Systems Management for Maximizing Uptime
Companies are more reliant on technology today than ever before, making uptime and security critical for all organizations. An effective systems management plan can go a long way in reducing potential downtime for your servers, applications and network infrastructure. Although most systems management tactics are certainly not new, they are still very effective in ensuring your systems are protected and running as smoothly as possible.
Your systems management strategy should include the following:
Asset inventory and configuration management. I think we can all agree that it is difficult to protect what you don’t know you have. Creating a comprehensive inventory list of all software and hardware assets associated within your network is the first step in ensuring you have your bases covered. Including any warranty or policy expiration dates in this inventory list will help you keep this pertinent information all in one place. The next step is to document how those assets are related or depend upon each other in a configuration management database. Asset inventory and configuration management may seem like a tedious process, but it serves several purposes including project management, auditing, and providing a roadmap should you ever need to rebuild a system due to a failure. Plus, once you know your assets and how they’re configured, it becomes easier to create a security and redundancy plan around them.
Monitoring. When an application or system goes down with no warning, it can mean hours and sometimes days of lost productivity. Using proper systems monitoring tools to assess your servers, systems utilization, vital systems metrics and even web and email usage can alert you to the first signs of trouble and give you the opportunity to fix any issues before they become major problems. Monitoring systems also assess the overall health of a server by checking the read/write disk access, CPU usage and network performance. Lastly, a good monitoring system will allow you to create thresholds for the variables most important in keeping your systems running and send notifications if the variables go outside of these limits.
Patch Management. Criminals are constantly looking for ways to exploit any weaknesses in systems and software. Patch management is a critical part of implementing security updates to protect your systems from new vulnerabilities. With all of the demands on today’s IT departments, it’s important to make the patch management process as efficient as possible. Having your asset and configuration inventory list with all of your computing devices, operating systems and software already identified will make this process easier. Before you install any new patches, you should identify any vulnerabilities against your inventory list and classify the risks associated with those weaknesses. If there is a low likelihood that the vulnerability will affect your environment, you may ultimately decide not to install a particular patch. The last step is to either manually apply the patch, use an automated system or outside service.