Imagine a car where the only thing on the dashboard is an on/off switch. No speedometer, no tach, not even a gas gauge. Oh sure, it has a radio and a/c. It has navigation. It can do all sorts of things above and beyond just taking you places. But there's nothing on the dash to tell you anything about how it's running. It works. It does exactly what it was intended to do and it actually does it pretty well. And everyone has one. And, everyone can (more or less) fix them well enough to keep them running (most of the time). Sound familiar?
Now imagine this car is responsible for generating your income. Imagine you own a fleet of these cars and your business depends on them. Sometimes you take them in for servicing, but most of the time you'd really rather not have to. And with the economy the way it is, you only want to take them in when something's not working - like it won't go fast enough to get on the freeway or it doesn’t turn right anymore (making 3 lefts does the same thing so you put up with it for a while). To cut costs, you'd do anything other than spend money on them. You basically drive them till they stop working (they're running, so shouldn't they just keep running?).
This scenario seems a little far fetched, right? Now replace the word "car" with "computer" and maybe you can see where I’m going. Driving a car without a dash is like running a network without a monitoring system. Literally. It's scary to say but probably 99% of businesses out there do this! They think that because this is the way it's always been, this is the way it should always be. When it breaks, call the computer guy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's "fine".
Well, it's not fine. It's just an accident waiting to happen. The best computer guys in the world are still at the mercy of the laws of probability reacting to things over and over again till something major happens. And the reality is, something major will happen. Machines last between 3 and 4 years. Sure you can push them longer, but why do you think all major manufacturers (Dell, HP, IBM, etc.) limit their warranties to 36 months? Because their actuarial tables tell them their machines won't last longer than this! Statistically speaking, this means pushing machines past this point will almost always ensure some system failure. Now, if you have 3 servers on your network, you could be looking at a crash, on average, of one per year! Still want to drive without a dashboard?
When clients ask me what's the one thing that they could do that would be the most impactful way to use their IT dollars, without a doubt the answer is - implement a network monitoring system and start proactively managing your network. But you have to notice how this question is phrased. It's not, "how can we save money?" It's, "how can we better use our money?" Because, the reality is, you have to spend a little to save a lot. The ROI is there. But, it's all in how you view IT. You can't just think "save" (as in "not spend"). Because it will backfire on you.
So, the next time you're thinking of ways to cut costs, don't drive blind - add a monitoring system to your network.