Monitoring Software is prolific in the IT world; however, to the newly initiated sys admin, figuring out what you need for your servers is not nearly as hard as finding out what all of the terminology means. The problem is that there is no standard terminology that we (the IT world) can use to effectively communicate what we need. This confusion leads to wasted time and effort, searching for what you are not sure of and evaluating software that you do not need.
During the day, I receive numerous calls from people who are looking for monitoring software. When pressed, the caller will speak in general terms of what they need to monitor. After the first two minutes of talking, I make an assessment of the general need and can categorize the software or solution needed. The three main categories of monitoring software are:
- Traffic Monitoring
- User Activity Monitoring
- Website and Server Monitoring
Granted, each of these three categories can be sub-categorized and divided, however, I’d like to just touch on what each one is.
First, traffic monitoring (aka website statistics, web stats) is for watching who visits your site, when they visit, and where they visit. If you have good traffic monitoring, you can sometimes find out why they are visiting. The why is determined by how the visitor came to your site, or who they were referred by, known as the “referrer”. For example, a person does a Google search for “website monitoring” and clicks on the first link in the search results. The referrer is now known as Google and the search terms were “website” and “monitoring”. Other notable statistics gathered, of course, include the amount of traffic or hits and visitors to the site for any given time.
Second, we have user activity monitoring, which is largely used in large corporations and institutions to monitor activity of users on a particular computer or resource (web browsing on the Internet for example). This type of monitoring is usually used to catch people doing what they are not supposed to be doing.
Lastly, there is website and server monitoring (aka network monitoring, application monitoring, performance monitoring, etc.) which keeps a watchful eye on systems running throughout an IT infrastructure. This type of monitoring is usually transparent to users of these systems and acts like a first warning system to alert interested parties when a web server gets overloaded or a database goes offline.
Now that I’ve categorized my three main types of monitoring, let me know if I missed a major category or offer up sub-categories to help others determine what they need.