Is Network Monitoring System Worth the Investment?
Your business’ digital network is your most important operations-enablement asset. A network problem could bring mission-critical business applications to a grinding halt. Inaccessible websites, unusable ERP applications, excruciatingly slow loading application screens, the inability of one system to connect with and communicate with another – and the list goes on.
Network Monitoring Tools – A Solution
Network downtime costs you severely. Maintenance, hence, is not only better than cure, at least from a network management perspective, but also financially a much smarter option. To do so, network administrators need to measure the network’s performance regularly, in terms of important KPIs. These measures are compared to threshold values to detect possible issues or potential problems in the making. This is made possible by network monitoring tools. These tools keep a stern watch on the network performance, push real-time updates to administrators, and carry out automated tests on the network to detect and report anomalies.
Why Does the Question of Evaluating Usefulness Come Up?
Enterprises want reliable and power packed software for everything they manage. Network monitoring software must bring about seamless and total network visibility round the clock, equipment monitoring capabilities, automatic alert setup, reporting, etc. Of course, there are costs associated with these features.
However, it must also be understood that enterprises are almost always prepared for minor application outages, and even tolerate them to a great extent. A few minutes or a couple of hours of downtime doesn’t bring down a mountain. Then, IT managers are always under pressure to reduce costs, are anyways overwhelmed with complex projects, and not easy to convince to approve the budget for new tools.
Are These Tools Worthy Investments?
How does one make a case for network monitoring tools? Are they even worth the investment? Well, these questions don’t have easy answers.
For an e-commerce business, a remote education business, and a financial institution, for instance, even an hour of downtime could cause serious branding damage, sales loss, and customer attrition. For others, the odd outage of a few minutes or hours might not be such a showstopper.
One approach to finding answers, however, is to understand the value they add, the problems they solve, and calculating ROI accordingly.
The Costs of Network Monitoring Software
For any ROI analysis, you need to know the denominator, and that’s the cost of the network monitoring software. Here are the most important cost components:
- Licensing costs of the software, particularly in case of enterprise level network monitoring tools
- Maintenance and upkeep costs, particularly if the same is not included in the licensing deal
- Salaries of internal IT consultants and network admins necessary to manage the tool
- Costs of hardware and software storage for the tool
- Cost of training users
- Post-implementation consulting issues
Dedicated network management systems that include monitoring tools as a part of the larger suite are obviously more expensive than standalone monitoring systems. It can be challenging to apportion an appropriate cost percentage to the monitoring tool if an enterprise commissions a complete network management suite.
Even if you go for an open source network monitoring tool, there will be associated costs. Understand all of these costs to be able to calculate a realistic and representative ROI figure.
The Simplest Analysis – Damage Prevented versus Cost of Software
A quick (and often reliable) method of evaluating the investment worthiness of network monitoring systems is to compare their annual cost (annualize long-term costs over a 5-year period, let’s say) with the estimated annual damage caused by outages.
Annual damages = Damage via lost sales (DLS) + Damage to employee productivity (DEP)
DLS: Average sale value per hour x Average duration of each outage x Average number of outages per year
DEP: Average cost of employee hour x Average duration of each outage x Average number of outages per year x Number of employees affected
Add these up, and compare the cost of the software. Simple enough?
Of course, there is such a thing as an oversimplification, and it could often lead to unnecessary and expensive purchases. So, we’re also going to cover some nuanced benefits of network monitoring systems which positively impact their ROIs.
Staff Salary Saving
If a network monitoring tool allows enterprises to cut down its night shift to half, and to reduce the monitoring staff strength to 50%, that’s a significant saving annually.
Early Detection Benefits
Network monitoring tools offer advanced reporting on network aspects such as utilization rates, transmit/receive stats (such as packets per second), error percentages, round trip times, and percentage availability. This helps network engineers and admins to prevent outages, reduce time to response and time to resolve in case of outages, and in general, improve network performance.
Reduced Support Incidents
Network issues easily result in a spate of support incidents raised by employees from affected teams. To close these calls, network engineers need time. Often, the need to close calls within the stipulated SLAs requires network teams to add resources. Sophisticated network monitoring tools, however, because of the advantages listed in the last section, allow admins and engineers to make corrective changes, and issue workaround practices to reduce these support calls.
Reduction in Time to Fix
Network technicians often find it challenging to locate sources of network problems, particularly when it’s linked to one or more devices in a geographically separated and distributed network. Because network monitoring systems offer geographic maps and live diagnostics data feeds, engineers can actually find these problem sources without leaving office. This can knock of several hours from the average problem fix times.
Understand all these benefits, evaluate their significance (as contextualized for your business), and factor them in your cost-benefit analysis for network monitoring tools.
When IT budgets are tight, enterprise IT decision makers need to determine ROIs and perform accurate cost-benefit analyses to make a purchase decision. Network monitoring tools offer concrete benefits and come with concrete one time and recurring cost heads. This guide offers a framework to help you evaluate.
Author: Rahul Sharma