Monday, July 27, 2009

Quality of life by Threshold and Remote Control

I was at a party on Saturday night and while talking to a friend who is also in IT I realized that threshold is a very important part of our lives. This friend is part of a 4 guys weekly on call duty and he just finished his round. He is exhausted! His company uses very low thresholds for alerts on any subject, which make his life miserable and got me to appreciate the fact I am the one in charge for this decision on my network…

One of the most important aspects of a OneManITShop life is his (or her, don’t start with me on this) ability to have some personal life out of the office (some will just settle for being out of the office…)
You already finished for the day and ready to leave but WHAT IF?
This little IF can make the difference between spending every minute scary and close to your subway pass and having a relaxed evening or weekend anywhere and comfortably.

One side of this issue is the Threshold:
How to determine the correct mark for alerts?
What can wait for tomorrow or must be taken care of right now?

Rule of thumb
“If it doesn’t affect production it can wait”
“If users do not notice it they can’t complain about it”

Whenever I install a new service I pause at the notification configuration stage and try to determine what are the implications on productivity and recovery capabilities.
I try to simulate the different scenarios, also Goggling for similar issues and see how it affected other companies.
If it is a problem that will cause damage (like hardware getting too hot) it is a right here right now situation and alerts should go crazy on me
When it affect users, even if the recovery can be easily applied next morning, I’ll set the alerts to notify me and make sure I connect remotely and fix the problem. If there is one thing I hate is walking into the office and have users hunting me. I better get the alert and figure out the solution the night before.

The other side of this is my ability to receive the alerts and connect to the network from any location.
So I have my home PC and a laptop, both connect to the network via Cisco VPN Client and get anywhere in the network. I use 3 tools for remote connection as I found over the years that having just one always end up badly.
First and most commonly used is Symantec’s PCAnywhere. I’m not crazy about it but when it’s working it is fast to connect and doing the job. Do not rely on PCAnywhere solely – it has high tendency for faulting, sessions die and hosts break very often.
As a backup remote control tool I always keep a copy of DameWare. It has amazing remote control capabilities and the huge plus is the remote installation so you do not have to pre-configured anything on any server or PC. Just push it and connect. It can also pull details like running services & processes, events and hardware data. Make your life easier.

These are great solutions and with RDP they cover almost every option and allow full control but one case is missing. What if you’re at the movies or walking in Manhattan and do not have your laptop?

My iPhone 3G have the answer for this situation. I connect to the network via the built in Cisco VPN client and can access anything as if I’m on a laptop. RDP app can do exactly the same job as would any RDP session from a laptop. Amazing!
Another iPhone app saved me when I had to make a change to my Cisco ASA, using SSH I could do it all off the phone and save myself the trip to the office.

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