Are you looking at cutting costs by moving from a 24/7 staffed NOC to working with on-call teams? Are you in need of reliably alerting your people after business hours and on public holiday? If you have already on-call teams – are your people receiving too many alerts at night? Or are they in danger of sleeping through critical alerts?
Typical 24/7 operations create very specific demands. In the 9×5 office hours everybody has access to the computer console and everybody has access to a service manager portal. Email might be a sufficient notification tool. But when you’re at home or on call, e.g. at the supermarket, is a completely different situation. You can’t just open your notebook at the yogurt shelf.
Get rid of your NOC!
There’s a general trend that companies move away from 24/7 staffing of network operations center onto a 9 by 5 regime plus on call duties because it’s a loss it’s a lot cheaper. And of course, it is less painful for their staff. At least they can sleep in their bed until something serious happens instead of sitting at the NOC, getting bored while waiting for red dots blinking.
Still, being on call is a job nobody likes. And people on duty need to respond ASAP to any critical incident regardless of their week-end plans.
What on-call team operations involve
Related to this come very specific needs. The first is planning. Many companies plan on-call duties using Microsoft Excel or some kind of standalone planning tool, maybe an ERP system. But in order to automate on-call alert notifications you need have a notification system with access to on-call planning information. It needs to know who is on call when something happens so it can deliver the alert messages to the right person or team. And planning has to be convenient, ideally it takes a couple of minutes to plan a month. Secondly, you need 100% reliable notifications because nobody is at the NOC or in your datacenter anymore. The on-call person needs to wake up! And reliability needs to go beyond making sure that a text message is received on the phone. It is about ensuring a response. From the on call person perspective it’s also much about cutting through the noise. As a person on duty, you don’t want those minor alerts from SCOM to wake you up nor do you want to receive them 100 times in a row. Even if a major incident happens you don’t want to get one hundred phone calls or text messages telling you about all affected systems. And finally, an on-call person should be able to act and remedy a problem without console access, e.g. by just a few taps on a smartphone screen. These are just a few needs that are relevant in relation to on-call duties.
Now, this is for System Center
This is the area where Enterprise Alert® perfectly complements Microsoft System Center as an advanced out-of-the box solution. As an example – best practice for waking people up at night or getting someone’s attention at the supermarket is a combination of text and repetitive voice calls. Enterprise Alert® can combine a multitude of notification channels (broadcast or sequence) and it not only tracks delivery of alerts but also makes sure somebody acknowledges, e.g. by texting back or using the mobile app. If critical alerts are missed, Enterprise Alert® automatically escalates to an on-call backup person, through the entire team or up to a manager on duty. At the same time, team manager can always use the app to see what’s going on in their service teams.
Because of the advanced and unique 2-way integration with System Center all alert acknowledgements, status changes and annotations will always be synchronized across the entire stack, from the mobile app over Enterprise Alert to Operations Manager or Service Manager. In a typical SCOM alerting scenario, Enterprise Alert® will also delay alert notifications and wait for auto-recovery. And it will filter for duplicates or similar alerts. A highly powerful extension that Enterprise Alert® provides are “anywhere” actions that put SCO runbooks directly on your smartphone. This turns your mobile device into anywhere troubleshooting tool.
In a nutshell, Enterprise Alert® provides the following range of features to System Center:
- A closed-loop mobile process to respond and fix critical IT issues
- Intuitive drag & drop on-call scheduling including “who’s on call” dashboards
- Reliable alerts and on-call schedules for after business hours, follow-the-sun and public holidays
- Notifies alerts to the people on call via voice, text, IM, push, email
- Guarantees alert delivery through tracking and escalations and ensures that on-call staff responds
- Makes sure only critical incidents are communicated by filtering out “alert noise”, e.g. through consolidation, responsibility mapping and auto-recovery support
- Automates notification channel find-me/follow-me for unmatched reliability
- Includes 2-way notifications with status and ownership updates
- Pairs with smartphone apps for mobile alarm and service management via iPhone, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Android
- Executes SCO runbooks instantly from smartphones to resolve IT incidents
- Offers unrivalled 2-way integration with SCOM, SCSM and SCO via product connectors, MPs and IPs
- Provides enterprise-readiness to ensure suitability for large-scale installations
Enterprise Alert is a great extension to System Center for mobile alert & incident management, required for 24/7 on-call scenarios. And being a general notification and mobile response platform, Enterprise Alert® is also widely used to automate incident communication processes in manufacturing, energy, utilities and other sectors.
While Enterprise Alert® is typically installed on premise, you can now get it from the Azure Marketplace and connect it to your cloud or on premise operated System Center installation or to other business operation systems.