.

Engineer internet security

Network Monitoring Network Monitoring

So good they named it twice. Actually I was trying to think of a sexy title for network monitoring but I couldn’t. Network monitoring is the unsung hero of a communications business. A network has to have monitoring in place to allow staff to keep an eye its health but it isn’t what might be called an exciting product.

You would of course expect an ISP to monitor its network. Perhaps less expected would be for a normal business to do this. However as a business grows, so does its network and the truth is that the network is increasingly likely to become mission critical.

Monitoring individual nodes on a public network has been standard practice for a long time. However when it comes to a private network then traditionally this has been done from a device (monitoring server) within the network. This is fine but if that network is purely private with no external access then it can be difficult for a network operator to provide support. 

A neat solution is via virtual server which is what Timico does for private networks requiring ongoing monitoring. A virtual server sits logically inside a customer’s private network but is accessible via secure command line from the Network Operation Centre.

This a hugely more cost effective solution than providing a standalone network monitoring server for each private network. It is also easier to provide resilience to the service by providing two separate virtual machines on two geographically separated bits of hardware.

And what gets monitored?  The list is endless but here are a few ideas

  • Bandwidth usage on a link – have you provided enough connectivity to a location
  • Router temperature – anticipate a failure
  • UPS battery voltage – does it need replacing?
  • Ping response times – is there a quality issue in the network?
  • server hard drive usage – forecast capacity requirements
  • remote router up or down? minimise downtime with speedy replacement.

There isn’t one single ideal solution for network monitoring. Best practice involves amalgamating a number of tools and providing suitable alert mechanisms. 

What is done with the alert also needs to be considered in the light of the needs of an individual business. Some might get away with a next day fix and others might need a speedier solution particularly where health and safety is concerned or when downtime means loss of revenue.

If you need advice on network monitoring drop me a line at Timico.