Guest Post: Derdack & Microsoft System Center Power On-Call Ops

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Description

The following is a guest post by Matthes Derdack, CEO at Derdack. Derdack is a Microsoft Azure partner that offers Enterprise Alert, which automates critical incident communication.

Are you looking to cut costs by moving from a 24/7 staffed network operations center (NOC) to working with on-call teams? Are you in need of reliably alerting your people after business hours and on holidays? If you already have 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. During 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), it is a completely different situation. You can't just open your laptop at the yogurt shelf. 

There's a general trend of companies moving away from 24/7 staffing of the NOC to a 9-by-5 regime plus on-call duties because 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 to start blinking.

Still, people on duty need to respond ASAP to any critical incident, regardless of their weekend plans. 

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 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 data center anymore. The on-call person needs to wake up! And reliability needs to go beyond making sure a text message is received. It is about ensuring a response. From the on-call person's 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 100 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).

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, a team manager can always use the app to see what's going on with their service teams.

Because of the advanced and unique two-way integration with System Center, all alert acknowledgements, status changes, and annotations are 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 a troubleshooting tool.

Enterprise Alert and System Center work together to provide mobile alert and 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.

You can get Enterprise Alert from the Azure Marketplace and connect it to your cloud or on-premises operated System Center installation or to other business operation systems.

Read more on how to get started with Enterprise Alert on Azure. And please visit us at MS Ignite in Chicago at booth #113.

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