September 15, 2019

Technology Monitoring: How to Manage Technology Across Distributed Locations

Article

We live in a connected world. Technology is everywhere and it is increasingly dependent on external devices and networks to properly function.

For teams that sell and/or support technology across remote locations, making sure this technology is online and functional can be a challenge.

Let’s take a look at how you can easily monitor and manage all these technologies from a central location.

First, What is Technology Monitoring?

Technology monitoring is the process of remotely monitoring and managing technology across distributed locations to make sure it’s online and functional at all times.

When something happens that takes this technology offline, you need to know when it happened and what caused it to go offline so you can fix it.

Simple enough, right?

Whether you’re an IT support company that manages your customer’s IT infrastructure, a national restaurant chain that needs to ensure your point-of-sale systems and peripherals don’t go offline, or a technology company that sells WiFi Widget ABC, you need a technology monitoring solution.

Monitoring Technology Across Distributed Locations

Without a solution, you’re sitting in the dark, waiting for calls from angry people yelling about how nothing works. And once you get those calls, you then don’t know where to start troubleshooting because you don’t know caused the issue.

Let’s not let that happen.

Technology monitoring primarily encompasses two types of monitoring

  1. Monitoring the technology itself (also called device monitoring)
  2. Monitoring the network that powers the technology (also called network monitoring)

There are three key things that you will need to monitor:

  1. The technology itself to ensure it is online and functional
  2. The internet coming into the location (WAN or Wide Area Network)
  3. The local network connection and/or WiFi (LAN or Local Area Network)
Technology Monitoring LAN vs WAN

There are a number of additional items to monitor to truly understand what is causing issues and we’ll cover those details later.

Building the Network Foundation with Device Discovery and Labeling

If you only have a handful of locations, it’s not a big deal to manually map and tag each device on an IT footprint. But what if you have hundreds or thousands of locations? Or if you’re adding new locations every day and there’s no way to manually tag everything?

You need a system that can automatically discover and accurately label every device on each network and add it to your system.

Discovery is a big part of monitoring because, without the right data at the start, you can’t properly monitor and manage your technology.

At Boomtown, we use a universal technology dictionary of over 24,000 devices to accurately discover and label network devices.

Once mapped and labeled, you get a very clear picture of the devices that are connected to the network along with the current status of each.

Technology Monitoring Network Map

With modern machine learning technology, you can also automatically identify patterns for each device so you don’t actively monitor a guest’s iPad but you do monitor the iPads that power the point-of-sale, for example.

Once your networks are mapped and your devices are labeled, it’s time to start monitoring.

Start with Reactive Monitoring and Move to Predictive Monitoring

Step One – Know When Things Go Wrong so You Can React Quickly

Every day more and more devices get connected to the internet. This means that they can be monitored and managed remotely and in real time.

The traditional way of providing support is to just build a call center or a network operations center (NOC) to sit and wait for people to call you with problems. That method is slowly dying and customers are expecting more. If you’re interested, you can read about the importance of about proactive support in depth.

Technology Monitoring Proactive Support Pyramid

Despite reactivity being a slightly dated approach, it is the easiest way to get started with technology monitoring and it can work well, as long as you have a robust and well-trained team.

This team will monitor the activity and data 24/7 and have their finger on the pulse of every location. When they receive a call that something isn’t working, they can quickly pull up the data and begin efficiently troubleshooting.

A few key aspects of systems that help you remotely monitor technology for reactive support are:

  • Dashboards to quickly visualize problems
  • Visual network maps with device statuses
  • Detailed logs of all captured data including device status changes and network health checks

Step Two – Move from Reactive to Proactive

Okay, so you are set up to monitor networks and respond when things go wrong.

How can you take that to the next level?

First, you will want to make sure you are contacting your customers with troubleshooting steps or a resolution before they contact you. Often you will be alerting the location of the problem before they even know there is an issue. This builds trust and goodwill.

In order to move from reactive to proactive support, your system will need to have real-time alerts:

  • Automated ticket creation when devices go offline
  • Alerts on device status changes
  • Alerts when devices or networks goes outside of pre-set bands

To take it even further, what if your system could just automatically solve the problem and then tell the location that is fixed? Then you could just sit back and relax.

While this obviously isn’t possible for every problem today, there are a number of situations where you can achieve this level of predictive support.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Printer is low on ink. Instead of just telling you that a printer is running low, your system should know what type of ink you need since it can detect the make and model of the printer and automatically place the order and have it shipped to the location.
  2. Firmware updates. Devices often need manual firmware updates. If it’s a known update you can enable updates to automatically process so your devices are always on the latest version.
  3. Printer queue is full. Sometimes printers in restaurants get full and begin to reject new requests. You can write a script that automatically refreshes a queue when it gets full to allow it to accept orders again.
  4. Device reset required. We’re all familiar with the old power cycle. Why not automate a power cycle on certain types of issues instead of having to get someone to manually shut off and restart a device.

This level of proactive support automation is the future of technology support, and it’s already here today.

Network and Device Monitoring Data You Need to Track

If you want to have a robust and successful technology monitoring solution there are a number of critical aspects to monitor.

WAN – Wide Area Network – In its most basic form for most businesses, the WAN is the actual internet connection coming into each location. This connection is powered by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) such as Comcast, Time Warner, or AT&T. If the WAN is down, the entire internet connection at the location will be offline. For Enterprise businesses, the WAN may consist of connections to a company’s headquarters, offices, and other facilities.

LAN – Once the internet is being pushed into the location, there will be a Local Area Network (LAN). This is the internet connection that starts at the modem and router and powers all of the devices on the single local network. It can be wired or wireless. You can troubleshoot and fix a LAN issue more often than a WAN issue since you often have more control over the LAN than the WAN.

Download and Upload Speeds – Download speed is how fast you can pull data from a server to you. Upload speeds are how fast you can send data from you to other places. Both download and upload speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and are important for how fast your devices operate.Device Status – Every device that is connected to the internet should have a specific connectivity status. You will want at least three statuses for each device – Okay, Warning, Offline. If a device is fully functional it is Okay. If it’s completely offline it is Offline. And then there will be a subset of status for devices that are still online but aren’t fully functional. These are often the devices that cause the most frustration because they appear to be online but aren’t working properly.

Ping – The ping is the reaction time of your connection, or how fast you get a response after you’ve sent out a request. The faster the ping the better. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms).

Packet Loss – Packet loss occurs when one or more packets of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination. Packet loss is caused by errors in transmission across wireless networks or can be caused by network congestion or other factors. Packet loss is measured as a percentage of packets lost with respect to packets sent. The larger the packet loss, the bigger the negative impact.

Channel Congestion – WiFi routers have multiple channels, which are a spectrum of frequency space that a WiFi signal can transmit to. Channel congestion occurs when too many devices are on the same channel or there are too many overlapping routers on the same channel in one place. When this happens the frequency can get filled up and performance suffers.

Bandwidth – Bandwidth is the capacity or a wired or wireless network to transmit data over a given amount of time. The more bandwidth you have access to, the more data you can transfer. When too many devices are on a network, your bandwidth can be totally consumed and performance can suffer.

The list could go on, but these are some of the critical datasets that you’ll want to capture when setting up your system to properly remotely monitor and manage your distributed technologies.

Dashboards and Visual Aids Streamline Technology Monitoring

If you’re a centrally located team that monitors networks and technology across multiple locations, you know you can’t be everywhere at one time. You need a way to see everything at a glance and also the ability to dive into each location to review the granular details to solve issues.

Visualizing your data is the best way to do this.

Global Dashboard

This is your primary dashboard and where you spend most of your time. You can receive alerts, track trends, view overall health and monitor all networks at a high level for anything out of the ordinary.

These global dashboards can also automatically create tickets when device statuses change or technologies go offline across any location.

Network Monitoring Dashboard

Location dashboards

While you may spend most of your team monitoring your global dashboard, you’ll want to dive into the details a specific location when you are troubleshooting an issue.

Each location should have a specific dashboard that visually displays data such as internet speeds, ping tests, packet loss, channel congestion, device statuses and visual network maps.

You should be able to click on each individual networked device and review notes, status changes, and more.

Technology Monitoring Location Dashboards

In Conclusion

Network and technology monitoring is a powerful yet easy way to deliver an exceptional experience to the distributed locations that you support.

In today’s connected world where everything depends on technology, it’s more important than ever to ensure devise stay online and functional at all times.

With a simple monitoring solution, you can provide proactive support and get lifelong loyalty from your customers.

Interested in a Technology Monitoring Solution?

Boomtown Proactive is a small, powerful, and affordable monitoring solution that is easy to deploy to all your locations and proactive monitoring your technology from a centralized dashboard.

Relay Sense

It comes with automatic ticket creation, support automation, and powerful troubleshooting tools to keep your businesses online.Request a Free Demo today.