Microsoft Operations Manager
A Solution for the SME Managed Service Provider
The expansion of broadband availability in the UK is having a significant impact on the complexity and penetration of IT systems and technology in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) and Small Corporate sectors. Broadband technology such as ADSL and Cable provides fast permanent Internet connections for businesses at significantly lower prices than traditional Leased Lines of equivalent speeds. Smaller businesses can use networking and communications in a way that only a couple of years ago was viable only for larger corporates. The obvious benefit to broadband is vastly improved connection speeds to the Internet, supporting much more effective use of the Web as an information and research tool.
This is the usual driving force behind installation of broadband at smaller companies and is also the primary reason most home users switch to broadband.
However, less obvious benefits are beginning to prove even more compelling. For example, companies with more than one office can make use of secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology to link the networks of each site together over the Internet. The business can share information between users at the two sites as if they were in the same building. VPN technology is allowing some businesses using the approach to create a network with several sites connected together. This Wide Area Network (WAN) would traditionally been created using private circuits and would have been cost prohibitive for many companies, but low cost broadband technology enables the benefits of a WAN to be enjoyed by smaller companies.
Additionally, outsourced IT support providers can now make use of the ‘always on’ Internet connection to perform remote management and monitoring of networks and servers for supported clients. The result is a high quality IT support service, available to smaller companies who do not have the budget or resources to manage the systems themselves.
The increased demands of managing IT systems and ensuring that the network is secure means that smaller companies are increasingly turning to support providers, and outsourcing of IT services and support is now a commercial proposition in the small corporate and SME sectors.
The utilisation of available Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft Operations Manager and Systems Management Server means a high quality and fully pro-active network management solution can be provided to smaller companies at a realistic and cost effective price, bringing the level of support service traditionally only available to large, corporate customers.
Remote Server Management
The implementation of an operational management framework using Microsoft remote server management technology such as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) means that Windows 2000 and 2003 servers and the Microsoft based applications that run on them can be pro-actively and effectively monitored from a centralised management location. Using MOM’s sophisticated agent technology, server and application based events and performance measurements are collected from each server and are sent back to a central point allowing remote IT support personnel to monitor the health of a customers Windows 2000\2003 environment accurately and in real time. This approach provides the basis for easy identification of operational problems as they arise and allows any necessary remedial action to be taken straight away, quite often with no impact on the end user.
Automatic responses to selected events and performance thresholds can be deployed locally providing immediate remedial action to many problems that occur, allowing remote IT support personnel to focus in on and respond quicker to, the more critical issues that sometimes arise.
Extensive reporting capabilities within Microsoft Operations Manager ensure that accurate information on the general day to day running of critical servers is always available, this not only helps remote IT support personnel immediately analyse long term trends in server and application performance, allowing them to identify potential issues long before they arise, but provides invaluable capacity planning information allowing the right choices to be relayed to the customer for the upgrade and re-deployment of existing resources and future deployment of new technology.
This pro-active rather than re-active approach to server management ensures that the servers and applications always run to their maximum capacity and ensures high availability and reliability of business operations which is essential to the growth of smaller companies moving forward.
Why Microsoft Operations Manager?
Microsoft Operations Manager is a comprehensive server monitoring solution that improves the availability, performance, and security of Windows–based networks and applications. MOM can provide central monitoring and automatic problem resolution for networks of tens to thousands of computers, continuously monitoring user actions, application software, servers, and desktop computers running Microsoft Windows 2000 or later.
Microsoft Operations Manager captures and reports events throughout your network. By defining rules, you can automate responses or assign problems to a specific staff member for resolution. MOM displays information about service level exceptions, open alerts, and computers in the configuration you have selected for monitoring. You can quickly check specific alert and event details, performance data, and monitored computer status. MOM also displays useful information about computers and their alerts. You can display a view of all computers to see computer properties, alerts, events, performance, computer group membership, and the processing rules applied to each computer in the configuration group.
This centralised approach to monitoring large numbers of servers makes the tool the perfect solution for today’s service provider allowing a small number of skilled engineers to monitor a large estate of servers, accurately and efficiently, focusing in on the critical problems that arise rather than fire-fighting issues after they have been escalated by the end user. The in-built, subject matter based, knowledge that is provided by MOM’s built in management packs allows problems to be diagnosed quickly and often without the need to spend hours searching through vendor-specific knowledge base articles or talking to external support personnel, this means that engineers time is spent effectively and also ensures that they are constantly improving their troubleshooting skills which can prove vital to growing service providers who do not necessarily have the knowledge amongst their personnel to cover all of the technical areas they may be supporting. The ability to add in-house knowledge to each problem as it is being solved also addresses another key problem for the service provider, where by engineers who solve issues quite often retain that troubleshooting information in their heads or in their own notes. MOM allows you to update the knowledge base article for each alert with customised information so the in-house knowledge used to solve the problem can be added and used again when the alert is raised in future. This feature makes MOM an extremely effective support tool and ensures that it grows as your support operation does, making sure that all essential problem resolution information is captured and re-used again and again.
Streamlining the Support Operation
Microsoft Operations Manager not only provides a swift and accurate platform for effective problem resolution but it also changes the way your support operation works. Through effective use of alert ownership and MOM’s built-in SLA assignment, alerts can be sent directly to the technical personnel who deal with the particular area where the problem arises. Adding ownership to issues allows problems to be dealt with efficiently and allows management to easily see who is dealing with what problems. For many IT support providers, this can prove to be a key part of the support operation. MOM alerts are dealt with by technical support personnel, who take ownership of the problem and immediately make a decision on whether the problem can be dealt with locally, by a helpdesk engineer, or whether it should be escalated to 2nd or 3rd Line engineers for action. When a 2nd or 3rd Line engineer receives the alert he takes ownership of the problem and sees it through to its successful resolution. Because an emphasis is made on who owns the issue, customer problems are always properly escalated and are always seen through to their conclusion without any lapses. A high-level, historical view of how long alerts are being handled at their relevant stages of escalation can be viewed by management allowing them to not only track how customers are being serviced, but to gauge how effectively the support operation is running, making staffing changes where necessary. This whole framework approach using Microsoft remote management technology coupled with documented guidelines and procedures gives todays service providers a great foundation on which to expand their existing support operation and ensures that the existing operation is ran more efficiently and effectively giving maximum ROI to customers.