Auto-discovery doesn’t happen by magic!

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After the long buying process, invest just a little more time in setting up your software for the maximum benefits.

Auto discovery
Buyers can often go to great lengths to evaluate their options before investing in a product.  Consider your last software investment. You might have done some Googling, watched some videos and read some reviews before downloading a trail version or two. You might have run a proof of concept with the vendor before justifying the investment to the board and signing the cheque.

 

So why potentially waste all that work by not taking the time to set the software up following best practice?

 

In order to work as it should, software needs to be installed and configured properly.  The first step might be to go on (or send someone else on) a training course.  At the very least, someone will need to read the manual.

Help the product to do its job

One of the common functions of IT monitoring solutions is the auto discovery element and it’s one that we see falling short of expectations time and again because…. It hasn’t been configured properly!  The purpose of auto discovery is to periodically go off and detect what’s on your network without you needing to do very much at all.  It has the potential to find, and document graphically or otherwise, everything within a network.

You might want it to:

  • Visualise or map the network to show hierarchies and dependencies
  • Provide an inventory of assets – vendor, model, serial number, version
  • Identify changes as devices, applications and more are added or removed
  • Identify security gaps: find missing patches, open ports and so on

It isn’t actually magic at all…

Although it’s called auto discovery, it can’t actually do it all on its own. The software,whichever solution you go for, will need to be configured, which will take some forethought and preparation on behalf of the network admin. Here’s what you’ll need consider:
  1. Configure discovery boundaries – know from the outset the intended reach of any discovery activity. For you, this means being able to produce IP address ranges that the discovery function will be seeded with.
  2. Ensure environmental security is compatible with auto discovery if the software can’t get through the firewall to perform its discovery tasks then the results aren’t going to be what you might expect.
  3. Authentication – Discovery tools share a common set of requirements when it comes to authentication.
  • The first credential, the daddy of discovery, is SNMP community strings. Forsuccessful discovery, only read-only community strings are required. Using just this credential can reveal the type of device (vendor, model) and key hardwareand software details (CPU, memory, OS version).
  • The next level of credential is what might be called an operating system level username/password combination. There will be specific minimum access requirements such accounts must have to be successful. Such accounts can go much deeper into a device to reveal information about installed software and what is currently running on a device (services/processes).
  • A final level of credential might also be used, lets call this an application-level user. These users could be specific to a database or virtualisation technology and be the only way to reveal specifics around installed components of a software technology (eg Oracle options). It isn’t an onerous task, just IP addresses and username/password combinations; but without them discovery will be a painful, or worse, impossible task.
So, the bottom line is that once you’ve got to the end of your decision process and have made the investment, invest just a little more time in setting it up for maximum benefits.  Look at the pre-requisites and follow the instructions – they aren’t written for fun!
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