Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zenith and The Big Monthly Maintenance Checklist

In the comments to my recent blog post on The Almighty Checklists, Nick asked . . . "Any chance of sharing your monthly maint checklist that Zenith do for you? Just started our trial with them and so far we're very impressed."

Well, we're not ready to release our big "core" monthly maintenance checklist. If you haven't seen the infamous 68-point checklist (68-Point Checklist version 2.0), just go to the White Papers page at SMB Books. No credit card required. Instant download in PDF format. That will give you a good idea of what we're up to.

But here's the deal with Zenith: There are tiers of checklist reporting that are needed.

Our original checklist was created before SBS was released into the wild. So it was an NT 4.0 network maintenance checklist and evolved from there. (That, in turn, evolved from an NT 3.51 checklist I used on a half-dozen servers before I got into the consulting biz.)

Anyway, the point is that the core things we monitor haven't changed.

We used to go on site once a month to verify average server queue, free disc space, errors in the security logs, etc.

Then we started working with SBS and an ever-improving error reporting system. The sophistication of what we could do automatically went way up.

At that time, we developed the "roll your own" remote monitoring and patch management system described in the book Service Agreements for SMB Consultants. We sold the monitoring-only service for $150/server/month.

We evolved.

Technology evolved.

Enter Zenith Infotech. Way more than the automated systems. Whether you like it or not, a pair of human eyes can tell more about a system than any automated process.

Like many people who send me questions and comments, we went through a learning process with Zenith. It involved a certain dedication that we were going to make the relationship work. After that, we monitored everything with both Zenith and Kaseya (and our human technicians).

Eventually, it became clear that Zenith never missed critical event.

Once we came to the conclusion that Zenith was 100% reliable on monitoring, we integrated them into the "monthly maintenance" process.

Basically, all monthly maintenance chores consist of three types of activities:

1) Monitored automatically. These items can be removed from monthly maintenance once it is clear that we'll never miss a critical alert.
- Disc space used/free
- Are all services running and not stopping/restarting all the time?
- Verify that diskeeper is running properly

2) Can be completed remotely. These items can be completed by Zenith because remote is remote. So why would we do it ourselves?
- Check defragmentation level and, if over 1.25, schedule a forced defrag
- Check for "Stop Signs" in the system logs, application logs, etc. Address if necessary
- Perform internet speed tests

3) Need to go onsite. These items require a technician onsite. So we go.
- Check with the client contact for any new or outstanding issues
- Verify backup, label tapes for offsite storage, and give them to the appropriate person
- Update the Network Documentation Binder Tech Notes with relevant information

The Bottom Line:

We have basically turned over 99% of our monthly maintenance to Zenith. The thing we just haven't been able to hand off completely has been complete maintenance of the backup systems. Some things have to be done in person and clients are amazingly unwilling to take this seriously.

So backups fall into the category of "We are taking care you because you refuse to take care of yourself." Countin the number tapes on the shelf cannot be handled by a remote technician. Maybe we'll install web cams for this. :-)

Consider this: If YOU can do it remotely, or a really good technician could do it remotely, then turn it over to Zenith. Let them do it remotely. After all, they've got a small army of really good technicians. They're not all "server class," but a lot of them are. And the better you are at managing them, the better they respond.

- - - - -

A taste of the future:

We're trying to finish the book on Network Migrations.

When it's done, we're going to sit down and figure out how much of a network migration could be done remotely.

Cleaning up desktops? Yes.

Installing SBS per our specifications, or using our answer file? Yes.

Copying an SQL database and testing? Yes.

Setting up all users and migrationg mailboxes? Yes.

Migrating Sharepoint? Better them than me.

How cool would it be to turn over 25 hours of a 30 hour migration to Zenith and let them handle everything remotely? And at $40/hour, we still have a tidy margin.

I love the 21st Century.

[NOTE: This blog post revised October 2012 to reflect the new location of Karl's 68-Point Checklist, ver 2.0.]


1 comment:

  1. /me working his way through the Zenith documentation

    Looking forward to the Network Migration book. Hopefully it'll be complete before the network migration we have in our pipe gets the approval!


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