Author: Leon Adato, Head Geek, SolarWinds
The public health crisis we find ourselves in today has been the largest industry disruptor since the internet was born back in the 90s. Across the world, businesses have shifted to a remote working model, and this seismic cultural and technological shift has put IT teams under more strain than ever.
It’s important to remember the people who do these jobs are human like the rest of us. They’re experiencing the same issues and challenges, getting by with makeshift desks and home offices overlooking the kids, whom they’re also homeschooling. They’re also holding entire digital workforces together.
Although many businesses are struggling to keep their heads above the water, applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex have stepped up to the plate and provided businesses with the means to connect via high-quality video. Services like SharePoint, which provide document management and sharing, have improved collaboration significantly. These applications help staff maintain a sense of connection, improve business performance, and ensure business continuity. Digital commerce is similar—as online traffic increases, it becomes essential to keep everything working as normal. This ultimately results in greater pressure on IT pros to keep everything constantly up and running. If the people playing these roles were to switch off, businesses would crumble.
Once overlooked commercial apps are now mission-critical. They simply cannot falter—in fact, the demand for them to operate at an optimised level has been prioritised because even a small performance degradation or outage would be disastrous for a business. Frustrated customers will go elsewhere. Though customers might be willing to wait in line in a store or sit in a waiting room, attention spans online are shorter than ever, making performance critical in a crisis. As the saying goes around our office, “Slow is the new down!”
Luckily, IT pros are up to the challenge. In their roles, they manage crises and plan for contingencies every day. To stay ahead, however, it’s crucial to bulletproof applications and infrastructure, whether the business is rooted in e-commerce, government, finance, or health care and whether it’s large or small.
The varying effect on businesses
The event and travel sectors have suffered deeply as consumers and business have rushed to cancel plans and demand refunds. But others have seen a huge increase in demand. For example, businesses involved in supplying essential goods, such as those involved in medicine and food, have struggled to keep up with the increased pressure. Organisations and entrepreneurs in wellbeing are seeing big opportunities. Whether it’s fitness or meditation, there’s a global need to focus on preserving our minds and bodies in today’s climate.
Small to medium-sized businesses—or organisations typically without a remote work policy—may need to expand their monitoring to ensure quality service to their staff and customers.
Meanwhile, businesses experiencing a downturn—like those selling concert tickets—may feel tempted to shed their monitoring costs. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but these companies should instead consider this: when under economic pressure, vulnerable entities can use metrics to optimise infrastructure costs for the remaining business, and the rest will one day return.
Monitoring allows for capacity optimisation—companies can check for cost efficiencies. In short, the purpose is to cost-effectively protect the revenue stream. The reality is, companies choosing to abandon monitoring increase their risk of losing even more business.
Essential services will need extra attention
Essential services are experiencing record demand. ASDA and Tesco have compiled waiting lists of hundreds of thousands of people, and businesses are pleading with those who are healthy and able to avoid using apps in a bid to reduce traffic. Amazon has even said it will need to hire 100,000 new people to fill the backlog from online purchases. These are high-profile examples, but the effects are being felt across smaller businesses, too. With no clear end in sight, any business relying on digital has become even more dependent.
Right now isn’t a time to take chances—whenever rapid changes are in demand, there are a set of ripple effects on other applications and the noisy neighbour effect can occur. In this era of virtualisation, IT pros often have 100% of their virtual CPU allocated to applications. If, however, the underlying physical CPU resources are shared with an unmonitored compute resource hog, applications will be negatively impacted. The same concepts hold true today, but now it’s writ large in the cloud. Capacity on Demand cloud architectures only function as well as the underlying resource. If it’s oversized, the business wastes money; if it’s undersized, the performance suffers. Hence, it’s important to monitor everything all the time.
Extra demands can impact infrastructure, and the potential for noisy neighbours goes up as businesses increase the number of apps, making it even more imperative to monitor.
Businesses should look for cost savings by comparing the prices of application performance management (APM) solutions, but it’s crucial not to cut the APM strategy itself. If businesses don’t expand their monitoring strategies and approaches to include everything related to increased demand, they’ll almost certainly fail to ensure appropriate performance and fail to optimise operating costs. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Customers will be ruthless
Customer service and retention should be at the heart of the strategy; ultimately, it’s the most important part of survival. And because customers will switch to a competitor if they receive better service, it has to be. Aside from the occasional angry Twitter user, most customers won’t bother telling you if your website or application is measuring up to their expectations. They’ll just abandon you for someone else.
To mitigate dissatisfaction and cost inefficiencies and increase productivity, businesses need to invest in APM monitoring tools. APM solutions help monitor the entire stack, including applications, user experience, and the performance of the entire infrastructure required to conduct business transactions. Traditionally, APM has been used only for select “critical” applications and infrastructure due to budget constraints and perceived complexity. But with simple and affordable APM solutions now available, it’s time to reassess this strategy.
During this period of global crisis, the role of an IT pro is more important than ever in managing the world’s businesses, large and small. And the role of monitoring is even more essential for the performance and continuity of these businesses. Think of it like this: because everyone is home, everyone is now a customer of a business application stack. It’s time to double down on monitoring across the depth and breadth of applications and infrastructure in a bid to survive and thrive.