IT Administration

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IT Administration is the processes and best practices for programming and development, and incorporates methodologies for managing activities and projects. Common methodologies include waterfall, prototyping, iterative and incremental development, spiral development, rapid application development, extreme programming and various types of agile methodology. The life-cycle "model" is a more general term for a category of methodologies, and a software development "process" a more specific term to refer to a specific process chosen by a specific organization.

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Originally, this post was published on Monitis Blog, you can check it here.


It goes without saying that technology has transformed society and the very nature of how we live, work, and communicate in ways that would’ve been incomprehensible 5 years ago. In that time frame, we’ve experienced momentous changes in the areas of mobile, cloud, and collaboration.


Just look at the way that mobile commerce has taken off; 2014 was the year it came of age thanks to breakthroughs like Apple Pay. Not to mention . . . the whole realm of cloud technologies has probably been the single biggest influence on IT. But watch out, next up is the Internet of Things, which has been causing major amounts of buzz for recent years.

 

While all of this rapid change is great for businesses and customers, new digital technologies are also creating unforeseen challenges for IT the world over. With the demand for instant software updates and real-time communications, IT shops have had to change their operations paradigm. It used to be that software release cycles would take upwards of 18-24 months or more. But with the innovations spurred on by the consumerization of IT and heightened customer demands, companies today are hard-pressed to get applications out the door as fast as possible.

 

IT has lead the charge in adopting quicker and more agile frameworks for managing software upgrades. Now the cycle for creating novel software apps from “soup to nuts” is about 3 months for an initial version and upwards of 6 months for the full feature set. And not only has the lifecycle shortened but apps have become much more complex and require cross-collaboration and integration between various IT constituents, such as Operations, Development, and Q&A in ways previously unimaginable. The result has been a new discipline known as DevOps.

 

So the obvious question to ask is this: “How is your organization leveraging DevOps today?” When it comes to your IT infrastructure, what are you doing to ensure faster production cycle times, more efficient workflows, and better cost savings and revenue generation? With these questions in mind, let’s look at the 5 most important things to know about DevOps right now.


 

devops

 


DevOps is a Paradigm-Shifting Approach to Software Builds

DevOps encompasses a whole mindshift in the approach to rolling out software releases and is as much a cultural shift as it’s a technological one (more on this below). DevOps is about excellent customer service, cost savings, and increased efficiency. But it’s also just as much about different business units being agile, adaptable, and flexible enough to work together to produce excellent products and services. DevOps is best summed up as a new way for people, process, and technology to work together in organic harmony.


  

DevOps is a Cultural Shift

DevOps is also about effective collaboration and communication across the organization. All of this gets at the importance of culture and cultural practices. Old habits die hard and if your organization is steeped in long-standing, traditional enterprise approaches to software development, then moving the needle on efficiency will obviously take longer.

 

Citing Lloyd Taylor, “You can’t directly change culture. But you can change behavior, and behavior becomes culture.” Start by creating an environment in which innovation and brainstorming are welcomed practices. Reward people for their ideas. Host a monthly innovation contest by providing a free lunch or $50 gift certificate to whoever finds the best solution to a manual, time-consuming process. If you look around, there are all kinds of opportunities to implement DevOps best practices into your work flow.

 

 

DevOps is all about Automation

The benefit of automating the testing and deployment process hardly needs explanation. With just a few clicks a continuous integration tool will run a series of unit tests, deploy the code to a new server, and then carry out a series of integration tests. The obvious takeaway is that continuous integration automation reduces cost and increases efficiency so that developers can spend their time writing code instead of tracking and fixing bugs.

 

Developing the ability to automate an organization’s infrastructure may seem like the most daunting of tasks, and it’s at this point that companies usually become their own worst enemy. Fortunately, there are a significant number of automation tools on the market now that can help make your build, test, monitoring, and deployment process efficient and effective.

 

A tool like Monitis can give your organization a jump start on your DevOps strategy by providing continual performance, testing, and monitoring updates for your infrastructure. As a cloud based-APM (application performance monitoring) company, Monitis provides customers with a clear and intuitive dashboard that lets them see whatever they want in their IT world in a glance. Whether it be Web apps, servers, networks, websites and more, it is all covered in the various monitoring tools that Monitis provides.

  


DevOps is the First Step to Web-Scale IT

Web-scale IT is defined as “a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting. More organizations will begin thinking, acting and building applications and infrastructure like Web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook.” Gartner also goes on to mention that DevOps is integral to this process and represents the first step for many organizations to scale up their operations “to drive rapid, continuous incremental development of applications and services.”

 

 

DevOps takes Time

There is no quick fix solution to creating a DevOps environment; it takes time to get key stakeholders onboard and to change policies, attitudes, and practices. Be persistent though and the dividends will pay off!

 

DevOps is an epic transformation in the world of IT that’s creating a host of new opportunities for businesses to become more agile and efficient in the delivery of their products and services. If followed through, DevOps adoption can dramatically save your organization significant amounts of time and money while boosting efficiency at all levels. The DevOps train is leaving the station, but it’s not too late to get onboard. Get started today to see the differences DevOps can make in the level and quality of your business practices.



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We asked our MSP customer base what their favorite tools were and how they help them serve clients. We focused our questions on favorite tools in the following categories: >PSA tools >RMM tools >Alert management tools >Communication tools and Mobile Device Management tools.
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Dramatic changes are revolutionizing how we build and use technology. Every company is automating, digitizing, and modernizing operations. We need a better, more connected way to work together as teams so we can harness the insights from our systems and drive effective collaboration.


Just a few years ago, we were all looking around and asking each other the same question. Fortunately, some people are figuring it out and providing some guidance on how DevOps processes can improve all areas of business, from development and operations to monitoring and incident management.


Here are a few examples from our customers.


Pacific Life has transitioned its monitoring from a human-operated system to an automated one. Leaders had to overcome employee anxiety over losing jobs and providing direct access to customers.


Intermountain Healthcare, Utah’s largest nonprofit healthcare provider, has connected systems to provide telehealth first-response technology and major incident management processes.


Dealertrack is the leading provider of on-demand, integrated digital solutions designed to enhance the efficiency and profitability for all major segments of the automotive retail industry. Thanks to a combination of monitoring, management, and communication tools, Dealertrack has improved their time to resolve issues and product development speed.


So we know that dramatic changes are needed in how we build and use technology. And yet, a 2017 survey of DevOps maturity shows that only 36% of organizations have good knowledge sharing between development and operations.


The DevOps experts who know

Where can you go to hear how experts are solving these complex problems?


We're bring the Agility 2017 Tour to a city near you, where you can hear from experts and pick their brains regarding how they’re improving business and trends you should be preparing for. It's a great opportunity to hear from more than just talking heads.


Agility 2017 starts in San Francisco on June 13, then moves to New York on June 20, Chicago on June 22, and London on June 29. Besides the customers listed above, we'll be including New York City Health + Hospitals, Forrester, The Telegraph, O2, Tesco, Moogsoft, Cherwell, Praecipio, and others.


You'll also hear from our own experts, including CEO Troy McAlpin and CTO Abbas Haider Ali. They will be discussing:


  • The need for a better, more connected way to work together as teams
  • How to harness the insights from systems to drive collaboration
  • And in doing so, naturally preventing incidents within the normal flow of work


Reserve your seat at a free Agility 2017 event near you before they all disappear!

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This article was originally published on Monitis Blog, you can check it here.


 

Some years back, I worked as the CTO.  During my tenure, I had a head of IT support reporting to me.  He did his job quite well and had a commendable sense of duty and responsibility, and I will always think of him as a model employee.

 

I recall an oddly frustrating conversation that I had with him once, however.  He struggled to explain what I needed to know, and I struggled to get him to understand the information I needed.

 

Long story short, he wanted me to sign off on switching data centers to a more expensive vendor.  Trouble was, this switch would have put us over budget, so I would have found myself explaining this to the CFO at the next executive meeting.  I needed something to justify the request, and that was what I sought.

 

I kept asking him to make a business case for the switch, and he kept talking about best practices, SLAs, uptime, and other bits of the shop.  Eventually, I framed it almost as a mad lib: If we don’t make this change, the odds of a significant outage that costs us $_____ will increase by _____%.  In that case, we stand to recoup this investment in _____ months.

 

In the end, he understood. He built the business case, I took it to the executive meeting, and we made the improvements.


As much as we might like it, people in technical leadership position often cannot get into the weeds when talking shop.  If this seems off-putting to techies, I’d say think of it this way. Techies hack tools, code, and infrastructure, while managers and leaders hack the business

 


Tools and Incident Management 


I offer this introduction because it illustrates a common friction point in organizations.  Techies at the line level do their jobs well when they both concern themselves with their operational efficiency and when they focus heavily on details.  This can lead to some odd patchwork systems, optimized at the individual level, but chaotic at the organizational level.  Here, the tech leaders feel the pain.

 

Any org with incident management concerns may find themselves in this position.  I’ve seen such approaches run the gamut from sophisticated approaches centralized around ZenDesk to an odd system of shared folders in Outlook to literally nothing except random phone calls.

 

Often times, the operations management of incidents is born out of frenzied necessity and evolves only as a reactive means of temporarily minimizing the chaos.

 

Unfortunately, that near term minimization can lead to worse long-term problems.  And so you can find yourself in charge of a system full of disparate tools, each beloved by the individuals using them.  But taken all together, they lead to organizational misses and maddening opacity.

 

Does this describe your situation?  If you’re not sure beyond the part about fragmented tooling, consider some symptoms. 

 


Missed Incidents 


First, and most obviously, does your system completely miss detection of incidents.  If you, as a technical leader, find out about operational incidents yourself, you’re experiencing misses.  This should not happen.

 

A byzantine incident management process across various tools will lead to incidents that somehow fall into a black hole.  This might happen because systems fail to capture the incidents.  Or, it might happen because the systems botch or lose them in communication with one another.  And finally, it might happen simply because your process has such a terrible signal to noise ratio that no one pays attention.

  


Inefficient Resolution 


Let’s assume that your process catches most issues.  That doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily out of the woods. 

Once identified, do you get an efficient resolution?

 

Maybe your team routinely struggles to reproduce issues from the information available.  Do many issues get kicked back to the reporters labeled, “could not reproduce?”  Do you routinely have angry users?

 

If reproduction doesn’t present a problem or isn’t necessary, do you have sufficient information to find out what happened?  Or do bits and pieces get lost, leading to guess work and longer resolution times?

 

And, in terms of assignment and communication, do your people know who should work on what and when?  Does this require them to log in to several systems and deal with ambiguity?

 


Insufficient Post Mortem 


Another sign of system complexity comes in the form of issue post mortems.  (You do retrospect on the root cause, 

don’t you?)  If retracing an incident through its lifecycle gives you fits, you have a problem.

 

But, beyond that management should have a coherent window into this in the form of a dashboard.  After all, improving operations is what management is supposed to do.  When I mentioned “hacking the business” earlier, I meant this exact thing.  You need the ability to audit and optimize organizational level processes.

 

If you find yourself entirely reliant on anecdotal information from individuals or if you find yourself mired in random log files, you have an issue.



Alerting to the Rescue 


Your absolute first step is to establish a reliable alerting infrastructure.  Effective incident management hinges upon the right people having the right information as soon as humanly possible.  This means alerts.

 

To alleviate the pain points above, you need to focus on two key points.  Reminiscent of David Allen’s wisdom in “Getting Things Done,” here they are.

 

  • Make sure nothing can possibly slip through the cracks and that the system captures and alerts about everything it needs to.
  • Limit the rate of false positives and issues to ensure that everything receives full attention.

 

I have offered you deceptively simple wisdom here because the devil lies in the details.  But if you keep your eye on these two overarching goals, you’ll eventually see improvement.  Find a way to guarantee the first point, and then work through the pain of saturation, making your alerts and responses more efficient.  Oh, and it never hurts to improve your products to produce less alert-worthy problems.

 

 

Consolidate and Standardize 


Once you’ve got efficient alerting in place, you need to standardize around it.  Look to minimize the number of different platforms and tools that you have to use to eliminate knowledge duplication and impedance mismatches from your workflow.

 

I do not intend to say that you should seek the one operational tool to rule them all.  Rather, I mean that you should opportunistically eliminate ones that have mostly similarities or that realize only a tiny fraction of their value proposition.

 

The key underlying principle here is one that any good DBA or software engineer could address: the aforementioned knowledge duplication.  Make sure that you have a single, authoritative source of truth for all incident related information.  And then, make sure that your alerting infrastructure draws from this well.

 

 

Layer Dashboard on Top


Last but not least comes making your own life easier and your time more effectively spent. With proper alerting in place and with the consolidation battle won, give yourself dashboards to make your decision making much simpler.  No more peering at log files and weeding through inboxes to calculate response times.  Make sure you have all that at a glance.

 

If you’re going to make business cases and hack the organization, you can’t spend your time talking shop and putting out fires, however much that might appeal.  You need to switch from tactical to the strategic mode and put yourself in a position to speak to the impact that various response times and incident importance thresholds have on the bottom line.  Your fellow managers or members of the C-suite will thank you.



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LAND OF THE WALKING DEAD ZONE

Why pager replacement is still an issue


OnPage has what some might call a “hate/hate” relationship with pagers. Not much room for love. As we see it, pagers are an antiquated bit of technology. Pagers are dinosaurs which, like most dinosaurs, should be extinct by now.

You might be wondering why we’re at it again with our anti-dinosaur campaign? Haven’t we made our point in previous articles and thought pieces? Well, to be frank, the answer is NO. You see, last week we came across a great article in Computer World discussing the “dead zone” issue.  A dead zone is an area where you cannot receive pages due to outside interference from technology or the environment you’re in.

Reading this article, we just couldn’t contain ourselves. See, the article reiterated all that we’ve rallied against in using pagers; why they are unreliable, why they can’t be trusted in an emergency, why they are obsolete. That kind of talk made us realize that the fight is still ongoing and that we need to bring the issue up once again.


What part of dead zone did you not understand?


This great Computer World article retold the told the tale of how a new hire is handed a pager on his first day of work at an IT company and told he will be on-call. The notion that pagers have problems and dead zones doesn’t seem to penetrate the consciousness of his manager:

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Note: This is the second blog post in a series on email clearinghouses.
 
Every month there’s a blog, new app, new service, new productivity guru, or some other trigger that gets us to think, “Maybe this will help me tame the email beast and make sure that important stuff gets my attention.”
Can Email Work for Critical Incidents?I try a lot of these services, whether it’s Priority Inbox, Gmail’s category labels, Gmail inbox, Boxer, Dispatch, Mailbox, Zero, or the myriad other choices. They all have great features but don’t address the underlying problem. It’s still one unregulated communication channel. It’s open to use by individuals, companies, automated systems, distribution lists, and pretty much everything. Its strength in ubiquity is also its Achilles heel.
 
All that being said, I would estimate that no more than 20% of people in any given company are masters of their email, whether it’s through the use of a particular app, productivity hack, structure methodology for how they work, or a deal with the devil. The other 80% struggle to keep up with the signals in the noise of email.
 
The impact is most acute when communications are associated with a specific business process or event. If someone on your IT team is late or misses a major incident triage session, that has measurable impact to the business. …
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Learn how ViaSat reduced average response times for IT incidents from 10 minutes to 30 seconds.
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Scenario: Your operations manager has discovered an anomaly in your security system. The business will start to suffer within 15 minutes if it is a major IT incident. What should she do? We have 6 recommendations for managing major incidents.
 


1. Define a Major Incident


Define a Major Incident


Before your operations manager can determine whether the incident is critical, she has to have a definition for comparison. There is no official definition, so your organization has to have its own. ITIL recommends using three criteria:

• Urgency: Effect on important business deadlines
• Impact: Impact to the business’s finances, reputation and viability
• Severity: Impact to end users, including employees and customers

Share the definition with your operations managers and major incident managers, and put them through training and practices so they’re ready when they’re under pressure.

Bottom line: If you don’t define a major incident, you’re setting up your resolution team for failure.

 

2. Establish Incident Processes



Establish_incident_process.png
Watch now: On-Call Scheduling: Creating Escalations
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Author Comment

by:Abraham Deutsch
Yes I went
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Expert Comment

by:LockDown32
Thanks McKnife. I caught the part about the fast boot. It was interesting and clear. What wasn't clear was the fix.
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Expert Comment

by:IT Guy
Excellent article
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Captain Jack Sparrow
As a long-time IT Professional, the most important skill I have developed and consider to be my most valuable tool is Effective Troubleshooting. Step through my problem-solving procedure in this 10-step guide adapted from The Universal Troubleshooting Process.
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by:Senior IT System Engineer
Great Article Matt.
thanks for sharing and looking forward for the update / follow up.
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IT Administration

6K

Solutions

8K

Contributors

IT Administration is the processes and best practices for programming and development, and incorporates methodologies for managing activities and projects. Common methodologies include waterfall, prototyping, iterative and incremental development, spiral development, rapid application development, extreme programming and various types of agile methodology. The life-cycle "model" is a more general term for a category of methodologies, and a software development "process" a more specific term to refer to a specific process chosen by a specific organization.