Infrastructure Monitoring Explained

Monitoring your IT infrastructure is a critical part of ensuring both internal and external performance. 

Just as your business continues day-in and day-out, your services need to be provided in the same fashion. If something goes wrong, you need to know about it and fix it as quickly as possible. The best practice is to have a fix already in place before there is any external indication that something is wrong. That’s where monitoring comes in.  

In this blog post, we cover:
Infrastructure Monitoring: Defined
Types of Infrastructure Monitoring
Benefits of Infrastructure Monitoring
Infrastructure Monitoring Tools 

Infrastructure Monitoring: Defined 

Infrastructure monitoring, or IT monitoring, is the process of remotely checking and managing technology or services to ensure they are online and functioning at all times. When something causes the technology to go offline, you need to know what caused the problem so you can fix it and bring it back online. 

Every company has technology that is critical to run their business, and therefore needs to be monitored. Servers, networks, and physical equipment are the most common examples. As a company, you can monitor anything from a website being online to the status of a hard drive in a server. There are different levels of infrastructure monitoring, so it’s important to choose the type of monitoring that works best for your company. 

Types of Infrastructure Monitoring  

Below are the three most important types of infrastructure monitoring that you should be aware of: 

White Box Monitoring 

White Box Monitoring looks at items such as your applications, number of requests to a webserver or database server, and the internals of your system (like disks, memory, CPUs and system loads). Application Developers are usually responsible for overseeing this kind of monitoring. White Box Monitoring can include: 

  • Tracking the number of users on an app and creating an alert when this goes above a predetermined threshold. 
  • Identifying unusual user behavior such as skipping steps when signing in or resetting a password. 
  • Monitoring MySQL queries on a server. 
  • Tracking the number of http requests received by a server. 

Black Box Monitoring 

Black Box Monitoring looks at the way a customer or client sees your application or website – in other words, the externally visible resources. This kind of infrastructure monitoring is thus essential for DevOps and Site Reliability Engineers as it ensures availability and efficiency. Black box monitoring can include: 

  • Ensuring the status of an application is live. 
  • Monitoring load balancers. 
  • Tracking the resource usage of hypervisors such as with VMware, KVM, Xen, etc. 
  • Creating alerts when a hard disk needs to be replaced soon. 

Application Performance Monitoring 

Application Performance Monitoring is used to view the performance between different components of your application, architecture, and infrastructure. It ensures that applications achieve the performance and reliability required by customers. With this specialized way of monitoring, companies can build infrastructure monitoring directly into their application. This can include: 

  • Client CPU utilization. 
  • The memory and bandwidth consumption of clients.  
  • If a user has difficulties accessing the application or if the application responds poorly.  
  • Business transactions: understanding user interactions. 
  • Component monitoring: a deep dive into the servers, operating systems, middleware, application components and network components.  

Benefits of Infrastructure Monitoring 

It’s important to realize that each of the types of infrastructure monitoring mentioned above works together to identify problems. For example, a Black Box Monitoring alert can identify that a server’s CPU usage is at 100% but to further investigate the issue, White Box Monitoring is needed to look at the MySQL processes like how long it takes for a query to run. Therefore, whilst each of these types of monitoring have distinct advantages, these advantages are best utilized when working together.  

In general, infrastructure monitoring allows you to: 

  • Detect malfunctioning parts within your infrastructure before clients report slow services. 
  • Receive alerts (such as an email, SMS, or push notification) when something is wrong within your infrastructure. 
  • Analyze historical infrastructure data to determine what is happening in your infrastructure. This also helps identify patterns in infrastructure issues. 
  • Utilize your hardware and software in order to use it more efficiently.  
  • Graphically visualize your services to picture trends within your services.
  • Create your own application analytics to measure when your application was offline in a specified time frame. 
  • Avoid the costs of troubleshooting, remediation and downtime. 

In a nutshell, you know exactly what is going on before an issue causes problems for your systems and thus problems for your customers. 

Infrastructure Monitoring Tools 

The infrastructure monitoring tools (aka IT monitoring software) that you need will depend on the type of monitoring you aim to initiate. Below are some tools used on the market today.  

White Box Monitoring Tools 

  • Prometheus 
  • Parasoft Jtest 
  • Bugzilla 
  • Fiddler 
  • OpenGrok 
  • Wireshark 
  • Sqlmap 
  • Nmap 
  • OWASP Zed AttackProxy (ZAP) 
  • Acunetix Web Vulnerability Scanner 
  • HP Fortify 

Black Box Monitoring Tools 

  • Nagios 
  • Zabbix 
  • Aiven 
  • AppDynamics 
  • Cloudprober 
  • Raygun 
  • AimBetter 
  • Pulseway 
  • Dadadog 
  • New Relic 

Application Performance Monitoring Tools 

  • AppDynamics 
  • Azure Application Insights 
  • DX Application Performance Monitoring 
  • Dell Foglight 
  • Google Cloud Console 
  • Grafana 
  • LogicMonitor 
  • ManageEngine Applications Manager 
  • Microsoft System Center 
  • Sensu 

The Bottom Line 

If your company has proper IT monitoring, you will always know when something is about to break and will receive notifications when something is rapidly degrading. The ultimate goal of effective monitoring is to ensure that every one of your services is online as close to 100% of the time as possible. 

Do you think your company needs monitoring? You already know our answer. With basic in-site monitoring now included in our packages, it’s never been easier to start hosting with Leaseweb. Click here to view our products. 

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