Friday, April 20, 2012

SOP Friday: Setting Up Alerts in Your PSA and RMM

In the "old days" we got started in the monitoring business with the simple process I describe in Service Agreements for SMB Consultants. Basically, it consisted of a combination of server alerts emailed from Small Business Server and pages (text messages) sent from a product called Servers Alive. See Not very full-featured, but it kept us informed of the most import things - like server reboots!

Today, we have a PSA (professional services administration) tool and an RMM (remote monitoring and management) tool and can do a great deal more for our business. If you own these tools and are not using their alert features, today is a great day to start!

Many Kinds of Alerts

Like anything else, you don't want to get carried away with alerts, spamming yourself with emails and text messages. The goal, after all, is to make your entire operation run more smoothly and to keep your clients' systems operating at peak efficiency. So be judicious.

There are several kinds of monitoring. The most obvious type is done by the RMM. When disc space usage exceeds X% then an alert can be triggered. If you set it up right, you can have alerts automatically create tickets in your RMM system or in your PSA system.

But perhaps the most important part of your alert system is still the human side. You need a filter with some common sense. You also need to consider how to respond to different kinds of alerts. They're not all equal, you know.

RMM Alerts are the most obvious. A server reboots unexpectedly. A critical service stops. CPU usage is too high. When you look at your RMM tool, you should see lots of green lights and not very many red lights. And there are some red lights that just aren't very important.

The first thing you should do is look at your Monitoring Sets to see what you can easily monitor AND you want to know about. With some systems, you can get an alert every time a problem happens, but you get no notice when the problem goes away. That can leave technicians looking at issues that aren't really issues anymore. Even if you get notices that an alert has been cleared, you have to match up the Service Start and Service Stop notices.

So pick your alerts very carefully. I remember one of the first complaints I heard about RMM systems was that they are overwhelming, and so people turned off all the alerts. Let's not go that far! This is a key feature. You do need to control the alerts, but don't eliminate them altogether.

I recommend you start slow. Pick a few key alerts and see how many emails or tickets you get. Obviously you want to monitor "Server Down" incidents. And probably Critical Impact issues.
But you probably do NOT want constant alerts if CPU usage is out of control on a server. You want that to show up on your board. You might even want it to create a ticket. But an issue like that can drag on a long time until it's fixed. You need to manage this kind of alert or you create a situation like the boy who cried wolf. Too many alerts will cause you and your techs to stop paying attention to alerts.

Go slow. But start monitoring the most important stuff as soon as you can.

PSA alerts are a bit different. Basically, these consist of notifications that you have new service tickets. Here, management consists of handling each ticket appropriately. If tickets are automatically created by the RMM system, you need to be aware that cranking up monitoring will also crank up the tickets. Please see the earlier articles on Service Ticket Updates  and Massaging the Service Board.

You need to have a human look at these regularly to make sure you don't have duplicate tickets, and that all tickets have the right priority. And whether you do it yourself or have a service coordinator, someone needs to make sure that all tickets are properly addressed and worked from highest priority to lowest priority, and from oldest to newest.

Just as with the RMM system, you have to decide: Do you want an email or text message every time a new ticket goes in the system? The answer is probably yes if you're very small OR you have your alerts under control. The longer machines are on managed service, the smoother they run and the fewer alerts they generate. So you may want to revisit this decision from time to time.

If you are just getting started with a PSA and RMM system, you will be overwhelmed. You'll be overwhelmed with how much you need to learn, with fine-tuning the system, and with alerts you've set up. At the beginning, crank the alerts way down. Don't panic. Your client systems are no worse off than before. You just know about all the little things you didn't know before!  :-)

Hours of operation

How you handle alerts should also vary based on time of day. You should have a written procedure for what happens when alerts come in after hours. We already talked about your Server Down Procedure. But you should also have a general after-hours procedure.

I'm assuming that your managed service contract says that all work after 5:00 PM is not covered. You still need to keep an eye on the boards and massage service requests so they are in the right categories when the sun comes up. But if you only have a few low-level alerts, you can just look at the emails on your phone and determine that you don't have to log on and massage the board every hour of every day.

Other than Server Down situations, there's no reason to hang out on your service board looking for things to do. Relax. Enjoy your family. Go to work when the sun comes up.


There are no specific forms for implementing this SOP. You might write up a brief description of the procedures for RMM and PSA monitoring and put them into your SOP or binder.

This kind of policy requires that everyone on the team

1) Be aware of the policy

2) Practice the policy

3) Correct one another's errors

4) Support one another with reminders

Your Comments Welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at Small Biz Thoughts

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Next week's topic: Managing Internal Administrative Tasks


Now Available: Introduction to Zero Downtime Migrations Seminar on MP3 Download Two hours of audio training - Plus two slide decks in .pdf format. Agenda: Project Management in a Managed Service Business and Zero Downtime Migration Strategies.

1 comment:

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