8 tips for environmental monitoring in a server room

 Viruses, spyware, and network threats get most of the attention, but environmental factors like heat, humidity, airflow, smoke, and electricity can be equally devastating to IT equipment, and thus to a company’s operation.

The IT infrastructure equipment in most organizations are housed in small server rooms or wiring closets and typically, these areas are not properly ventilated and not under supervision.

Server room environments are highly sensitive. Heightened temperature or humidity or water ingress are serious issues requiring immediate remediation. It is imperative to keep a watch on network closets, server rooms, and enterprise level data centers with fully scalable environmental monitoring solutions.

We have listed down few handy tips for environmental monitoring in a server room:

  1. Temperature

An optimal environmental monitoring strategy includes multiple temperature sensors. These should be placed on top, middle, and bottom of individual racks to measure the heat being generated by equipment, and at the air conditioning system’s intake and discharge vents, to measure efficiency.

  1. Humidity

High humidity may lead to corrosion on electronic components and low humidity levels may cause issues with static electricity.

  1. Airflow

Make sure air is flowing through the racks in addition to monitoring A/C vent intake and outtakes.

  1. Water 

Moisture and humidity sensors should monitor for leaks inside cooling equipment, potential leaks that come from nearby pipes, or water caused by a flood or disaster. Water sensors should be placed at the lowest point (wherever water would tend to puddle) on the floor, and underneath any pipe junctions. Air-conditioning condensation trays should also be equipped with sensors to detect overflow.

  1. Voltage

Voltage sensors detect presence or the absence of line voltage. Identify the frequency of brown outs for measuring uninterruptable power supplies and service provider performance.

  1. Power

Electrical failures can cause air-conditioning equipment to shut down even while an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) ensures that servers stay up and running a sure recipe for overheating a server room in short order. The best approach is to monitor current coming into the data center, and arrange for an orderly shutdown of IT equiment in case power is knocked out. The hour or two of downtime is far preferable to the widespread device failures that would result from an overheating condition.

  1. Smoke

Smoke alarms can trigger power shutdowns. The best approach is to wire the smoke alarms directly into the climate monitoring and alerting system, essentially extending the functionality of the climate sensors to the smoke alarm.

  1. Video Surveillance

Real-time surveillance of sensitive areas in the data center and tie into the Web-based console, so administrators can get a first-hand look at the environment wherever they may be.

Bottom Line

Remote monitoring of server rooms is a vital component for maximizing network uptime, reducing running costs and enhancing IT performance. Server room environmental monitoring can help you to remotely watch over your critical IT areas and receive alerts in the event of air-conditioning failure, water ingress, security breaches, high or low humidity levels, fire and a whole host of other potential threats to your hardware and data.

 

Best practices for effective network monitoring in enterprise IT environments

Enterprise IT has witnessed significant growth over the last decade. Today, along with the responsibility of maintaining the availability and performance of their network, IT teams have to ensure that they take care of the security aspect of the network. The adoption of cloud based applications and the emergence of BYOD to work have been the key drivers of IT complexity.

As we look forward, the Internet of Things (IOT) phenomena is going play a pivotal role in the way IT teams manage their networks. According to Cisco, the global IoT market will reach $14.4 trillion by 2022 and cloud applications will account for 90% of worldwide mobile data traffic by 2019.

As business have become more efficient due to this transformation in technology, a lot of responsibility has been placed on the IT teams to ensure that their IT environments provides optimal performance to the users, stays secure and is continuously available. This can only be achieved if IT teams are aware of every single action that occurs in their environments.

We have listed below best practices for effective network monitoring in complex enterprise IT environments:

  1. Automation of flow record monitoring and network traffic analysis

IT teams can be alerted of any major deviations from the traffic baseline by use of flow collection and traffic analysis capabilities. Any non-business use of the network and any activity causing performance degradation can be determined by detailed and in-depth analysis.

Depending on the results of the analysis, such activities can be limited or even shut down by the IT teams so that top priority is provided to the business use of the network.

  1. Monitoring of logs of all critical IT systems on the network

IT teams can be alerted of any signs of breach, such as brute force password attempts or unauthorized configuration changes by comprehensive log management. Moreover, audit and compliance needs of an organisation can be achieved by automatic collection and storage of logs.

Troubleshooting for IT departments can be streamlined by log management which plays a pivotal role by identifying potential threats through continuous monitoring and spot security red flags.

  1. Spotting unusual activity through use of IP reputation and geolocation

Any unusual activity in the network can be detected by monitoring IP addresses based on their origin and reputation. The monitoring of the geolocation of an IP address can help the IT team to determine if the network is receiving traffic from locations that are not business related and poses a security risk to the organization.

For example, the IT team can temporarily implement a network access control list to block all traffic from a specific geographical region, if an IT administrator determines that the majority of traffic is coming from that region during a DDoS attack. Similarly, the risk of security breaches such as firewall port scans, botnet communications, and malware can be reduced by blocking traffic from known malicious IP addresses.

  1. Train Employees to Achieve Better Security

Security should not be sole responsibility of the IT team. Rather, every user in the organization should be accountable for ensuring the security of the IT infrastructure. To achieve this goal, the IT teams should conduct trainings to educate the users on how the company’s entire business and IT infrastructure is affected by their personal IT behavior.

Conducting regular trainings on IT security ensures that the employees are well versed with the information about the consumption of network bandwidth and the importance of security whenever employees receive new hardware or software to ensure your network isn’t compromised by a well-intentioned but misinformed employee.

Final Thoughts 

According to Juniper Research, the cost of cybercrime will touch $2.1 trillion globally by 2019. In order to combat cybercrime, the IT teams need to be more creative and vigilant and ensure that the above best practices are followed to ensure better security for the entire organisation.

Slack: revolutionising monitoring alerts

Slack, with a recent valuation of $1 billion, is one of the relatively newer productivity tools that have hit the market. Slack is an easy-to-use messaging app for teams that brings all your communication into one place and integrates with your existing tools. Team communication is made more efficient through the use of Slack.

Chatting

Chatting is one of the prominent features of Slack. Group chats are organized into channels by Slack where real time conversations can happen between invited members. These chat channels are archived and made searchable by Slack which allows the user to easily hop between conversations. This feature was not available in other chat clients such as Skype and IChat.

You can set up channels related to different topics (for example: brand refresh working group) and these channels can be either public, meaning everyone in your team can see it, or private (for example, board meeting minutes) that can only be viewed by a few, invited team members.

Slack also provides the ability to have one to one conversation between the invited members. This feature ensures that a “quick question”, that gets lost in the large stack of emails we all have sitting in the recipient’s inbox, is answered promptly because it is delivered as a persistent message in Slack.

Integrations

Integrations are really the things that make up Slack. It’s ridiculously easy to create your own integrations, or even easier to use existing ones. Integrations are what turn Slack from just an Instant Messenger to a central, informational hub for your team.

Among Slack’s numerous program integrations, we have listed a few:

  • We can include and link to files in Dropbox and Google Drive
  • We can start a GoToMeeting from within a channel discussion
  • We can create a message in a channel when a new Zendesk ticket is created
  • We can post to a channel when a payment is received from Stripe
  • Commits in Github are tracked within a channel

Searching in Slack

Search is one of Slack’s core features: Messages and files you add to Slack are instantly searchable, so you can come back to the right documents and discussions when you need them.

Everything in Slack—messages, notifications, files, and all—is automatically indexed and archived so that you can have it at your fingertips whenever you want. Slack also indexes the content of every file so you can search within PDFs, Word documents, Google docs, and more. With one search box and a set of powerful search operators, you can slice and dice your way to that one message in your communication haystack.

Available on all platforms 

Slack is available on desktop, Android and iPhone so is accessible to everyone, anywhere and on any device making it ideal for those who work remotely.

Final Thoughts

Communication is key to ensure that everyone on your team stays on the same page. Combining real-time messaging and integrating services that teams are already using like Google Drive, Twitter, GitHub, Heroku, Stripe, etc…, you can now get all your notifications in once place. By putting all your communication and resources in one place, you can now archive and search across all your data easily.

Effective Security Measures for a Business Owner

Implementing security should be one of the essential planning steps when it comes to business. With the threat to businesses constantly developing and changing, it’s never been more important to be vigilant when it comes to security. An attack on your business can not only mean a loss in productivity, but it may lead to a loss of brand credibility and, in future, fines that could total up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Below is a list of five security measures that any business owner should consider:

  1. Effective Digital and Data Security Procedures

Data security should be an important area of concern for every small business owner. When you consider all the important data you store virtually — from financial records, to customers’ private information — it’s not hard to see why one breach could seriously damage your business.

We have listed the key security measures every small business should be taking:

  • Implementing strong passwords is the easiest thing you can do to strengthen your security.
  • Put up a strong firewall.
  • Install antivirus protection
  • Frequently updating your programs keeps you up-to-date on any recent issues or holes that programmers have fixed.
  • Scheduling regular backups to an external hard drive, or in the cloud, is a painless way to ensure that all your data is stored safely
  • Be careful with email, IM, and surfing the web
  • Educate your employees
  1. Offsite storage of sensitive data

Businesses can no longer afford the risk of storing important data only on their computers. Online data backup is a way to give business owners security in knowing that all critical data — project information, payroll details, customer and client information, etc. ­— is being stored and saved in an offsite location should their computer be damaged or stolen, or their business be inaccessible due to fire, floods or any other disaster.

Online data backup services also give business owners and employees the ability to access data from remote locations.

In order to ensure the data is protected while it’s being transferred to and from the backup site, online data backup providers offer a host of security features. Most providers use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol when transferring data.

  1. Server rooms are secured

Data, which has become a very valuable commodity in the past two decades, is stored in the server rooms. It must be ensured that the data should be stored and protected in an efficient and secure manner.

One of the basic steps should be to lock the server room. Implementation of security measures that log who enters and exits that room should be made so that no one access the data and servers anonymously. The set up of a dedicated surveillance camera helps in maintaining a visual record of all the activities that happen in the server room. Once done with these basic security features, other features such as mounted server racks to deter quick thefts can be implemented.

  1. Protection of Printers 

Most companies pay significant attention to protecting data while it is at rest in storage or in use in an application but are unaware of the security risk on the information that they store in their limited on-board memory.

The departmental printers can be an easy source for a data breach. In addition to documents that lay unprotected in output trays, printers store information in memory that can be recalled or intercepted inappropriately. These devices should be managed and protected, just like the rest of your IT infrastructure.

Start by defending your data at the printing source. If you have got printers that are out in the open, move them into a controlled access area, or at the very least, physically secure your devices.

  1. Implementing a surveillance system

The security of a business can be enhanced by the implementation of a surveillance system as it extends the functionality of a log book to provide a visual record that can be used later for identification purposes and threat assessments.

The most important piece of security advice for any business is to take responsibility for your data, and to do it now.

Even when you have a security policy written up and implemented, the staff educated, the data encrypted and the devices under control, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels and assume you’re now secure. IT security is a dynamic, ever-changing landscape, and securing your data is your responsibility.

Free network monitoring tools

Monitoring tools are required for a system or net work administrator to know the status of the system so that performance can be optimized and potential problems can be avoided. There are numerous monitoring tools, of which some are free, which help you know the status of your system.

We have listed five system and/or network monitoring tools that will definitely serve your needs.

1: Observium

Observium (Figure A) is “an autodiscovering PHP/MySQL/SNMP-based network monitoring [tool].” It focuses on Linux, UNIX, Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, Foundry, HP, and more. Observium provides you with an incredilt easy to use interface and a number of detailed graphs. A large number of processes and systems can be monitored by Observium. The only disadvantage of Observium is the absence of auto alerts. However, to compensate for it, Observium can be set up with a tool like Nagios for up/down alerts.

  1. Ganglia

Ganglia is a “scalable distributed monitoring system” which focuses on grids and clusters. A quick and easy-to-read overview of your entire clustered system is provided by Ganglia. Ganglia is a very popular tool and is used to monitor the status of thousands of clusters around the world. Ganglia is an efficient monitoring tool for people who employ server clusters. Clusters with up to 2,000 nodes can be efficiently monitored with this tool.

3: Spiceworks

One of the most popular industry standard free network/system monitoring tools is Spiceworks.  Spiceworks provides amazing features and web based interface. The only downside with this monitoring tool is that few ads have to be viewed. Some of the features of Spiceworks are listed below:

  • monitors (and autodiscovers) your systems
  • Provides if something is not functional
  • Offers amazing topographical tools
  • Get social with fellow IT professionals via the built-in Spiceworks community.

4: Nagios

Considered by many experts as one of the best open source network monitoring systems, Nagios is an amazingly efficient monitoring tool. The downside is that one has to manually edit the configuration files to set up and configure Nagios. However, manually editing the configuration files makes Nagios one of the most flexible network monitoring tools. A large number of amazing features are provided by Nagios. Email, SMS, and printed paper alerts can be set up with this tool.

5: Zabbix 

Zabbix is another excellent network monitoring tool which offers a number of amazing features as listed below:

  • User-defined views
  • Zooming, and mapping on its Web-based console
  • Agent-less monitoring
  • Collects nearly ANY kind of data that needs to be monitored
  • Provides availability and SLA reporting
  • Upto 10,000 devices can be monitored
  • Unique feature: Audible alerts can be set for something that is not functional

Bottom Line

There are numerous tools which are available to monitor the status of your system. The tool you select should be able to effectively and efficiently monitor your system and provide you the desirable results. The tools listed above provide excellent features which make them unique and amazing.