Schools, colleges and universities are highly dependent on a functioning and performing IT infrastructure. In addition to the classic uses of IT, other areas are becoming increasingly important at a rapid pace: Course materials and books are increasingly offered via the Internet, classes are organized through web portals, and non-IT systems such as building control or laboratory technology are beginning to fall under IT’s control.
When IT is that critical to the educational mission, any failures or outages may result in serious consequences.
The solution to preventing these issues is network monitoring. IT needs a comprehensive overview of its entire infrastructure to ensure performance and availability. But, due to the structures and the history of the education sector, IT managers face very special challenges.
Typical challenges in education and research
IT environments at educational and research institutions are often distributed across multiple locations.
This may have structural or historical reasons, but in any event, it is a major challenge for IT. Devices and applications must always be available – at all locations – and provide the required performance, data exchange and communication needed between these locations.
Many companies and institutions from the education sector are leaving the traditional way of on-site learning behind and offering a virtual learning environment.
Learning content is available online at any time and from anywhere, while students work in virtual study spaces to discuss and collaborate on projects. This requires full availability of online services around the clock.
To ensure full availability, IT is usually required to work in shifts or designate someone as a standby, which is an extra burden on the staff.
Tight staffing situations at smaller schools and colleges make this extremely
difficult, and increase the risk of failure for core services.
Solution: Unified Monitoring
Besides the challenges listed above, which are typical for the education sector, all general requirements for a monitoring solution must also be met: from easy operation and a reasonable price-performance ratio to comprehensive mechanisms for analyzing and publishing monitoring data and alerting in case of faults and failures.
Systems that do satisfy these requirements run under the umbrella term of Unified Monitoring. However, many product offerings in this area are costly and complex, beyond the budget and capacity of many IT teams in educational institutions. That means that a thorough research and accurate weighing of requirements and benefits is required.
Monitoring of distributed locations
There are different approaches for monitoring remote locations.
Usually, a full instance of the software is needed at each site. All instances can then be combined in one console to get an overview of all installations. This is a costly and time-consuming method: all instances must be paid for, set up and maintained individually.
Paessler brings a different approach with PRTG Network Monitor: So called remote probes are installed at each individual site where they gather the monitoring data and send it via SSL encryption to the central instance which then collects and processes the data.
This is an efficient alternative that saves costs (each license of PRTG allows the setting of any number of probes) and simplifies maintenance.
Monitor heterogeneous IT environments and non-IT systems
No monitoring software can deliver templates for all devices and applications available on the market – there are simply too many. Therefore, it is important that in addition to the support of established standards such as SNMP, WMI, Flow, packet sniffing, etc., those mechanisms are in place to allow a fast and simple way to add „unknown“ products.
PRTG offers Custom Sensors, script examples that make it easier for the
administrator to write their own scripts for devices and applications.
While many monitoring solutions are still trying to include ready-made templates for as many IT products as possible, there is no way to integrate the diversity of non-IT systems into „Out of the Box“ monitoring.
As long as systems from building technologies support KNX bus or MODBUS, they can be integrated relatively easy in some monitoring solutions; if this is not the case, a well-documented application programming interface (API) is necessary. Also, script examples such as the PRTG Custom Sensors can facilitate the integration of laboratory systems and building automation into monitoring.
Ensuring availability and performance around the clock requires being constantly up-to-date about the status of IT and to be informed immediately in case of any issues.
If the monitoring solution provides flexible and location-independent access and alarm features, it can put IT employees at ease. IT staff no longer need to be on site, but can shift work outside normal office hours and into the home office.
While remote access through a web browser is a major boost, the gains are even greater if the monitoring solution supports iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile. In this case, a push notification option is desirable to leverage mobile devices.
A proper monitoring solution provides a central overview of the entire infrastructure for IT teams of educational institutions.
In addition, it has three main tasks:
• Alerting on concrete failures or malfunctions
• Notification of impending problems
• Database for medium and long-term IT optimization
The decisive factor is choosing the right solution: Are the typical criteria in education and the general requirements for a monitoring solution such as alarms, data processing, storage, and publication met?
PRTG Network Monitor combines efficient and uncomplicated monitoring of distributed locations, and vendor-neutral „Out of the Box“ monitoring of different devices and applications with maximum ease of use and a fair and transparent pricing model.
Contact us for more details about PRTG Network Monitoring Solutions.