By Angelo Spaziani – TNSC MSP Administrator
This blog will address managed services and their effect on the health of a network consisting of multiple workstations and servers. Managed Services is essentially a method of keeping a network running at peak performance by reducing the amount of problems related to the performance of the machines on that network. There are many components that make up a proper managed service platform, some of the main items include; Microsoft patches, antivirus software, backups, and alert monitoring. All these items when used together can greatly increase the stability of the network that will allow increased uptime and less time employees are idle due to the functionality of their machines. Not having these items managed can have numerous adverse effects on network.
Microsoft Patches: Microsoft constantly releases patches for its operating systems that address things such as security issues and program bugs. These patches are typically released on a weekly basis and can fix exploits in the operating system that may lead to a breach in security if not applied in a timely manner, as well as resolve issues such as program crashes and instability. Managed services provide a method of having these patches applied and maintained so that machines on the network are kept up to date. Patches can also be applied in a tiered approach, meaning some machines on the network get the patches before others. By doing this it allows certain machines to work with the patches before the others so there is little risk that a patch will have adverse effects on the performance of all the machines. Without a good managed service platform machines can become hundreds of patches out of date within a matter of months and can be the weak spot an intruder needs to gain access to the network.
Antivirus Software: Along with Microsoft patches, a solid antivirus software is essential to the security of a network. There are many types of malicious software that threaten the stability and security of a network. It only takes one infected machine to bring down an entire network of computers. Managing antivirus software consists of a two key concepts, keeping the virus definition database up to date on each machine and proper controls on the workstations. Virus definitions are often released on a daily basis, they are the tools that the antivirus program uses that enable it to detect and protect against malicious software. If these go unchecked new threats might be able to slip by unnoticed and infect a machine. Having proper controls in place on the workstations also has a significant effect on network security, things such as blocking downloads of certain file types such as executable that could be possible viruses. Or a policy in that monitors network traffic and can thwart attempts to infiltrate the machine from the internet. These tools are invaluable to any IT administrator that seeks to keep their network safe from intrusion and their data safe from unauthorized access. Managed services allows these items to be fully monitored and managed so that machines have the tools they need to protect themselves from the constant threat they face.
Backups: Probably one of the most overlooked items in the computing industry is a proper method of backups. This does not apply only to servers but workstations as well. Having a method of retrieving lost files or revering form a system failure could make or break a business. Imagine that one day everything you had stored on your personal computer was gone, your pictures, music, personal documents, and so on. How many of those files do you access on a daily or even weekly basis? Now put it in the perspective of a business environment. Hundreds of thousands of files could be lost in an instant by any type of system failure or natural disaster. Having a current backup of important files is crucial for any business that plans on being a going concern. There is another level to backups that extends beyond the functionality of file recovery. It is the ability to quickly recovery from a system failure or virus outbreak. A typical virus can cripple a system by stealing resources or removing key files needed to operate. Troubleshooting this type of problem can take hours and cost almost as much as buying a new PC. But with the proper backup solution in place a PC can be reverted to a state before the issue occurred saving both time and money. This is also true of servers, where hardware failure can render a system useless until the proper repairs are made. Today’s backup solutions often offer a virtual server to be used as a method of recovery while repairs are being made to the physical equipment. Though these tools are useless if not kept in check, backups must be monitored for accuracy and occurrence. A backup of a system that is months out of date or has corrupt files is worthless. Managed services have the ability to monitor backups and keep them in check so that when the time comes they can be used for a quick recovery.
Alert Monitoring: Another key feature of managed services is alert monitoring. This is the ability to catch problems before they happen. There are key features within the windows operating system that can be good indicators or problems that may arise if not addressed. Issues such as disk errors or high resource utilization can be captured and remediated before the cause system crashes or data loss. There can also be custom monitoring implemented as well. Line of business applications can be monitored for performance and functionality that will ensure they are available when needed. Also things like disk RAIDs that protect data can be monitored for any issues that could cause system failure or data loss.
These are only some of the main features of a proper managed service platform. There are many other tools that can be used that will further improve network health and stability. Without managed services the maintenance of the network falls on either the users or the manual efforts of a local IT. Often times this causes inconsistencies between machines which generate more work to resolve. Managed services are a must for any company that relies on computers to complete its day to day business. Having a proper managed service platform in place provides for fewer problems, faster recovery and IT peace of mind.