By Alessandro Porro, VP International Sales, Ipswitch

Many of the weary IT professionals I speak to readily bemoan the constant battle they face with maintaining performance speeds across a full suite of Microsoft applications, or troubleshooting problems in the technology stack. However, what they don’t realise is that a more efficient monitoring approach could help significantly reduce, or even eliminate the associated issues such as unanticipated downtime and plummeting network performance.

Below are seven monitoring tips that will help IT professionals boost the performance of their Microsoft applications and underlying environments.

1: Don’t try and manage the unknown

Ensuring optimal Microsoft app performance starts by automatically maintaining an up-to-date network and server inventory of hardware and software assets, physical connectivity, and configuration to truly understand what is being supported in your environment. Doing this will save days of identifying relationships between devices and applications, and piecing them together to see the big picture. You may even find discrepancies in application versions or patch levels within Exchange or IIS server farms that should be corrected soon, so go ahead and automatically discover, map and document your assets.

2: Monitor the whole delivery chain

There are multiple elements responsible for providing Microsoft services and application content to end-users. For example, Lync alone has a multi-tier architecture consisting of a Front-End Server at the core, SQL Database servers on the back-end, Edge Server to enable outside the firewall access, Mediation Server for VoIP etc. You get the idea. The same applies to any Web-based application; SharePoint on the front-end, middleware systems and back-end SQL databases, not to mention the underling network. Don’t take any shortcuts, monitor it all!

If any of these components in the application delivery chain underperform, your app will inevitably slow down and bring employee communications, productivity and business operations down with it.

3: Understand dependencies within applications

There’s nothing worse than receiving an alert storm when a problem is detected. It can take hours to sit there and figure out what was red, why was it red, and whether it was a real problem or a false positive. It’s a waste of time and delays the root cause identification and resolution.

A far better solution is to monitor the entire application service as a whole — IIS servers, SQL servers, physical and virtual servers and the underlying network — and identify monitoring capabilities that will discover and track end-to-end dependencies and suppress alerts (if a database is “down,” all related apps will also be “down”). This is also the foundation to build SLA monitoring strategies aligned with business goals. Read on to find out more.

4: Look for monitoring tools with drill-down capabilities

Select APM monitoring that lets you drill down from one unified view into the offending component to reduce triage
and troubleshooting to just minutes. Even if you are not a DBA, you should be able to quickly identify that SQL is the culprit. Plus, think about automatic corrective actions as part of your monitoring strategy (Write Event Log, Run Scripts, Reboot, Active and PowerShell scripts...) to restore service levels faster. For example, Exchange and SQL are well-known for their
high memory consumption and high IOs, so you may want to automatically reboot them to avoid service disruptions for your users when exceeded memory reaches a problematic level.

5: Utilise prepackaged Microsoft app monitoring capabilities where possible

With hundreds of performance metrics and not enough hours in the day, try to find out-of-the-box monitoring support that already encompass Microsoft monitoring Best Practices for the standard Microsoft Applications you support (Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, IIS, Dynamics, SQL, Windows...). Every organization is different, so there really is no one size fits all approach to this. Look for pre-packaged monitoring with capabilities to easily tweak settings, so you can also monitor custom applications or more feature-rich applications.

6: Don’t forget wireless monitoring!

It is a wireless world out there, and BYOD continues to grow. Mobility has transformed wireless networks into business-critical assets that support employee connectivity, productivity and business Ops. For example, Microsoft corporate headquarters runs Lync over Aruba WI-FI. Just like you want a map of your wired assets, look for capabilities to automatically generate dynamic wireless maps — WLCs, APs and Clients — from the same single point of control.

7: Keep key stakeholders and teams regularly updated.

Your applications are the backbone of your business. Slowdowns, intermittent problems or failures will drive escalations through the roof, and bring productivity, Ops and revenue to a halt. Customizable reporting
(by application, by servers, by location, etc.) and automatic email distribution capabilities (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) will help to keep cross-functional team members and stakeholders in the know. Get in the habit of periodically analyzing all performance data to identify problematic trends early on, properly plan capacity, and justify investment on additional resources.

Maintaining network performance can sometimes feel like a gargantuan task, with issues seemingly coming out of nowhere. However, many of these unforeseen problems can actually be anticipated and avoided with the correct monitoring solutions in place. Don’t be caught out!